Easily one of the best experiences available for the various headsets (including mobile ones) is Google Earth Virtual Reality. It is one of the first experiences I would recommend for new users to test out in virtual reality. In Google Earth you can choose the elevation of view different countries and cities, change the orientation of the earth in from of you and even change the time of day. Considering the sheer amount of possible locations across the globe, the resolution is reasonably high and loads quickly. Minimum hardware specifications allows users to run Google Earth Virtual Reality from some of the cheaper and more affordable headsets. Unlike some more GPU-intensive VR experiences and apps, it can be used exactly as it was designed on most setups. The setup is similarly very simple and intuitive. Below I will help walk users through the setup for various headsets. Installation size recommendation for Google Earth Virtual Reality is roughly 4gb. This is important because you may have issues with the installation initially or in the future if you do not allocate at least 4gb of space to Google Earth VR.
When you initially enter Google Earth VR, there will be a tutorial to help explain which buttons to use and how to interact with the software. Depending on the virtual reality headset and controllers you are using, the instruction may not be spot on in terms of button placement. Just keep this in mind as you go through the initial tutorial. Once you have the basic buttons and understand how to interact with the world in front of you, it will feel seamless. Another note is that not all cities and countries have high resolution streetview available. Many countries and remote areas of certain countries have poor to little streetview images available. To test out the Google Earth VR streetview initially, I recommend picking a large city such as New York City or Paris.
Setting up Google Earth VR on SteamVR (Windows Mixed Reality Systems can use this method):
- First off, keep in mind that one of the benefits of using a Windows Mixed Reality headset is the ease of access to SteamVR apps. The first step which is specifically for WMR headsets is the installation of SteamVR and setup. Please refer to the previous article on setting up the Samsung Odyssey Plus to install and set up your WMR headset with Steam and Steam VR. At the end of this step, you should be logged into Steam and have SteamVR installed and ready to use.
- Once in the Steam store all you need to do is search for the Google Earth VR app. It can be found here.
Setting up Google Earth VR on Oculus Rift/Rift S:
- Install Oculus Rift Software here. This should be part of the initial setup for any Oculus hardware that connects to your PC. See below for the Oculus Quest and Go.
- Install the Google Earth VR application here.
Setting up Google Earth VR on Oculus Quest and Go:
- Arguably the simplest. Just install the application from the app store directly.