Google released a major update for Earth. Now in version 7, the application comes with sightseeing tours as well as new 3D imagery that replaces Earth's legacy 3D image data.
The sightseeing tours are now integrated as flyover movies inside Earth. The user can also access Wikipedia and image data to learn more about a particular destination. However, the much more interesting part is the replacement of the old 3D structures including buildings and trees with new 3D image data. The option is selected by default, but may not find many friends in this version.
While cities look impressive from afar, the quality of the data is not consistent. For example, Chicago downtown is rendered nicely, even with clearly displayed trees surrounding Buckingham Fountain. However, we noticed that especially trees are mostly rendered as ugly blocks that may have been better left out of this update. This shot shows Palos Verdes in California:
My hometown of Munich, Germany also did not get much love from the Earth team so far. The 3D data looks promising from a distance. However, zooming in reveals a rather messy environment.
Surprisingly, San Francisco also does not show itself from its best side. Below is a shot of the Palace of Fine Arts, with the current image from iOS 6 Maps beneath.
In most cases the legacy 3D data is much more appealing at this point. Fortunately, the new 3D view can be disabled via Tools/Options/Use 3D Imagery.