Today, Google is announcing that one of its most exciting products, Google Earth VR, will now be usable with the Oculus Rift and Touch controllers.
Earth VR originally launched on Steam in November, 2016 where, for the past five months, it has only officially been usable with an HTC Vive VR system. Rift owners that tried to launch Earth VR through Steam were greeted with a message informing them that the content would not function on their hardware.
Despite this, a relatively simple workaround was discovered within hours of Earth VR’s release. Through a few alterations to the program’s source files, a user could remove the Vive check and run Earth VR on the Rift. The experience reportedly functioned just fine; without the check, Steam VR integrated the experience with Rift just like any other experience.
We asked Google why it took five months to polish and release a port that the general public was able to jerry rig in less than a day.
The company’s official position is that HTC was the first company to provide a dev kit that featured the six-degrees-of-freedom, positionally tracked controllers that Earth VR requires to function properly. Google emphasizes its commitment to ensuring that its software runs perfectly on every new piece of hardware and maintains that this release structure was a result of R&D timetables rather than any sort of monetary exclusivity agreement.
According to Google:
Google Earth VR gives you the opportunity to easily explore the world and discover new places. We made sure that navigating the planet in Earth VR on Rift with Touch feels natural, comfortable, and immersive, so that even more people can fly over cities and stand on top of mountains in VR. We thought a lot about the button mapping to make sure it was intuitive and took advantage of the Touch controllers’ precise analog sticks, which are a great fit for the way you move around in Earth VR.
Rift support is not the only feature being added to Earth VR today.
A new search feature will allow users to simply type in an address and visit the location of their dreams. This will be especially helpful for those that struggle with directions and don’t like being laughed at by friends as
we they struggle to locate our their homes or places of business in a timely manner (I was taking the scenic route!).
Lastly, Google is adding 27 new locations to Earth VR including Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany, Table Mountain in South Africa, Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, Mt Lassen in California, Palermo in Italy, and more.
Google Earth VR is available today for free on Steam and, for the first time ever, Oculus Home.