Google and NVIDIA Bring the World to Your Doorstep

by Scott Steinberg

Google Earth With all due respect to author Jules Verne, forget 80 days. Courtesy of technological pioneers like Microsoft, Google and NVIDIA, it's now possible to go "around the world" without ever leaving your desktop.

Thanks to Windows Vista (expected ship date: January 2007), the industry's most powerful operating system, as well as applications like interactive trip planner Google Maps and virtual globe Google Earth, you can now instantly chart a course or find food and lodging on multiple continents. The latter two programs are free to download or access via an Internet browser. Those armed with an NVIDIA® GeForce® graphics processing unit (GPU) and NVIDIA nForce® media and communications processor (MCP) can also enjoy photorealistic tours of major sights and cities complete with stunning panoramic views.

Google Earth "Graphics processors aren't just for tech-savvy enthusiasts… They're an essential purchase for every PC owner," says Brian McClendon, director of engineering for Google Geo. "Using one is the only true way to get the most from your computing. Differences between running our products on a system with and without a [GPU] are night and day - literally anybody who buys a computer can benefit from its installation."

Given that Google Earth has been downloaded over 100 million times, making it one of the most popular 3D desktop applications ever, beauty truly does lie in the eye of the beholder. Users who invest in a Windows Vista capable system powered by an NVIDIA nForce motherboard and GeForce GPU will immediately notice pronounced performance boosts. Maps and Earth won't just run effortlessly at maximum resolution and sizes comfortably scaled for 24- to 30-inch monitors. They'll also load quicker, look sharper and respond better to the touch.

"Graphics processors aren't just for tech-savvy enthusiasts...They're an essential purchase for every PC owner," says Brian McClendon, director of engineering for Google Geo. "Using one is the only true way to get the most from your computing...."
Consider it the difference between viewing satellite imagery, street-level snapshots and topographical data from a distance, or doing so in maximum three-dimensional detail. With a single NVIDIA GPU or multiple GPUs, you won't just be able to pinpoint your home from any point on Earth; you can also zoom in and see surrounding buildings accurately modeled right down to the window or rooftop.

"Going from an older machine to a desktop outfitted with an NVIDIA GPU, you'll immediately notice marked visual improvements," explains McClendon. "We're talking sharper color displays, superior performance and better frame rates - not to mention applications that literally run as much as 10X faster."

All that power isn't just for show either, as anyone accessing Maps or Earth through Windows Vista's visually-intensive Aero user interface can testify. To smoothly swap between them and other simultaneously-running applications, it's a given you'll need the assistance of a graphics processor, which eases the computational burden on your PC, making programs run noticeably quicker.

"It's a non-issue. Upgrades are no longer optional - they're a must," confirms McClendon. "Within as little as 2 - 2 ½ years, owning a system without a GPU will be akin to having a PC without sound or color graphics capabilities. The era of 3D image sharing is already here… You don't want to be stuck staring at simple thumbnail pictures while everyone else is able to inspect objects from every imaginable angle."

"Within as little as 2 - 2 ½ years, owning a system without a GPU will be akin to having a PC without sound or color graphics capabilities."
For some, the investment's a matter of practicality: Utilizing Google Earth, it's now possible to explore Rome, Washington D.C. and even Egypt's mighty pyramids at the click of a mouse. For others, life and death: The program was used by the Coast Guard to find and rescue disaster victims in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, and is used to track the origin and spread of avian flu. Going forward, developments in graphic technology will only inspire additional real-world applications, letting scholars and scientists model the world in greater clarity. (Think even more stunning imagery and painstakingly-rendered structural representations.)

If it all seems a little overwhelming, don't tell researchers who've employed these advancements to monitor earthquake activity in Pakistan and other remote areas of the world. Or, for that matter, the wide-eyed students and smiling vacationers who can supplement geographical studies and summer breaks with immediate trips to the planet's most magnificent destinations. To wit, the combination of Windows Vista and an NVIDIA GPU isn't just a winning duo - it's also your instant passport to excitement and adventure.

"Everyone from enthusiastic pupils to senior citizens can benefit from this technology," says McClendon. "Google Maps and Google Earth bring the world straight to your door."

Of course, there's no need to wait - you can simply surf and scope the software out firsthand today. But by the time Windows Vista ships, it'd be nonsensical to do so without having first acquired one of NVIDIA's many cutting-edge graphical solutions.

"Maps and Earth both provide end-users unrivaled perspective. But without a GPU, views are nowhere near as detailed," McClendon affirms. "Once you take the plunge, you won't regret it - the first time you see things with [dedicated graphics hardware] on-board, it's an emotional experience."