Google today released a new application designed to get kids to explore the world using maps and 3D imagery. The new app, which the company describes as “an experiment,” takes advantage of Google Maps’ 3D imagery of the Himalayas but combines it with a bit of gameplay to make the idea of zooming around the 3D scene more fun and engaging.
Called “Verne: The Himalayas,” the app introduces the character Verne, who is a friendly, 500-foot Yeti kids can use to move around the map scenes. The Yeti can do things like climb up to the top of Mt. Everest, go skating on icy lakes, chase yaks, ride a jetpack, play Himalayan instruments, and more.
The app also lets users discover little bits of educational information, too, but don’t tell your kids that! This is done via a disembodied voice that points out little facts like “the Himalayas are the tallest mountain range in the world,” for example.
By involving a character and giving him things to do within this Maps-based application, the idea here is to give kids a different way to experience the world virtually and use maps. While, of course, kids could already view 3D imagery like this in Google Maps or Google Earth, they might not be motivated to do so.
“Verne: The Himalayas” was built by Googlers who tested the concept with their own children, and used Google Maps’ 3D imagery along wtih the Unity game engine, according to the app’s website.
Given its limited focus – only the Himalayas – this app will likely keep kids entertained for a brief period of time – perhaps a session or few of playing. But at some point, they will have climbed, flown and skated enough and will be ready to move on. If Google chooses to later expand this experiment to encompass more of the world and the 3D imagery it collects, it could easily turn this concept app into something that’s more like an interactive, kids’ version of Google Earth. Let’s hope that happens.
“Verne: The Himalayas” is only available on Google Play, as a free download for Android devices.