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Watch humanity spread like a virus with three decades of Google Earth timelapse

google earth time lapse

Google’s ever watchful satellites have been keeping us entertained and informed for years in Google Maps and Google Earth, and it wasn’t long ago that the company launched a neat little time-lapse feature that showed how any particular piece of land has changed over time. A new update to that feature recently rolled out, providing and even more detailed glimpse of how humans forever changed the planet.

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The time-lapse tool works just like any Google Earth map; you can zoom in or out and pull the map around with your mouse in order to find whatever spot you’re looking for. But unlike a standard map, the image will constantly progress, like an animated GIF, from images taken as far back as 1984 through 2016. You can also adjust the speed of the progression and pause on any specific year you want.

It’s a fantastic little time-waster, and it’s definitely neat to see how your own neighborhood has changed over the years, but what’s even more striking is seeing just how rapidly humans are turning the planet into one giant city. Zooming in on placed like Austin or San Francisco paints a vivid picture, with new highways springing up like arteries and suburbs spreading like a virus. It’s actually kind of spooky.

Google partnered with Carnegie Mellon University’s CREATE Lab and utilized its Time Machine technology in order to build the interactive map. Over 5 million images were used in its creation, drawing from five different satellites. They even created a pretty handy little “Timelapse Tour” to showcase some of the most remarkable locations.