I think that one of the reasons why many newspapers love reporting from virtual environments etc. is that it allows them to come up with fantastic headlines. Disappointment often follows, though. So, allow me to offer my apologies for not really having crashed an F-16 into my building… only virtually. I hope I can make it up, however, by pointing out a fantastic easter egg in Google’s newest version of Google Earth. Google Earth, as you probably know, is an excellent program that allows you to see the entire world (and even parts of the universe) in astonishing detail. The easter egg I’m talking about can be seen by opening google earth and pressing ctrl-alt-a. This starts up a flight simulator (!). Yes, you can actually take off, from a selection of airports, and fly around the actual earth. I cannot really describe how good it is, but as soon as you get used to the flight controls (which takes some time) you can experience what it feels like to fly 10 feet above the ground in Los Angeles, dive into the grand canyon… you name it. To my big suprise, one of the airports offered is the small airport of my old home town Trondheim. Imagine my joy when lifting off, just to look down on my house (which lies just next to the airport). Taking off from Hamburg, I also managed to fly my F-16 to the University of Twente Campus (where I’m currently living) and, although having lost complete control over the plane, managed to kamikaze myself into my building. In other (more complicated) words, I was sitting at home, flying a virtual airplane that crashed into the virtual building I was sitting in. If you click on the picture above, you can see my building to the right (where there’s a transparent pin) seconds before impact… I highly recommend you to find your own building and smash into it. Some pointers for doing so:
- You have to press ctrl-alt-a to toggle the flight simulator the first time. This didn’t work for me the first time, but try searching for and zooming into San Francisco Airport first. This did the trick for me.
- The slow plane is much easier to handle than the F-16. Unless you have to travel a long time in order to reach your destination, stick to the slow one.
- If you’re lost, you can toggle back to the earth view (exit simulator) by pressing ctrl-alt-a. There you can orient yourself, and when toggling back to the flight simulator simply choose the option to continue where you left off.
- City names, landmarks etc. do not show up in the simulator, but pins do. Thus, if you want to head for a specific destination simple place a pin there. However, the pin doesn’t appear until you’re relativele close, so if your destination is far away you have to travel blindly in roughly the right direction before being able to navigate towards the pin. This can be done by looking at the compass in top of the screen and/or by toggling as explained above.
UPDATE (April 4, 2008): I am pretty sure the keyboard combination was ctrl-alt-a back then, but this does not work anymore. Try ctrl-a instead.