A First Dip Into Google Ocean

You know a virtual ocean has been done well when, as you try the beta version, you instinctively hold your breath when diving virtually underwater.
Such is the attention to detail Google has given to its new “Ocean” sim, officially part of its Google Earth version 5.0.
With a roll-out worthy of an Apple event (Jimmy Buffett on guitar, Nobel Winner Al Gore on climate pitch), Google’s new Ocean is a perfect way to get your virtual Cousteau on.  Swerve on over to the Indian Ocean to see indigenous fish, or pull back to get a broader view of water temperature all over the globe.  The audience on hand at the San Francisco unveiling let out a gasp when, while underwater, diving pioneer Sylvia Earle gave us a virtual demo of what a shark sees while swimming fast.
It was Earle herself who pointed out to me afterward that with Google’s previous Earth versions, 2/3 of the earth was actually missing.  So much of our planet is covered in water, Earle says, she always thought of the previous versions as “Google Dirt.”  Now, the company that wants to catalog everything bites off a huge chuck of underwater data, exciting both the marine biologists in attendance at the announcement, as well as former VP Gore, who hailed the new maps as a great way to raise awareness about climate change.
To be honest, while using Google maps a lot (I’m pretty directionally challenged), Google Earth has always been little more than a fun toy.  I’m glad my 8 1/2-year old daughter likes to play with it, because I see her soaking up knowledge, even as she marvels at how “far” you can go with a flip of the mouse. Once, while moving the cursor higher and higher, and not seeing anything labeled, she squinted her eyes, and said, “I wonder if this is heaven.”  Insert whatever Google joke you’ve been holding onto here.
Meanwhile, Earth v. 5 will soon take you into space — specifically,  Mars. 
My take on Google Ocean?  It’s another excuse to play around.  And I mean that as a compliment.  After all, where would Silicon Valley innovation be if engineers weren’t willing to play around with whatever’s at their disposal?  Maybe, someday, this person’s software toy will morph its way into another’s Next Big Thing. 
Wouldn’t that be heavenly?