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Google Earth goes 3D with Leap Motion navigation

Google Earth should come with a motion sickness warning: the virtual globe now supports Leap Motion's 3D motion controller.

Users can swoop, dive, glide, and navigate the earth with simple hand gestures in the updated Google Earth 7.1, which rolled out in celebration of Earth Day. Explorers will have to wait until next month, though, to begin flying around the globe since the Leap Motion Controller doesn't start shipping until 13 May.

"While you're flying around the globe, take a minute [to] zoom out to outer space," the Google Earth team said in a Google+ post. "We've updated the star field and Milky Way to bring added realism (and fun) to space exploration."

For more powerful expeditions, users can upgrade to Google Earth Pro, an advanced feature that costs $400 (£260) per year. The premium edition makes it easier to visualise, analyse, and share 3D map data and imagery, and now includes map-making functions like creating legends and adding titles directly to a map.

Additionally, version 7.1 comes with viewshed, which helps to identify and calculate viewpoints, measure distances, and visualise potential views.

"Our mission at Leap Motion is to provide a fundamentally better computing experience that frees people to create and explore the digital world in new ways," CEO Michael Buckwald said in a statement. "Google Earth combined with Leap Motion's 3-D, touch-free technology feels so incredibly immersive — people feel connected to the world in a new and compelling way."

The search giant sweetened the pot with a temporary deal: The usual $399 (£260) licensing fee for Google Earth Pro has been slashed to $199 (£130); the deal is available through 23:00 EST (17:00 GMT) on Tuesday, 23 April. Customers must use the EARTHDAY199 promo code to receive the discount.

For more, check out Leap Motion's 3D controller in action in the Google Earth video below. The latest version of Google Earth is available online.