Google Earth lets us zoom in on any spot on the planet, from the Brazilian rainforest to Arctic ice sheets. Now imagine it offered the sounds to match the sights.
Bernie Krause has spent 40 years collecting over 3500 hours of sound recordings from all over the world, including bird and whale song and the crackle of melting glaciers. His company, Wild Sanctuary in Glen Ellen, California, has now created software to embed these sound files into the relevant locations in Google Earth. Just zoom in on your chosen spot and listen to local sounds.
"Our objective is to bring the world alive," says Krause. "We have all the continents of the world, high mountains and low deserts."
He hopes it will make virtual visitors more aware of the impact of human activity on the environment in the years since he began making and collecting the recordings. Users will be able to hear various modern-day sounds at a particular location, then travel back in time to compare them with the noises of decades gone by.
Krause plans to have the software ready with 26 sounds for demonstration at the Where 2.0 conference in San Jose, California, on 29 May. It will also be available for download from www.wildsanctuary.com on that date, and many more sounds will follow.
Another project, called Freesound, is making contributors' sound files available on Google Earth. Unlike these recordings, Krause's sound files are of a consistent quality and enriched with time, date and weather information.