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India has launched a rival to Google Earth, the search engine's hugely popular satellite imagery service.
The online tool, dubbed Bhuvan (Sanskrit for Earth), has been developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (Isro). Its debut comes as India redoubles its efforts to reap profits from its 45-year-old state-sponsored space programme, criticised by some as a drain on a country where 700 million people live on $US2 a day or less.
The new site also follows in the slipstream of the country's first moon probe, Chandrayaan-1, which successfully reached the lunar surface last November.
Bhuvan uses a network of Indian satellites to create a high-resolution, birds-eye view of India that is accessible at no cost online and will compete with Google Earth.
# Operating System: Windows XP/Vista; RAM: 512MB; Hard Disk: 2GB free space; Network Speed: 256 Kbits/sec; Graphics Card: 3D-capable with 32MB of VRAM; Screen: 1280x1024, 32-bit True Color;
# To browse Bhuvan, you require the Bhuvan Plug-in which can be downloaded from this website, after registration and you will also need DirectX 9.0 or higher version (www.microsoft.com/windows/directx/) and MS .NET framework 2.0 or above for installing the plug-in. Please note that the Bhuvan Plug-in can be installed with administrative privileges only.
Bhuvan can take closer pictures of the Indian Subcontinent as compared to the Google Earth.
Bhuvan is capable of taking a zoom level of up to 10 meters, while Google Earth features a zoom level of up to 200 meters.
Bhuvan is designed to be as bandwidth-friendly as possible. However, it is dependent on continuously downloading a large amount of imagery. Consequently, the faster your connection, the better the program will perform. If you have a slow connection, Bhuvan will download imagery correspondingly slowly, but it will (eventually) download everything at the maximum available resolution. Depending on the number of concurrent users on over servers and the kind of bandwidth at client end the ultimate speed of visualisation will be decided. This is a beta release, however with more learnings we will be able to make things more comfortable for all types of users.