Explore Mt. Everest With Google's Cartoon Yeti

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Google today gave birth to a 500 foot tall, very friendly Yeti named Verne, and he is guiding Google Maps users through 3D imagery of the Himalayan mountains.

Verne lives in an Android app that can be downloaded from the Google Play store, and he'll help you run up Mt. Everest in seconds and skate across icy lakes. He'll even let you chase yaks, ride a jetpack, play traditional Himalayan instruments, and more.

Verne is clearly designed to show off Google's 3D mapping technology. This isn't Street View—although Google has lugged its Street View cameras up mountains before, it hasn't yet conquered Mt. Everest. Instead, Verne's Himalayan adventures are made possible in part by a recent update to Google Earth that boasts fresh imagery from Landsat 8, along with new processing techniques for sharper pictures.

Verne is also powered by the Unity Game Engine, on whose code the Android app runs. Google also touts the "high performance graphics" of Android phones and tablets as necessary to Verne's escapades. It's unclear whether Google plans to make the app available on iOS or the desktop.

While Verne is designed for fun, he comes with a disembodied, British-sounding voice that will also help you learn about the giant mountain range. "Welcome to the Himalayas, the tallest mountain range in the world," he says, before being playfully attacked by a yak.

Besides Verne, Google has given its Maps tool lots of attention in recent weeks, announcing everything from directions to multiple destinations on mobile devices to a new color scheme and a cleaner look that makes it easier for users to see traffic and transit information.

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