Google Earth is a fantastic way to waste time by zooming around neighbourhoods, cities and even the entire planet, but we never imagined engineers would use the mapping tool to design computer chips.

Japanese company Gem Design Technologies has upgraded its industrial chip design application, GemPackage, to work with Google Earth's proprietary way of handling 3D design data.

Mapping format to the rescue

The engineers at Gem have tweaked their tool to allow chip designs to be viewed as 3D models within Google's seemingly innocuous application.

The KMZ file format GemPackage creates after the complicated design process, allows designers to use Google Earth to rotate the chip model around so they can examine it for flaws from any angle – something not possible in typical chip-design applications.

Although examining microscopic electronic designs isn't half as much fun as virtually zooming through the Grand Canyon, we reckon Gem deserves an award for some very smart lateral thinking.