It is already a cliché to say that Google is all around us. But one of the good things about this company from Santa Clara is that it’s not completely self-serving. Google does a lot of good, and the best way a technology company can do so is by opening up its resources for others to build upon. Google contributes a lot to the Open Source software movement. We know what’s happening with Android. Project Hosting on Google Code is free and it’s a collaborative space like no other.
Let’s just say, that Google developers are a thriving lot thanks to open APIs of many of its products from Google Maps mashups to YouTube. One of their online meeting places is the Google Developers site. Google Developers houses all resources like the Google Developer products and toolkits for building cutting edge applications. Quite a few of them – 424 at last count – are organized in the Showcase. The Google Developers Showcase page gives you filters to sort through the collection and distil the ones you want to check out.
Let’s filter and look at some very useful Google mashups which can help you learn more about the world.
We covered this historical educational Google mashup when we looked at 3 Awesome Historical Google Maps Mashups. Historypin is a collective effort that seeks to document the history of places on a Google Map. Users contribute photographic images, videos, audio clips, and narrative text by pinning it on precise locations on the map. The end result is a rich tapestry of the past weaved together with the materials collected from users around the world. With Historypin you can go back in time and explore with the help of Street View imagery, Tours, and Collections that are put together with old historical data.
Uncharted is a fun geography game built on Google Maps. Though it gives Facebook as the only sign-in option, an entry into the geography game is worth that “irritant” because you get to cover the world and learn at the same time. The game is simple to begin with; you have to spot countries on a map. As you progress, achievements are unlocked and challenges get difficult. Preferably, stick to one continent and learn all about it before you march ahead. Explore a country through its images, history, economy, geography, and culture. Do it well because you will be quizzed at every turn.
View Change is simply a website about change makers. The “heroes” we don’t normally hear about in popular media tell their stories through images and videos. The Open Source Link TV platform powers the site and you can think of View Change as the storytelling front-end for the site. Link TV itself, is about programs that educate and inspire viewers to become involved in the world. It reaches 47 million US homes. View Change has documentaries, news reports, and viewer-generated films of varying length and style which focus on global development. Know about Anshu Gupta who is recycling old clothes to provide clothes, schoolbags, sanitary napkins, and other amenities for India’s poor, or learn about Grassroot Soccer who use the “beautiful game” to educate South African youth about HIV/AIDS prevention.
The Carbon Calculator helps you estimate carbon sequestration numbers over different ecosystems and protected areas. Using polygonal figures, users can select their areas of interest and put the calculator to the test. An ecological gap analysis can be done to understand conservation requirements and restoration challenges. Carbon Calculator is based on Google Maps and a data layer sourced from different data-sets.
Real Indoor is a Street View Google mashup that creates a “realistic” biking experience for you indoors. Created by cycling enthusiasts, the simulation takes in the necessary input and feedback to create a near real and physics based experience and a new immersive biking experience. A cyclist can try it out indoors with a stationary bike and a computer screen in front of it. The physics behind the app calculates variables like weight of the rider and the bike, slope of the track, air drag, friction etc. to change the imagery. But make sure that you have good enough bandwidth because the Street View tries to keep pace with the configuration of the bike you set.
Tweeted Trips is a mashup that combines Twitter and Google Maps with a bit of travel story-telling. It uses the geo-location information of your last 50 tweets and plots them on a map. Think of Tweeted Trips as a digital variant of the old travel postcards. And you are doing it all with just a tweet while the travel map gets created automatically for you. With Tweeted Trips you can share your progress and adventures with friends and family.
This is another Maps Google mashup, but one which tries to answer a question which all of us have asked at some point of time – Where is this place? Perhaps you have also asked the same question when you found a photo of an unknown place on the web. Well, you can either use social media or this website to get your answers. Simply upload the photo or link to its URL and wait for answers from the community. It is also a nice way to discover new places through the photos uploaded by others.
The World Wonders Project is a classy website that takes you on virtual tours of the wonders of the modern and ancient world. In the off-chance that you never get to visit some of the famed heritage sites around the world in your lifetime, you can take advantage of Google’s Street View technology and virtually explore and navigate the heritage monuments through panoramic tours. The project website also provides an educational experience with 3D models, YouTube videos and photography of the famous heritage sites. The World Wonders Project is an initiative of the Google Cultural Institute and partner organizations like UNESCO, the World Monuments Fund, and Cyark.
Google maybe a mega-corporation today; but it is difficult to dispute that of all companies out there, they are the ones who have provided users with many free and low-cost technologies. These technologies play a huge role in our education. Do you agree? Even if you don’t, you can enjoy these free mashups and tools created by enterprising Google developers. Tell us about any other useful Google mashup you use regularly or might have found useful.