Paper maps are SO over. Using Google Maps these days, you can do literally anything you can think of. Want to map your own weather radar? Done. How about seeing, in real time, where in the world people are using Twitter? Also done.
The Google Maps API has opened up a ton of different uses of Google Maps, and some fantastic applications have been built on top of and use Google Maps. Below are nine of the best.
They range across a huge variety of categories and uses, but all can be both interesting and useful ways of using Google Maps. I’ll warn you in advance, a number of these are US-specific but most have good international alternatives.
Mapdango is a tool for total exploration of a given place. When you search for a city or a country, Mapdango pulls photos from Panoramio and Flickr, as well as information about relevant and important places from Wikipedia, Eventful and Google Local; in order to give you a great way to explore a city. You’ll see pictures of the city, get helpful markers for hotels, museums, parks and more, and generally have a ton of useful information to work with.
If you’re looking to spend some time in a city or country, definitely give Mapdango a try – it’s an event planner all by itself.
More and more, I find myself walking around with my computer open, hoping and praying that I stumble across a WiFi hotspot that I can use. I always thought to myself, “there has to be a better way.”
Turns out there are a bunch, and one of the best is called. It’s a user-generated list of WiFi hotspots that is growing at a pretty huge rate, with over 15,000 hotspots being searched in over 3,000 cities. A simple search brings up Google Maps pegs for every hotspot, which can be narrowed down to only show free hotspots, or even only the ones in cafes.
Gotta go? In an unfamiliar place, having to find a bathroom can be a nightmare. That’s what Diaroogle was created for. It’s a community-driven database of public toilets in three different cities (currently New York, San Francisco and London), complete with reviews of the bathrooms, in order to help you find an actually sanitary alternative to the nasty fast food bathrooms.
Live Sports Map
Theis full of live-updated sports news and scores, which can be seen and accessed based on where they’re located. Only care about Denver sports? Just hover your mouse over Denver, CO, and you’ll be updated in an instant. The site shows news around the world but is most heavily concentrated in the US. It’s fast, easy, and even provides color-coding by sport just in case you couldn’t care less about hockey scores.
NYC Bike Maps
As a New York City resident, I know that there are tons of great places to ride a bike in the city. But I have no idea where they are – that’s where NYC Bike Maps comes in. It’s essentially an overlay of bike routes on top of Google Maps, showing you which bike paths are on a street, which have special hours, and more importantly, where they all go. There are a bunch of different maps, and you can even search to find the ones nearest to you. This is something that needs to exist in every city, for every biker.
ZIP Codes and Area Codes
I get tons of phone calls from area codes I don’t know. Equally often, I’m sending a letter or a package, know the address but don’t have a clue what the ZIP code is. For both situations, there’s the USAnaviguide’s Area Code and Zip Code maps. Both use Google Maps to create overlays of the codes by their location, as well as make them searchable. Want to know where area code 660 is? A quick search tells me it’s in Kansas City, MO. The searches are quick, easy and useful more often than you might think.
Okay, these last three are more fun than useful, but all prove how cool applications can integrate with Google Maps. Twittervision shows, in real-time, Twitter updates from around the globe, by location. It’s a growing service but has huge implications – real-time breaking news, as well as seeing conversations as they unfold. Twittervision indexes everyone with a photo and location from their Twitter bio, and has tons of interesting people and tweets featured.
Real World Racer
Ever wanted to drive cross-country? Well, with the Real World Racer, you can. You select a start point and an end point, and suddenly you’re in a high-speed car race all over the world! The game is surprisingly difficult, but a lot of fun and a great way to kill a few minutes seeing the sights of the world as you drive through them in your super-cool red car.
Dig a Deep Hole
Did your parents ever tell you that if you dug a hole deep enough, you’d end up in China? Well, unless you live in Chile or Argentina, it’s a huge lie. That’s what I learned from theapplication, which does but one simple thing – lets you pick a point on a map, and then tells you where, if you dug a hole to the other side of the Earth, you’d end up. Me? I’d end up in the middle of the Ocean – so I’m probably not going to try it any time soon. It’s a fun application, though, and a nice way to ruin all childhood wishes to dig to China.
What’s your favorite use, tweak or mashup of Google Maps? Let us all know in the comments!