Truth be told — I don’t have to break sweat to prove how Google Maps can show you the world in new fantastic ways. Seafarers used them to find new lands. We use them today to understand information. Oh, maps still do take us from New Delhi to New York, but they are also turning us into virtual tourists or helping us go back in time. That’s no magical trickery, because Google Maps gives a creative programmer or designer a free rein to make something amazing out of a mashup. Mashups are combinations or composites of two different things and in the case of Google Maps (or Google Earth), the sum of the parts is often greater than the whole.
We have seen some fascinating Google Maps mashups before, but I always like coming back with new ones I spot. Just to prove maps aren’t dull anymore. Here are seven creative Google Maps mashups which might take a “wow’ out of you.
After the Decay is a Google Map mashup that takes you one thousand years into the future after humans have left the planet. It’s an interesting simulation that gives you a time-line slider tool to view the Earth over the next millennium. The mashup uses satellite view and Street View imagery to “predict” the future course of events. On Street View, you can view future images of famous locations around the world like the Eiffel Tower, the Kremlin, and Statue of Liberty. With the timeline, you can “see the future” as the Eiffel Tower weathers away, the Statue of Liberty erodes away — the irreversible impact of climatic events on world landmarks.
The flight tracker is a superb rendition of Google Earth and almost real-time flight statistics. As you can see in the screenshot above, you can map the location of any Dreamliner flight of all the airlines currently flying it. The fun is revealed when you click on a plane. The screenshot below shows the modified Google Earth interface with a 3D Dreamliner 787 plane flying a specific air-route, complete with sounds of the jet engines.
Choose from the three views to enjoy the landscape. For instance, the Passenger View takes you inside the 3D model of the plane and you can “see” out from the windows.
The Rorschach test and Google Maps is a far-out mix, but it almost works – at least it will succeed in hypnotizing you. Just like the inkblot tests, the Rorschmaps turn Google Maps and Street View imagery into abstract visuals. Try out the Street View edition, as I found it to be more appealing. It seems to be limited to London though. And of course, don’t try to interpret the psychology behind what you see!
When it comes to visuals, very few do it as beautifully as National Geographic. NatGeo turned 125 this January and it flashbacked with some legendary explorers who have worked across the natural frontiers of our planet and helped to understand and conserve it. A New Age of Exploration is a neat Google Maps mashup that takes us closer to their work with profiles, photographs, and videos. Each explorer is represented with a color, and you can read about their adventures by clicking on the same color marked spots on the Google map.
I had not come across this photography related website when I wrote about a few tips on using Google Maps for photography. Just like many other photo-mashups, ShotHotSpot combines photos from Panoramio and Flickr and narrows them down to the more photogenic locations around the world. Professional and amateur photographers can use ShotHotSpot to scout for locations and plan their photo-walks around the information. You can pick spots on a Google Map, but I would recommend you try the advanced search on the site to get a fix on locations according to the type of photos you are planning to take.
You probably built a few scale models for geography class. The idea isn’t new but the treatment is, because we are in the age of 3D printing. You can buy scale models from this website by specifying a location. It could be your favorite backyard mountain, or even a volcano. The models are scaled with a base of 48 square centimeters. Premium models at a higher price come with bases of 200 square centimeters. The cost depends on the volume of material that goes into the model. Presently, terrain data for UK, the Alps and the western-half of the US is available for creating the 3D maps. Even if you don’t buy any, you can enjoy the 3D models in your browser.
We generally think of maps and directions in the same breath. But mashups have always shown that you can take freely available datasets and create something entirely different out of them. Maps today are visualization tools. Street View is the icing. Oh yes, if you just want to have fun, there are quite a few games on Google Maps as well. So, which is the most creative Google Maps mashup you have seen so far? Multiple candidates are welcome because when it comes to mashups, there’s nothing dull about them.