February 27, 2015

Map This, Earth That: What You Can Do with Google’s Navigation Tools

An image of Google Earth Logo over Google Maps Logo
By Nick K.

When looking up directions, do you immediately think to use Google Maps? That answer is probably a yes! While Bing and Yahoo Maps serve the same function as Google Maps, they only offer a subpar experience. To enhance your experience Google needs a little help from their navigation tools, Google Maps and Google Earth. Let’s explore how they help.

Google Maps and Google Earth display similar aspects to help create a better user experience. Both navigation tools display satellite images with zoom capabilities, provide a Street View, and have the ability to search for places across the world. However, there are still several differences between Google Maps and Google Earth.

Sure, both tools sound different based on the literal words of Map and Earth, but is there actually a more in-depth disparity? Let’s find out.                     

February 25, 2015

5 New Google Gadgets and Apps to Spice Up Your Life

By Justin H.

Far from content with sitting on their search engine throne, Google continues to blaze trails in other technological fields. Although a few endeavors in the past have been hit or miss, (like Google Glass), it is important to still maintain a small business mentality and keep plowing forward. After all, every large business was a startup at one point. You can’t knock such a large successful company for still pushing the envelope.

As a business owner, you’d prefer to have one dollar as opposed to 20 nickels, right? Just like any business owner, Google sees the prospect of earning a nickel, so it does everything it can to turn it into a dollar. This mindset leads Google to provide consumers with a bevy of features to enhance their experience both on and offline.

Whether you are yearning for something that will make your day a little simpler, or a gadget to add a few notches of fun to your life, here are five Google products you can get on board with.


photo courtesy of phonedog.com
Throw this one into the ambitious category. Google is allegedly working on a project called Tablescape, which is another swing for social media stardom after Google+ settled into a slightly different niche than it first intended. They are aiming to create a community all about pictures of food for people to share and make on their own.

With Tablescape, Google tries its hand in the kitchen. Tablescape would focus 100 percent on food. It is hard to imagine anything strictly concerning food not becoming popular. It would also give users a solid outlet where they can tap into Local Guides.

The caveats with this app include its probable reliance on Google+, Yelp and Pinterest. However, it looks like Tablescape is almost ready to be served, and would certainly be worth a taste.

February 23, 2015

Local Business Experts Reveal Content Creation Insights

A bright light bulb going off and surrounded by webinar descriptors.

By Megan G. 

In the modern market, local business owners have to wear a bunch of hats in order to succeed among their competitors.  Not only must they excel at their chosen profession, but they have to be an SEO expert, competent online marketer, creative content writer, etc.  Content, specifically, has become a major buzzword in the fields of digital marketing and search engine optimization since the calendar flipped to 2015.

Linda Buquet, a Google Local specialist and head of the website Local Search Forum, held a webinar titled “Powerful Content Creation Ideas for Local Businesses” on February 12th.  This webinar was led by Myles Anderson of BrightLocal, who asked a series of questions to a panel of four experts in fields such as SEO, web design, and online marketing. 

A Roundup of Web Content Specialists

The panelists were: 
  1. Don Campbell, who offers website creation tools and training to his clients.
  2. Greg Gifford, a web designer that creates web content for auto dealerships.
  3. Susan Hallam, a well-respected Internet marketing speaker and writer.
  4. David Oremland, a local search optimizer and “frequent commenter” in SEO circles.

February 20, 2015

Unlocking Google Maps and The Imitation Game

Photo by wallorg.com

By Lewis J.

I went to see The Imitation Game with my parents on Christmas day. When we sat down with our popcorn, what we watched was amazing: the story of Alan Turing and Bletchley Park, Britain’s code breaking division during World War II. Played by Benedict Cumberbatch, Alan Turing is a cagey, misunderstood genius whose technological innovations smashed the German Enigma Code, which had over 107 sextillion (107,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) variations and was considered unbreakable. 

The film, which has won a slew of Oscar nominations, has quickly become a favorite with audiences. Perhaps they see some of themselves in Benedict Cumberbatch’s eccentric and charismatic performance. I know I couldn’t help seeing some parallels between the film and my own work. Although Google Maps Optimization is far less thrilling than Turing’s codebreaking, Google Maps also relies predominately on codes and technology. Here are the three secrets to Google Maps optimization I found in The Imitation Game.

Understand the Nuts and Bolts.

Early in the film, Turing and his team are shown a working enigma machine, smuggled over from Germany. By breaking down the machine’s parts, layout, and operation, Turing is able to construct a machine to counteract Enigma’s cryptographic capabilities. Google Maps Optimization operates along similar lines. Its local search algorithm is a secret, but by observing its operation, we have been able to uncover how it works. It looks for websites with:

February 18, 2015

Take a Dry Run with the Google Maps Infused 2D Simulator

By Lauren C.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a “dry run” as a practice event that is done to prepare for an actual event that will happen in the future. For example, the hyper-organized among us often pre-drive to locations before they actually have to go there- in order to avoid getting lost in a time crunch. But what if we could go on a dry run without actually igniting our engines?

Welcome to the 2D Driving Simulator, created by Japanese developer Frame Synthesis. The 2D simulator lets you drive (almost) anywhere in the world from a computer. The simulator uses data directly from Google Maps, which is a collection of satellite photos that are connected together into a navigable image. All you have to do is type in the address- and then use the arrow keys on the keyboard to steer your course.

The simulator allows you to choose from an array of different vehicles, including cars, buses, and trailers. Traffic laws are optional in the simulator and you can choose to use hazard lights and turn signals. You also have the ability to zoom in and out of your driving scope to either be at a plane view angle or a closer, street view angle.

However, there are a few problems with the simulator. There’s minimal friction underneath the car, so it begins to slide around quite a bit, especially if the user is trying to make a turn. Also, because the simulator is two-dimensional, it is hard to tell the difference between different landscapes, oceans, and streets, if not for the color distinction. Most importantly, some of the data hasn’t been imported properly from Google Maps, so you can’t just drive everywhere. Rural areas and rarely traveled locations are the main areas affected by this flaw.

Despite these speed bumps, the simulation technology is another notch in the belt of Google Maps’ growing collection of innovative ideas. This isn’t the first time that data has been pulled from Google Maps to be used in concurrence with something else. Google’s self-driving car also uses Google Maps data to help direct the car as it drives. Another example is Google’s Ocean Street View, which allows people to explore different exotic ocean locations from the comfort of their own computer.  All of these use existing map technology to improve the lives of people who just want to get from Point A to Point B.

February 16, 2015

Dive into Google Maps Ocean Street View

Satellite 3D images of Cuba, Florida, overlooking Pacific Ocean
By Nick K.

Google has been able to advance their Street View quite extensively by providing several opportunities for people to explore great places, such as various  U.S. wonders, which can all be accessed and explored with a few clicks of the computer mouse.

The amount of adventures you can take using Google Street Views is impressive, but how could 
Google improve their Street View in such a way that it would blow people out of the water?

Google spent countless hours pondering for answers, so much so that they had to dig deeper than the ocean floor.  Eventually, a message arrived to them in a bottle from Mother Nature herself, simply stating, “Explore the Ocean.”  

Now, that story does seem farfetched, but in reality, Google has expanded their Street View by providing a new Ocean Street View where people can explore several exotic ocean locations such as The Great Barrier Reef, the Galapagos Islands, and the Florida Keys.

Google teamed up with Catlin Seaview Survey to capture stunning and surreal 360-degree panoramic underwater images to raise awareness of the environmental changes occurring in the ocean. Google also provides a powerful way to visually display these changes. Google’s Oceans Programs mission is to make Google maps as comprehensive as possible by extending their reach, not only on land, but also underwater.

The major scientific survey began a few years ago starting in The Great Barrier Reef as a way to monitor the coral reef populations. Today, the project has been expanded to many global locations like Southeast Asia, the Caribbean, and Bermuda.  

Let’s embark on an unforgettable ocean voyage without getting soaking wet! First stop, The Great Barrier Reef.

February 13, 2015

Google is Becoming More Offline-Friendly With Recent Maps, Plus Additions

By Justin H.

The world as we know it is starting to show signs of a societal shift back towards the unplugged. In an era where every moment is documented in some form of social media sharing, it is possible we have all hit our breaking point. Privacy is becoming valued once again, and Google is listening. Its new Google Maps feature allows users to save maps for offline use, and Google Plus has also acquired the photo sharing app Odysee, which is also useable offline. Who can afford to be online all the time anyway with the prices of unlimited date packages? Who are we, the Rockefellers?

With recent controversies such as the iCloud hacking scandal, as well as the hot topic of net neutrality, more and more people are becoming cautious of their Internet usage. At Tek Shouts!, we have also covered the Right to be Forgotten, which continues to pick up steam as well. Google’s two recent additions are no coincidence: offline is in!

Access Google Maps Anywhere

Now officially 10 years old, Google celebrated by making Maps available for offline users. This feature should not be ignored by any avid travelers whose phones are often subject to shoddy network connections whilst on their adventures. Compatible with iOS and Android, the offline feature is easy to find and use! All the user has to do is select “save offline map” from the drop-down menu in the top right corner of the Google Maps screen. This allows you to save the map on your phone, where you can later access it offline in “your places” from the app menu. You can even rename or update any of your maps at any time, until they are automatically cleared after 30 days. Simple, right?

February 11, 2015

Google Maps' Top Romantic Restaurants

By Lewis J.

This Valentine’s Day, about one quarter of Americans will visit a restaurant for a romantic dinner with that special someone. That’s 79 million people jockeying for a table at one of our nation’s 616,000 restaurants. We wanted to help. Since we know a lot about Google, we decided to help you out. Here are the top romantic restaurants on Google Maps: 

  1. The Melting Pot (multiple locations). This is one you may have heard of, since it’s a nationwide restaurant chain specializing in fondue. Their meals are usually served in courses. First, a cheese fondue, then a salad, then a mouthwatering entrée, and chocolate fondue for dessert. Private dining rooms are available for couples looking for a more intimate evening. 
  2. Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek (Dallas, TX). This was once the home of a Texas cotton magnate. Now, it’s the best restaurant and hotel in uptown Dallas. They specialize in contemporary American cuisine with a French twist. Couples can dine in the honey-colored dining room or under the stars on the restaurant terrace. If I were you, I’d arrive early so I could share a drink at the bar. Their specialty is the Mansion G&T.  

February 9, 2015

Google's Local Guides Feature Lets Reviewers Level Up!

By Megan G.

“Everyone’s a critic” is a statement that has been validated by the Internet.  Anybody from anywhere can manage a review blog or put their two cents into sites like Google Maps and Yelp.  The liberated voice of the people can be a blessing and a curse, especially when it comes to online interactions.  You get a blend of nice, productive input along with a ton of uncalled for rant-fests.

When it comes to other online business reviews, it can be tough to winnow the culture connoisseurs from nasty, one-star trolls.  Luckily, Google has implemented a new program that attaches a badge of credibility to its reviewer community.

Local Guides:  A Competitor for Yelp’s Elite Squads

The most recent Google Maps update on the Android platform comes with a program called Local Guides, a reboot of Google’s City Experts.  The program invites you to “help others and support businesses by writing local reviews on Google.”  Google is indeed one of the champions of local business owners, and the new Local Guides can help improve small business visibility in a positive way.

February 6, 2015

Google’s Self-Driving Car: Digital Maps Shape the Future of Transportation

By Lauren C.

Have you ever ridden in a taxi with a driver who screeches around corners, halts too hard at red lights, or has one too many hula girls bouncing on his dashboard? What if you could omit all of this and avoid the hassle? Say hello to Google’s self-driving car.

If there’s anything we’ve learned about Google, it’s their ability to reinvent themselves and challenge existing societal norms. This persona is rooted deep within the company psyche. The self-driving car encompasses that sentiment by showing the rest of us what’s possible by utilizing digital maps and new technology to create a mind- boggling innovation.

The car operates by taking 3D generated maps from a 64 beam laser outside of the car and combining them with images of high resolution maps of the world. This produces two distinct data models that allow the car to effortlessly drive itself.

The data models are “probably best thought of as an ultra-precise digitization of the physical world, all the way down to tiny details like the position and height of every single curb.” New York Times columnist John Markoff said that riding in the car was so smooth and simple that it was, in fact, “boring.” Well excuse us rubes over here. We thought it seemed pretty cool.

February 4, 2015

Explore Google Earth like a Pro

Satellite 3D image of Earth and light beams taveling across it with the sun behind it
By Nick K.

Have you ever wanted to be a pro at something? How about a pro explorer who travels the world
without exhausting your life savings? How about a pro real estate agent, who provides her clients with the optimal location information before they move to a new area? Thankfully Google has made being a pro easier than ever before.

The beloved Google Earth program has now made Google Earth Pro accessible to everyone. What once was a $399 per year is now free! Who doesn’t enjoy free stuff?
Google Earth Pro is loaded with extra features for both casual explorers and business owners. The first step to being a Google Earth Pro is to learn about all the tools for a stress-free, virtual flight to your next destination. Let’s take a look at the Google Earth Pro toolbox!

An Even More Realistic Landscape

For starters, if you thought the 3-D landscapes from Google Earth were realistic, just wait until you view the Pro premium, high resolution images. The Pro edition includes aerial images, panoramic images with Street View, points of interest, and even historical sites like Mount Rushmore!

These high quality images are printable so you can show off those awesome photography skills, which are often provided by web-users like yourself! Pro’s images are so realistic, you might even forget that you’re looking at a computer screen.

February 2, 2015

My Adventurous Day With Pegman And Google Maps

By Justin H.

This is Pegman. You may have bumped into him a time or two in passing. Few take the time to get to know him, which is a shame because he is an awesome travel partner. Also, he is always in the same place! He resides in the bottom right corner of your screen when you open Google Maps.

We met up for lunch a few weeks back, and he opened my eyes to a whole new world of Google Maps. It was a regular day at eGumball, Inc. when Pegman stopped by to pick me up. He is a man often dressed perfectly for the occasion, and for our lunch he decided to keep things very professional with his swanky suit.

Unfortunately, Pegman was not proactive enough to select a lunch venue prior to picking me up. “Don’t worry,” he said, pulling a laptop out of his briefcase. “I can just type ‘restaurants near eGumball Inc.’ into Google Maps and it will do all the work for me.”