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.

Overall, if a user doesn’t want to worry about driving somewhere new, the simulator can help them get a grasp on where he or she needs to go before they actually have to leave the house. No longer will the user need to go on that dreaded “dry run,” a concept made for overachievers and people with too much time on their hands. With time, the simulator should improve its capacity to include more detailed map data. If the 2D Simulator becomes more popular when used for this purpose, local businesses could lobby Google Maps to make sure they are included within the data that would be used by the simulator.

Of course, the 2D simulator is only a game, and it doesn’t claim to be a revolutionary force in map technology. But with applications such as Google Earth Pro, Ocean Street View, and Google’s Self-Driving Car, the future of digital maps is certainly moving in a more progressive direction.

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