July 22, 2015

Google Knows If Your Paths Have Crossed

A smartphone screen depicts an explanation of Google's new Your Timeline Tool.
Courtesy of: androidcentral.com

By Joseph A

It’s late on a Friday night, and you’re sitting alone at the bar. Bored, you begin a conversation with the person next to you, discussing what you do for a living and what you do for fun. Soon, you realize that you share some common interests with your new friend, and recognize your paths may have crossed at a cafĂ© you both like or a city you both lived in. As hard as you try to match dates of these events, you’ll never figure out how close you came to meeting. Until now.

A smartphone screen shows Your Timeline on Google Maps in action.
Recently, Google announced its new Your Timeline feature in Maps that lets you “view the places you’ve been on any given day, month or year." Like most things Google has done recently, it seems to be a little creepy, if not completely threatening in the post-Snowden era. But like most Google services, it can also be pretty extraordinary when looked at with optimism.

Right now Your Timeline is, as the name suggests, private and only visible to you. But it won’t be long before some enterprising developer (possibly Google) offers a way for people to compare their location histories and identify dates and places where paths have potentially crossed. Where those chance encounters might have happened had fate intervened at that moment. Once two individuals figure out that their paths have indeed crossed before, the name will almost undoubtedly transform into “Our Timeline.”

It’s essentially the equivalent of discovering your partner (as a toddler) lurking in the background of a cherished childhood photo snapped at Disney World. Or being that couple who unknowingly shared the same beach as kids 20 years before their marriage. Both were completely random encounters, and who knows how many other similar situations have gone unnoticed in the past. 

Luckily, we won’t have to wait to find out anymore once Your Timeline is fully implemented.
Imagine a future where wedding invites arrive full of GIFs showing a couple’s differing location histories merging into one beautifully romantic path. This would be created automatically by Google Photos, of course, complete with a slideshow and some Vanessa Carlton music.

I can also imagine several more awkward outcomes, but let’s just try to keep it positive, ok?

How are you all thinking you will use Google’s Your Timeline? Feel free to let us know in the comments below!

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