September 2, 2015

3 #MapsHack Triumphs on Google Maps

The Internet Map, an example of a Google #MapsHack.  Image from Google Maps.

By Megan G.

What is a #MapsHack?  Most often, it’s the reworking of Google Maps technology into delightful interactive experiences such as The Internet Map pictured above.  This particular hack showcases the most popular websites in any given country, and it does it with a vibrant, engaging style.

Other past #MapsHacks have included a map of Skyrim from The Elder Scrolls series, a map of Westeros from Game of Thrones, and even a magical tool that summons beautiful, blooming cherry blossoms on any street.

It’s always fun to see the light-hearted results of coding and imaginative minds, so Tek Shouts! has decided to highlight three of the most recent and interesting #MapsHack victories on Google Maps.

1)  A Cascade of Color with Maps API

You may be familiar with this recent #MapsHack featured in the news, an abstract art slideshow created by interactive designer Shaun Utter.  According to an article at Tech Times, Utter created this computer-generated art using code taken from the Google Maps API.  The show features Google Maps snapshots from unknown cities, painted over in a shower of colors that appear in random combinations and zoom settings.

The results are quite stunning.

A Snippet from the Shaun Utter website. 

The Boston-based coder is practicing generative art—“art created through automated means”—which shows exactly how beautiful coding can be.  Whether or not you enjoy this piece, it is exciting to consider the potential projects to come out of this new, techie-art genre. 

2)  Sherlock’s Stomping Grounds

Part history-lit lesson, part interactive movie poster, this Mr. Holmes-inspired “Illustrated Map of London” features locations important to the life of fictional detective Sherlock Holmes, as well as his creator, Sir Arthur Conan DoyleMr. Holmes is a crime drama, mystery film released earlier this year and, while the film has a relatively quiet release, this interactive map serves as a great marketing tool even after-the-fact.

Each locale is marked with a magnifying glass pin, paired with a blurb of how Mr. Holmes, Mr. Conan Doyle, and the location are all intertwined.

Image from Google Maps.

While the fun facts are cool for any fan of the Sherlock Holmes stories, the vintage map itself is a treat to look at.

3)  Don’t freak out, but I Know Where Your Cat Lives

If web users were worried about Google invading their privacy, they are about to have a field day with this data experiment!  Don’t worry, though.  It only poses a problem if you own cats.

Uh oh.  Numbers crunched by Statista

I Know Where Your Cat Lives finds publicly posted pictures of felines from networks like Flickr and Instagram, records their location via metadata through these platforms, and posts those images to its website.  Creepy, right?  Well, that’s kind of the point.

“I know what your cat did last summer. 
And it did… a lot of sleeping.”  
A project supported by Florida State University, I Know Where  Your Cat Lives uses Google Maps technology and user data to shine a light on two primary aspects of the Internet:  web-users’ obsession with cats and the steadily decreasing state of user privacy.  Check out this quote detailing the project’s goal—nay, mission:

“We set out on this adventure with a mission in mind:  to point out the ease of access to data and photos on the web.  We sought to showcase how readily available social media users’ information and snapshots are to the general public.”  

Even still, if this freaks you out, users (of course) have the right to remove these pictures by adjusting the privacy settings on your social networks.  In fact, the more I tried to peruse the site, the more I ran into “Photo removed by user” images than actual photos of cats!

Even that cat looks angry to still be featured on the site.

Want to create your own Google #MapsHack? Lucky for imaginative coders and developers out there, Google has simplified the payment model for its Maps API.  Find details on this pay-as-you-go model on TechCrunch.  

Have you tried any of these #MapsHacks?  What other hacks have you seen and enjoyed?  Let the Tek Team know in the comments below!

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