Really Really Really Cool New Feature of Google Maps: Time Travel!

Screen Shot 2014-05-14 at 6.41.50 AMI have always been a fan of google maps, and I especially enjoy their street view. I often use it before traveling to an unfamiliar place so I can “see” the place I’m going, and get familiar with the landscape, etc.

This has come in extremely handy, in one instance allowing me to recognize landmarks and direct the cab driver to my hotel (altho I had never been there, before!).

Now Google Maps has introduced a new feature …. Time Travel!

Time Travel allows you to look at a particular place as it looked the last time the google-car passed by, and then look back to see it as-it-was when the google-car passed by the last time, and the time before that, and the time before that …..

This is pretty darn cool!

I tried it on my own house, and I could see it as-it-was before the most recent paint job, and before Sandy took down the trees, and before we sold the last car…..

Google Time Travel isn’t available everywhere, but it does now exist for many areas. And, as the google-car keeps mapping, I assume the time-travel feature will expand.

To show you an example, I used the construction site at the World Trade Center area of Manhattan.

First you must navigate to the street view area of wherever you want to see. To do this, just pull the little orange guy onto a street as you look at the map. Poof! You will now be in “street view” mode.

Now look at the upper left hand corner of your computer screen to see if Time Travel is available. If it is, you will see this:

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Just tap on this Time Travel option, and it will open to show you the dates available.

Here I will show you two screens, one from August 2013, and then the same view from April, 2009. There are also other options to select time in-between those dates.

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Google Time Travel is available at most “famous” places around the world, but it is expanding. As I said, my own street is now covered for the last few years, which is proof that Time Travel is available in ordinary places.

Have fun!

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ESCAPE! with Google Trek

Is all the hustle and bustle of holiday prep making you a little crazy?

Google Trek might be your answer for a little armchair get-away.

Google has walked through some of the most amazing places, and now you get to visit there, too, from the comfy spot of your own chair.

How about a wander through VENICE? I remember getting lost there, and loving it. Every twist and turn brings new adventure. And now you can explore from anywhere.

So, pour yourself a cup of cappuccino and have yourself a wander through Venice.

Click here, and away you go: Take me to Venice!

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Weekend Distraction: Use Technology to Take a Language Survey

Screen shot 2013-08-30 at 9.57.54 PMPreviously I shared with you one of my all time favorite podcasts, A Way With Words. I find the talk about language fascinating, and the conversation between the hosts and their callers keeps me hooked for the entire show …. each and every time.

Because I enjoy A Way With Words so much, when I recently learned of a language survey online, I was immediately drawn to it.

Linguists often find themselves the center of attention at parties when they demonstrate how they can pinpoint the area a person lives just by listening to the way a variety of words are pronounced.

Now, here comes the fun: :) This online survey will do the same for you! Just answer 25 questions, and a map will be generated to show you where the language spoken is most like yours.

I completed the survey, along with a few family members, and it was quite accurate for each and every one of us. I’ve pasted my “result map” here. Although I currently live in Pennsylvania, I grew up in New Jersey and so I’m not surprised to see the skewing toward the Garden State.

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The survey, a research project North Carolina State University, consists of 25 questions. Think about your answers, and try to answer as true to your speech as possible.

When you are done, you will be asked where where you live and where you grew up as a validity check for the researchers. You do not give your name or other identifiers. Just city and state. (apologies to readers outside the US for this US-only survey.)

So, this weekend, if you have a little time to kill, you might enjoy taking this survey, and learning how accurately they can pinpoint you.

To take the survey, just click here: Dialect Quiz and Survey

Have fun! and… please let us know how it worked for you!

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Running? Walking? RunKeeper Helps You Keep Track of your Treks

Screen shot 2013-08-26 at 8.21.18 PMI’m not a runner. Never was. Never will be. But I like to walk, and to my delight, this well-reviewed “Runner’s App” is also exceptionally wonderful for a casual walker like me.

Simply tap “start” to …yes… start the app. Put the iPhone in your pocket and walk on (or run, if you are so inclined).

5 minutes later, a robot voice will tell you that you have been walking (running) for 5 minutes, and let you know how far you have gone, and what your speed is.

(You can tinker with the settings and have this voice share your information at many other time intervals. 5 minutes is the default, and I find that to be just about perfect.)

When you are done walking/running, you stop the app and delight in all kinds of information. Your average speed, of course, and the total time, the date, etc… But the thing that I really love is the MAP that you generate with your walk/run, courtesy of the GPS in your phone.

Here is the map that this app generated for me as I ended a quick walk this morning. Notice that I was walking on park paths so you only see my walk against a background of blank space, but if I walked in the neighborhood, you would see each and every street that was strolled upon (or run on). I loved getting the one-mile notification on the map. :)

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Other features make this app even richer. For the average user, the free version is probably sufficient, but there are opportunities within the app to ramp up the features even further (freemium style). I will not be buying a thing. I’m happy just the way it is.

RunKeeper is free in the iTunes store

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The Google Maps Car was (maybe) Mapping my Street?

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As I left the house this afternoon to do an errand, what did I see driving past my house?

The Google Maps Car!

It drove right by, at regular speed. I wonder… was it mapping for street view? or just riding by?

I contained my impulse to follow the car, so the picture I am sharing was not taken by me,
but this is exactly what the car looked like.

First I noticed the tall round camera sticking up off the roof, and I actually thought the thought, “that looks like a google camera.” Then my eyes slid down and saw the awesomely-decorated car. :)

Anyone else ever see a google map-car in “real life”?

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Google Traffic Gets Even Better with Waze

Screen shot 2013-08-22 at 8.28.45 AMJust last week or so I wrote a post explaining (and praising) Google’s Traffic wonderful-ness through the Google Map App.

And now, Google’s Traffic has just gotten even BETTER. They have formed a collaboration with Waze, a social networking community.

I was unfamiliar with Waze, but apparently its users report accidents, road closures, construction, or (gasp) one guy with a broom, etc, all in real time.

And so, with this collaboration, you will often KNOW what is up ahead, causing those red lines (as long as someone has reported it through Waze)

I took a peek this morning at the traffic in New Jersey just outside of New York. I figured there was probably an accident someplace. :shock: I was right.

This screenshot below is how it looks on the iPhone. See red square-on-its-end? That is a WAZE report. Just touch on it and the information appears at the top of the screen.

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This is great news for all road warriors. Next time you are on the road, remember you carry a LOT of traffic information on your phone, and using it wisely can save you bunches of time. :)

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How Does Google Know About the Traffic?

I am a huge fan of google maps, and after spending a good deal of time on the road these last few months, I’m a bigger fan than ever.

In particular, one feature has been enormously helpful …. and that is the TRAFFIC information that you can see on your travels. If you are going on a road trip, this is an extremely valuable feature.

Just pull out the side menu and tap on “traffic” to activate it.

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And then …. head out on the highway. If the road up ahead is green, you’re good to go. If you see yellow, expect some traffic build up. And red? Uh, oh. Heavy, heavy traffic is in your future. The deeper the red, the stuck-er you’ll be. :(

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If you look ahead before you drive, you can often avoid the red spots, making your travel much more pleasant.

Now …. back to the question I posed in the title of this blog post: How (the heck) does Google know about the traffic? Even our local radio station fails to report the congested spots, so how on earth does Google know it?

Hint: They don’t have invisible helicopters or secret satellites. :lol:

The simple answer is: Crowdsourcing. Our smart phones come with GPS. As we drive by cell phone towers, our phones are tracked. If a clump of smart phones get bunched up along the highway, google interprets that as a traffic jam….. and let’s you know about it.

For a comprehensive explanation of this, you can read about it here and here.

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