Weekend Distraction: Google Maps Trivia

First of all….. I’d like to apologize (in advance) for this week’s Weekend Distraction. It’s so much fun, that you may find yourself returning to it a little too often.

Just saying’ :)

Screen Shot 2014-07-12 at 8.29.18 AM The folks at Google have recently released this delightful time-eater-upper. Google Maps Trivia.

And you don’t have to go and get it from the app store. You already have it (if you have Google Maps).

(Even if you don’t have a smart phone, or an iPad, you can also play this on your computer. I’ll provide that link at the end of this post.)

It’s called Google Maps Trivia. Simple and appealing. Google will give you a random clue, and your job is to drop a pin on the correct location.

You start with 1000 miles. Miles are subtracted for any distance “off” the correct mark. When you run out of miles, you’re done. You can choose categories if you would like, or let Google throw them at you randomly.

To find this gem on your device, just open your Google Maps app.

Click on those three lines up in the upper left hand corner. Now look down the menu on the left side, and select “Google Maps Trivia.”

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The game begins!

Let them give you questions, or select your own category.

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Answer the question, and drop your pin. If you’re wrong, Google will show you how far off you are, and subtract those miles from your 1000. When you run out of miles, you’re done.

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And when you get your answer RIGHT … Google cheers you on!


You can also play this game directly on your computer. I actually prefer to use it with a larger screen, and I find that I can be more accurate with my pin drops on my Macbook rather than on the smaller devices.

Follow this link to play Google Maps Trivia on your computer:

Google Maps Trivia

Have fun!

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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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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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Traveling? Offline? Find yourself with City Maps 2Go

Screen shot 2013-07-22 at 7.37.30 AMI recently did some traveling out of the country, and visited several large cities. I’m a do-it-yourself traveler, so I knew I’d be on my feet in these cities, wandering and exploring.

Here in the US, I use Google maps all the time on my iPhone, not only for navigating, but to locate myself in the midst of a new-to-me place. (Remembering the days of having to find a corner, and street signs, and pulling out an awkward folded paper map and then searching for that corner among the cross streets….. :shock: )

In contrast, today we just look at our phone and the infamous blue dot shows us exactly where we are. The thought of NOT being able to do that on my travels was an inconvenience I was prepared to deal with, but happily did not have to. More on that later…..

City Maps 2Go is a wonderful map app. Before I left, I downloaded a map for every city that I would be visiting. They offer over 6,700 maps from all over the world. Within the app, you simply select the country, the city, and tap “download”. Your maps are collected on a page where all you need to do is tap the one you want and there it is, on your phone … an OFFLINE map to use (like using a paper map)… no data, no cell connection necessary to view your maps. A perfect travel companion.

To add a new map, just tap the plus sign:

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Scroll through oodles of countries, tap on any to see a selection of cities to download.

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Traveling outside of your own country can be tricky business with your data plan, and this is something you have to monitor carefully (and plan for!) so that you don’t rack up ridiculous charges on your phone.

Therefore, I had my cellular data turned OFF, and so I was fully prepared to use my maps in the old fashioned way, looking for street signs to determine my location.

Imagine my surprise, when I pulled up an offline map in Greenwich, England, and I saw my location on the map, indicated by a blue dot! I was flummoxed …. how could this be?

I instantly wondered if my cellular data was back on, and I momentarily panicked until I checked my settings. Nope, cellular data was OFF…. no data allowed.

So, how was the blue dot finding me? Apparently, I have since learned that the GPS in your iPhone is actively working even without the cellular data.

Some google searching taught me more. Here is what Google says about their offline maps:

“As long as you have GPS activated, you’ll see your location as a blue dot on the map. Note that Wi-Fi and cell-based My Location will not work. Features which require data connection–such as directions and Navigation–aren’t available offline.”

I have not ever tried downloading Google maps for offline viewing since I have been so pleased with City Maps 2Go, however, the point is the same …. the blue dot works, even if you are offline. Yay!

City Maps 2Go is $2.99 in the iTunes store. (occasionally this app is offered for free for a limited time. Seldom, but sometimes)

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