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Google Maps APIs Talk

The Google Maps APIs can be used for a lot of different uses. The following is a description of mashups in different categories, and it can be given as a ~20-30 minute talk. This talk could be followed up by a technical talk or a codelab, or both.


The basic usage of the API is to show data on a map.. but it can be done in innovative ways.

Yuppie Locator - This takes free and usually boring data (US Census) and presents in an interesting way. This shows how just adding a geographic component to every day data and combining it with a bit of humor can make for a very compelling app.

Uniqlo Map - This is from Uniqlo, which is like American Apparel for Japan. It's a campaign advertising sweaters, and uses the popular technique of stitching together videos of people passing items to eachother. This makes it even more interesting by providing a map between the video that shows the location of the video. The map has been desaturated and tinted blue, to match with the overall color scheme of the app and to make it visually interesting.


Generally, humans are very interested in how time relates to data. When they see real-time data, they feel more connected to the world. When they see historical data, they think about where they were then. 

Twittervision - This shows tweets being made at the very moment from twitter users all over the world, and is one of the original Twitter map mashups.

RozTracker - This shows the voyage of a woman that's in the middle of rowing across the Pacific. You can see how many oar strokes she's done, and zoom in to see her tweets, blog posts, and videos. There are many apps out there that track annual races (like the Tour de France) or constantly moving vehicles like trains and ships. 

NYC Homicides Map - Humans have a morbid curiousity, and this map plays to that. You can use the slider at the top to iterate over  the last 10 years, or the filters at the side to visualize various aspects of the homicides in NY. The map shows recent data too -- you can find homicides from the last few weeks -creepy but compelling. The designers did a great job of creating custom controls and tinting the tiles to make a cohesive UI.


Humans can quite interested by politics, and due to the way votes are calculated, politics often boils down to geographical issues. 

Primary Election Maps - We had done election maps before, but during the last round of primary elections, we decided to add another element: real-time vote counting. This mapplet would start with no markers on it, and as vote counts came in during the hours of voting, the markers would grow in size and change in color to reveal the currently winning delegate. You could leave the map open and just check it every 5 minutes to see what was going on.

Huffington Post: Fundrace - This map visualizes the campaign contributions of everyone in the US, and turns every person into a colored dot. You can zoom into an area and immediately see clumps of reds and blues, and understand immediately the distribution of political party support in an area. You can also search by employer to do something like find all of the Googler's contributions.


People love games, especially if there is a global competitive nature. Add a high scores board to your game, and you'll have people staying up late at night to get their name on that board. You can make a lot of games using maps, from scavenger hunt type games to simulation style games.

These 3 games are simple demos to show off the idea:

Map of the Dead - This game lets you shoot zombies dead. Zombies are so in.

Whack a Mole-ker - This game just puts the popular arcade game Whack-a-Mole on top of a map. It could be configured to be played in lots of different location - instant scenery!

State Game - This game challenges the user to click on the correct location for a state. This could be extended to cities or stuff like movie trivia (e.g. "Where did X flee to?").


Maps become even more engaging when users can actually annotate them and share their annotations. 

Scribble Maps - This app lets you draw lines or shapes on a map. I used it to make a map of my childhood home, noting stuff like the place I buried my rabbit and where the trampoline was. Once I scribble, I can send that to friends.

Coke Xmas Campaign - This app, used by Coca-Cola during their Christmas season, lets you draw lights on the map and send that to a friend. When you zoom out, the map shows twinkling everywhere in the world where users have drawn lights - so there is a global collaborative aspect as well. This app won several advertising awards. 

MapMsg - This is a similar concept, letting people specify messages in the form of smoke signals and crop circles on the map and then send to friends. When they receive it, there's a nice animation for the greeting.

Custom Maps:

The Maps APIs can also be used as a general tool for displaying imagery that can be panned and zoomed, not just for maps.

World of Warcraft Map - This lets you explore the fantasy world from the popular WoW game.

NYU Virtual Microscope: Brain - This lets you explore your very own brain.

Space Magazine - They decided that it was boring to just upload a PDF of their past magazines, so they laid out all the pages and turned them into a zoomable map instead. You can zoom out, see every page, then zoom into your favorite.

Blaubo Art Portfolio - Various designers are using the API as a way of displaying their portfolio. Zooming out, you can see everything they've worked out. You can then zoom in to whatever interests you.