Archive for the ‘Location’ Category

File Under: Location, Web Services

Watch OpenStreetMap Improve in Real Time

OpenStreetMap is improving all the time. Now you can watch it happen. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

OpenStreetMap isn’t just a powerful, open alternative to Google Maps — used in everything from Apple’s maps to those on Flickr, Wikipedia and dozens of other sites — it’s also a great example of the web’s hive mind at work.

Everyday hundreds, even thousands, of people contribute small changes, improvements and new bits of data to OpenStreetMap. A new trail here, an updated road there and so on until the result is something which, in many locations around the world, trumps the level of detail commercial maps offer.

Now you can watch those changes happen in real time. OSM Lab, an organization for OpenStreetMap related projects, recently released Show Me the Way, an OpenStreetMap project that tracks and displays OSM edits in real time.

There are two views of Show Me the Way, the satellite view (using Bing imagery) and the live OSM-based overview version. Both offer a strangely hypnotic peek behind the scenes of OpenStreetMap’s contributions.

The code behind Show Me the Way also offers a nice look at how to work with real time data and maps. You can grab the source from GitHub.

File Under: JavaScript, Location

‘Hyperlapse’ Turns Google Street View Into Beautiful Short Movies

Hyperlapse: turning Google Street View into movies. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

Hyperlapse is quite simply the coolest thing we’ve seen on the web in quite a while. Not only is it creative and beautiful, it’s a great reminder that there are still a few APIs left out there that allow you to make cool stuff.

Hyperlapse is a JavaScript library that stitches together Google Street View imagery to create short “hyper-lapse” movies (time-lapse movies with movement).

The code behind Hyperlapse consists of Hyperlapse.js, Mr Doob’s Three.js and “a modified version of GSVPano.js“. The project is the brainchild of Teehan+Lax, the same design firm that built the interface for Medium.

The site uses WebGL, so you’ll need a modern browser like Firefox or Chrome to see it and create your own.

The only thing Hyperlapse is missing is an easy way to embed your custom Hyperlapses in another page. In lieu of an actual Hyperlapse, here’s a video showing what’s possible.

File Under: Location, Web Services

Google Dresses Up Maps With Terrain, Vegetation

Google Maps, now with better terrain shading (old version on top). Image: Google

Google Maps continues to crank out the updates; the default map view has been updated with new shading detail to convey terrain information, along with color gradations to depict vegetation and labels for natural land formations.

The amount of terrain detail shown varies depending on which part of the world you’re looking at and how far you’ve zoomed in, but for the Americas and Europe major geographic features are now shaded and labeled.

“This enriched visual data allows you to quickly and easily see where the great forests, deserts, and mountain ranges around the world begin and end,” writes Karl Johann Schmidt, Google Maps Software Engineer, on the company’s Google Maps blog. “It also conveys how natural land formations can impact where, how and why man-made developments like urban cities, dams and bridges are made.”

I’m not sure how many people (aside from us map nerds) browse Google Maps to study how and why cities and other developments came to be where they are, but there is another side effect — the basemap now looks more interesting. The slight shading for textures and the green of forests break up what was previously just vast expanses of white. And in my testing on the desktop, mobile and Android Maps app the new visual overlays did not make Google Maps noticeably slower.

The new terrain features in the basemap aren’t anywhere near as detailed as the terrain overlays that can be added from the Google Maps menu widget, but they do add more information to the default map, which is likely the only map most users ever see.

File Under: APIs, Location

New Amazon Maps API Challenges Google

Image: Amazon.

Amazon is once again jumping into the online mapping fray with a new Maps API for Android developers building apps for the Kindle Fire and Kindle Fire HD tablets. While it’s just for Android developers at the moment, several of Amazon’s other APIs have started small and grown into web-wide offerings.

Unfortunately, unlike like Amazon’s long since shuttered A9 map tools, it doesn’t appear to actually be using Amazon data. In fact, the new Maps API is really just an API wrapper around Nokia’s maps and geocoding interface, which also now powers the maps on

Like Apple’s iOS 6, Foursquare and other high-profile Google Maps defectors, the Amazon Maps API seems to exist primarily as an option for those who’d like to avoid the Google Maps API. Amazon’s announcement touts the API’s “simple migration path for developers who are already using the native Google Maps API on Android,” but neglects to mention any benefits developers might gain from dropping Google’s API.

In this early beta offering Amazon’s Maps API doesn’t have any features above and beyond Google’s API. The Amazon Maps API offers most of the same features you’ll find in the Google Maps API, including street maps, satellite images and custom overlays for landmarks and points of interest, but lacks street-view imagery, terrain maps and other features found in Google’s offering.

If you’d like to give the Amazon Maps API a try in your Android app, head on over to Amazon’s new Maps API site to request access.

File Under: Location

Apple Credits OpenStreetMap for iPhoto Map Data

Google Maps vs Apple's custom maps. Note the increased road/path detail from OpenStreetMap visible in the Apple version of this map of Vienna, Austria.

Apple has finally acknowledged that its iPhoto application for the iPhone and iPad uses OpenStreetMap data.

Open up a map in iPhoto for iOS and one of the first things you’ll notice is that the familiar beige and yellow Google Maps are nowhere to be found. Instead you’ll see Apple’s homegrown maps, the look of which is distinctly Apple’s, but the data behind the maps comes from the open source mapping project OpenStreetMap.

Until now Apple did not provide any credit to OpenStreetMap. Earlier this week Apple updated iPhoto for iOS and among the changes is a new notice that says the data comes from OpenStreetMap. It’s buried in the app credits where most people will never see it, but it does fulfill the licensing requirements that govern OpenStreetMap data.

For those unfamiliar with it, OpenStreetMap is an open source project that maintains an editable map of the entire globe. Anyone can make edits and add data to the map, which is why it’s often called the “Wikipedia of maps.” Although OpenStreetMap has been around for some time, it’s recently become considerably more visible as part of iPhoto and before that as part of Microsoft’s Bing Maps. Additionally some high-profile websites are starting to move away from Google Maps — like Foursquare, which ditched Google Maps in favor of OpenStreetMap.

It’s been clear for some time that Apple is looking for a way to wean itself off Google Maps. Apple has even purchased several mapping companies, including Placebase, an online-mapping company, and C3 Technologies, which creates 3-D maps.