Apps of maps

Monday, November 10, 2008 at 3:30 PM


Seeing the diversity and creativity of what people are doing with our geo tools continues to surprise and enthrall all of us working on these very tools. Intrepid software developers worldwide are taking the initiative by building unique applications to demonstrate that Google Earth and Google Maps aren't just places to plan a route or see your house (though are still great for doing that!), but places to view all forms of information in their geographical context. Here's a small selection of some of the tools that I have enjoyed using and that represent the variety of things that have been done when people have "thought outside the map".

First up is a really clever and fun Google Maps app called geoGreeting. Software engineer Jesse Vig happened to notice that certain buildings took on the appearance of a letter of the alphabet when viewed from above. By entering your message on the send a geoGreeting page, characters matching your message will be generated and played as an animation that you can send to your friends and family. Ah, the number of times this site has bailed me out when I have forgotten to send a real card!

The next one is PlanePlotter. Aviation enthusiasts who enjoy spotting aircraft, whether up close or virtually, turn to tools that facilitate their understanding of the skies around them. One of the ways that PlanePlotter displays information is via Google Earth; when location, direction
and altitude information are plotted, you can get a pilot's eye view of the terrain around them.

Last, but by no means least is iLoveMountains. Under the umbrella of the non-profit group Appalachian Voices. Appalachian voices are a Google Earth Outreach grantee that engages in campaigning against mountaintop removal used in the production of coal. The iLoveMountains.org project lets people see their connection on Google Maps or Google Earth to mountaintop removal based on their U.S zip code. From there, people can learn about what involvement their local supplier may have in buying coal supplied using mountaintop removal techniques - and what action they can take. These kinds of "story-telling" KMLs & mashups stimulate the senses by giving a real feeling of connection to the place, illustrating the issues.

Hopefully you'll have some fun with these various apps, and perhaps you'll get inspired to create your own. If so head over to the Google Code - Geo page, where you can learn how to create all kinds of wonderful tools. These could range from a simple maps mashup through highly complex dynamic KML files.