How Google Builds Its Maps—and What It Means for the Future of Everything

Is this the ultimate map? I am not sure but it shows most of what is there – but its inherent problem is the same as all empirical representations – thy suffer from the  fallacy that Daniel  Kahneman calls WYSIATI – What You See Is All There Is – which is never true – there is always more behind the things we see and the true importance of the world around us is hidden from sight -in that it is the relationships and connections we don’t see in physical space that exist only in our subjective minds and the origins of “place” in space is our shared intersubjective knowledge, connection and memory of the interactions that took place, are taking place now or are anticipated in the near future… This report on what lies behind a Google map -Ground Truth by LEXIS C. MADRIGAL –  of  The Atlantic

Behind every Google Map, there is a much more complex map that’s the key to your queries but hidden from your view. The deep map contains the logic of places: their no-left-turns and freeway on-ramps, speed limits and traffic conditions. This is the data that you’re drawing from when you ask Google to navigate you from point A to point B — and last week, Google showed me the internal map and demonstrated how it was built. It’s the first time the company has let anyone watch how the project it calls GT, or “Ground Truth,” actually works.

The company opened up at a key moment in its evolution. The company began as an online search company that made money almost exclusively from selling ads based on what you were querying for. But then the mobile world exploded. Where you’re searching has become almost important as what you’re searching. Google responded by creating an operating system, brand, and ecosystem in Android that has become the only significant rival to Apple’s iOS.

And for good reason. If Google’s mission is to organize all the world’s information, the most important challenge — far larger than indexing the web — is to take the world’s physical information and make it accessible and useful.

“If you look at the offline world, the real world in which we live, that information is not entirely online,” Manik Gupta, the senior product manager for Google Maps, told me. “Increasingly as we go about our lives, we are trying to bridge that gap between what we see in the real world and [the online world], and Maps really plays that part.”

It’s common when we discuss the future of maps to reference the Borgesian dream of a 1:1 map of the entire world. It seems like a ridiculous notion that we would need a complete representation of the world when we already have the world itself. But to take scholar Nathan Jurgenson’s conception of augmented reality seriously, we would have to believe that every physical space is, in his words, “interpenetrated” with information. All physical spaces already are also informational spaces. We humans all hold a Borgesian map in our heads of the places we know that we use to navigate and compute physical space. Google’s strategy is to bring all our mental maps together and process them into accessible, useful forms.

Their MapMaker product makes that ambition clear. Project managed by Gupta during his time in India, it’s the “bottom up” version of Ground Truth. It’s a publicly accessible way to edit Google Maps by adding landmarks and data about your piece of the world. It’s a way of sucking data out of human brains and onto the Internet. And it’s a lot like Google’s open competitor, Open Street Map, which has proven it, too, can harness the crowd’s intelligence.

As we slip and slide into a world where our augmented reality is increasingly visible to us off and online, Google’s geographic data may become its most valuable asset. Not solely because of this data alone, but because location data makes everything else Google does and knows more valuable.

Or as my friend and sci-fi novelist Robin Sloan put it to me, “I maintain that this is Google’s core asset. In 50 years, Google will be the self-driving car company (powered by this deep map of the world) and, oh, P.S. they still have a search engine somewhere.”

Of course, they will always need one more piece of geographic information to make all this effort worthwhile: You. Where you are, that is. Your location is the current that makes Google’s giant geodata machine run. They’ve built this whole playground as an elaborate lure for you. As good and smart and useful as it is, good luck resisting taking the bait.

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Neighborhood Visualizer: Revealing Material and Energy Use in Cities

neighborhood_visualizer.jpg
The Neighborhood Visualizer , developed by MIT PhD candidate David Quinn and Lisbon research student Daniel Wiesmann, aims to bring about a better understanding about urban patterns that relate to material use and energy use.

Built on top of a selection of open-source tools, the web-based map reveals the currently available data on material (i.e. kg/person) and energy use (i.e. kWh/person) in about 42 different US cities. ‘Materials’ include parameters like asphalt or gravel roads, or the use of masonry, glass or timber in residential housing, all based on estimations of urban form. Users can select specific neighborhood areas and create heatmaps that are normalized by population or household size. Further analyses are automatically generated as PDF files.

What Is Your Water Footprint?

An interesting visualisation of water footprints around the world from Protein

What Is Your Water Footprint?

 

Harvard Graduate School students of Architecture and Design Nickie Huang and Joseph Bergen’s latest project gives a visually compelling insight into the extremity of water footprints throughout both the developed and the developing world. Entitled What Is Your Water Footprint? and creating using a combination of Adobe Flash, Illustrator and Textmate, the interactive map incorporates an extensive range of data-sets with both factual and statistical information regarding the water resources available to different countries and individuals therein.

Although nothing new, data visualization has gained an increasing amount of popularity over the past few years, the visualizers remark on the power of the data visualization as a communicative medium, especially in the sense that almost anything can be reduced to a set of data. Moreover, the project is completely dynamic in the sense that, based upon the understanding that there are certain gaps in the datasets, users are invited to e-mail the designers if they feel that they can contribute to the accuracy of the visualization. The full project can be viewed here.

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Mapnificent -a time-based transit map (via Urban Observatory)

STEFAN WEHRMEYER, a 23-year-old German programmer, has developed a Google Maps application called Mapnificent (harhar). It's pretty cool: it shows you the places in your city that you can reach in a given amount of time using public transport. This does not yet work in South African Cites , but is still an interesting application of already existing cloud network i.e. Google Maps  and the programming API has lots of potential for creating your ow … Read More

via Urban Observatory

“CITYSUMERS” -The future consumption arena is urban

According to trendwatching.com , (“one of the world’s leading consumer trends firms”)  the city is the main arena for the unfolding of the new century – was it ever any different, at least in recent times the city is the focus of action with more than 50% of the worlds population being urbanized.

"Urbanomics" & "Citysumers"

“CITYSUMERS | The hundreds of millions (and growing!) of experienced and sophisticated urbanites*, from San  to Shanghai to São Paulo, who are ever more demanding and more open-minded, but also more proud, more connected, more spontaneous and more try-out-prone, eagerly snapping up a whole host of new urban goods, services, experiences, campaigns and conversations.”

Although this might be very consumerist for many people – there are a number of very interesting urban and digital urban ideas and examples in this trend review that tie in closely with where a lot of urban research and thinking is heading – trust retailers to get there first – but we can learn and turn these ideas into a more available model.

Read more here: CITYSUMERS

Streetslide competition to Google Street View?

Posted  on Digital Urban Street Slide: Coming Soon to Bing?

Systems such as Google Street View and Bing Maps Streetside enable users to virtually visit cities by navigating between immersive 360° panoramas, or bubbles. The discrete moves from bubble to bubble enabled in these systems do not provide a good visual sense of a larger aggregate such as a whole city block. Multi-perspective “strip” panoramas can provide a visual summary of a city street but lackfull realism of immersive panoramas.

In a paper at SIGGRAPH Microsoft presented Street Slide, which combines the best aspects of the immersive nature of bubbles with the overview provided by multiperspective strip panoramas. They demonstrated a seamless transition between bubbles and multi-perspective panoramas presenting a dynamic construction of the panoramas which overcomes many of the limitations of previous systems.

As the user slides sideways, the multi-perspective panorama is constructed and rendered dynamically to simulate either a perspective or hyper-perspective view. This provides a strong sense of parallax, which adds to the immersion.

You can view the paper here (13Mb, .pdf), with Microsofts Patent recently approved, it looks like this should be coming to Bing soon.