Category Archives: navigation & GPS

Uncommon situations that warrant spontaneous purchases

I’m finding the development of location-based services to be both intellectually intriguing and amusing.  The ThinkNear mobile advertising business endeavor of Telenav intrigues me because I like the ways they’ve grappled with explaining the complexities of geospatial location to business-minded novices. Seeing their current home page ad has been an amusing highlight of my day. Definitely an advertising location_based_services_ad (800x385)idea thought of by a man, but I admit it’s clever. Makes me want to send it to my friends and see whether they get it.

use geography to add fun meaning to meetings

Sometimes after a long day, especially at the end of a long week, one’s mind turns to geographic amusement, or geo-musings.  Here’s mine for the day – courtesy of Emily.  Use a digital map to help you find the middle ground to meet a friend. This brings veracity to meeting in the middle! Two guys played with this idea as an art project and first met somewhere in the Czech Republic, then later up a tree in Westchester County. Emotionally appealing idea of making the commitment and then trusting each other to follow through, come hell, high water, traffic delays, or GPS errors.

I like this definition of art works by Roy Ascott, as a “trigger of experiences” rather than an “object.”

Wanted to play with different approaches for calculating exactly what “the middle” is?  Of course, it’s a geospatial question!  Try this Geographic Midpoint app.

Thanks, Emily!

Documenting Slum Space in Kenya

A great story this morning on NPR about mapping projects in urban slum areas of Kenya, both involving collecting data on roads, housing, community structures, open spaces, and where people are conducting their activities of daily life.  One project using GPS, the other traced over a satellite image to make a draft map.  I liked how he referred to the “rectangles” of houses; as he said that, my mind instantly translated to “polygons.”  Like those instantaneous translators working at the United Nations.

The story made for a driveway moment for me.  So great to have these mapping stories becoming more common.

another look at group differences at navigation: Europeans and Americans

This Atlantic article reports on a recent study looking at strategies used for direction-giving. Americans rely more on cardinal directions and street names; Dutch on landmarks and vistas.  In general, it’s also women who use landmarks more, men who turn to cardinal directions and measured distances.

I always wanted to do a study in a small town where I used to live, where people were more likely to shop at a grocery store in a small city 12 miles to the north versus a grocery store in another small city 11 miles to the south. One difference is that the northern route was flat, the southern one was very hilly and steep. Perceptions of effort?

using Google Maps for non-geographic representations

I just finished teaching our annual Short Spring Spatial workshops, and as usual, I had a blast updating my list of “web mapping” applications and projects. One of the categories of “maps” that continue to fascinate me are those that leverage the Google Maps API for innovative and non-conventional “spatial” thinking.  What I value here is the clever outcome that these developers don’t need to spend time/money creating a “new” platform for navigation, when the Google navigational functionality (expressed via their iconic pan and zoom icons) is all we need.

Previously I’ve known about Google’s Art Project, where you can explore the (indoor) collections of many museums around the world (click Museum View and Floor Plan to put yourself indoors) .  They’ve definitely expanded their museum coverage since last year.  I do find it curious that they’ve bothered to keep the compass functionality (which you can suppress). Perhaps someone might really want to consider whether there are patterns to the type of artwork on southern walls across different museums?  Many art museums don’t go out of their way to have large windows because they’re limiting the amount of sunlight that fades paintings.  We could systematically go through these museums and evaluate this? Maybe a project for someone’s rainy day (but not mine…).

Unfortunately, another very creative Google project using their Maps API, one that allowed you to explore fractals, is now untethered and not kept up. It was a lovely one.  And didn’t have the compass built in!

This year I have found a number of medically-oriented sites, all new to me.  These include the Zygote Body (only works with my Chrome browser), the Genome Projector, the Virtual Microscope, Brain Connectivity, and the KESM Brain Atlas (tiny mice brains).  Most of these are obviously targeted towards a particular audience for specific educational objectives, but I particularly love playing with the Zygote Body site! Clever use of overlay that’s both “horizontal” and “vertical” through the layers.  My biology-studying children found it fascinating too.  No north in these sites!

One of these days I need to teach myself how to use the API so I can have some fun. My first project will be to create Dante’s Nine Circles of Hell, Seven Terraces of Purgatory, and Nine Spheres of Paradise.  Seriously.  It’ll be a great spatial humanities project on my next rainy day.

h/t to GoogleMapsMania for many of these.

Don’t know your way around town? Drive less, wander more.

Should we be surprised that kids who get driven everywhere don’t know where they are?  And by the time they’re drivers themselves, their Google goggles will tell them when to turn left and where the post office is.  Or maybe a little voice in their ear, from their implanted device.  Sigh.

I like the way my teenage son has learned his way around town from his cross country and track team running.  So it’s not from wandering on his own, but often we’ll be out somewhere and he’ll recognize where we are (and know how many miles it is from there back to the high school).

h/t to Geography Education.

maps, mapping, humor

I wandered across a fun mapping and GIS blog recently, Blue Sky GIS.  They’ve collected (and generated) some fine ones, like this:


VGI efforts to find localized radiation hot spots in Japan

PBS reported on a Japanese VGI effort to find micro hot spots.  Clever thinking to have the container with the Geiger counter and the GPS look like a bento box!  The community efforts are contributing to this regional map of radiation measurements, coordinated by

the Confluence Project

Last week I went out EARLY one morning with a friend to find 34 N latitude, 117 W longitude, contributing to the Confluence Project.  He’d been to this site multiple times, but never in a foggy rain, and we had a very memorable time scrambling over hill and dale.  For a while we had the latitude right on, then the longitude, and every time found it impossible to have one “stick” while we transversed through the dense and scrubby ceanothus to nail the other.  Our GPS trails showed that we’d clearly cross the exact site multiple times, just didn’t alight there very long!

Joseph has actually been to MANY confluence sites.  It’s a bit of a hobby-gone-wild. I love my geo-geeky friends. 


Searching via GPS and Following the Answers?

Once we combined GPS receivers and the yellow pages, there were few limits to the things we could find.  But it turns out that most of the time we search for Walmarts and pizza, especially when we’re in Los Angeles.  I think it’s interesting that the Riverside / San Bernardino area makes the top ten list for places where people make frequent searches.  Really?

Once the search directions have been provided, more men than women tend to ignore them.  Regardless of gender, it’s best to use the devices in moderation and with reason, unlike her and him.