On March 14, Google announced a new tool that makes it possible for developers to turn real-world Google Maps locations into fantasy settings via augmented reality. A new API will transform your local coffee shop or noodle hangout into “a medieval fantasy, a bubble gum candy land, or a zombie-infested post-apocalyptic city,” in the words of Clementine Jacoby, product manager, Google Maps APIs, who wrote about the new feature in a blog post announcing the API.
What this announcement means is that Google Maps locations can be transformed into locations for experiences such as scavenger hunts, adventures, and Pokémon GO-style games. As Jacoby wrote, “With Google Maps’ real-time updates and rich location data, developers can find the best places for playing games, no matter where their players are.”
The gamification of Google Maps is more than a cool story – it’s a glimpse at the future. Google Maps will always be an essential utility for wayfinding. But as the wild success of Pokémon GO demonstrated, technologies such as augmented reality are uncovering another use for location-based information: entertainment. Continue reading →
Apple is such a well-oiled machine that a rare misstep by one of the world’s most admired brands is front-page news. Consider Page 1 of the September 21 The Wall Street Journal: “Apple Makes a Wrong Turn as Users Blast Map Switch,” reports the WSJ breathlessly alongside an article about the U.S. presidential election and an analysis of the widely reported September 11 assault on the U.S. Libyan assembly. “Apple Makes a Wrong Turn” focuses on Apple’s decision to replace a Google Maps applications with an apparently less accurate Apple mapping software in the newest version of Apple’s OS operating software (iOS 6) for the iPhone. Yes, that’s right: a consumer uprising about mapping software on their iPhones receive the same level of attention as a discussion of a tragic assault that claimed lives and raises questions about U.S. security. Do our smartphones matter this much?
To be sure, it’s important that consumers hold companies accountable for their mistakes, and it’s galling when powerful brands like Apple and Facebook foist changes upon us without first understanding what we want and need. But the Google Maps flap screams “First World Problem.” We buy our smartphones to enrich our lives, and instead our smartphones lead us around by our noses. Apple needs to fix inaccurate information in its mapping software, but meantime we might want to test another solution: ask a human being for directions.