Google Earth Hacks mobile and The Amazing Race 13

A couple of fun toys for today.  I’ve created a mobile version of Google Earth Hacks, allowing you to view about 80% of the files (18,000 or so) on the go.  It works best on the iPhone, taking advantage of the built-in Google Maps, but should work on any recent phone.  Get details here, or simply visit m.gearthhacks.com on your phone.

Also, my wife and I are pretty big fans of The Amazing Race, so I’ve been working on a rather comprehensive mash-up for the show.  You can read about it here, view the full map here, or just play with the embedded version below.

If you’re a fan of the show, it’s a neat way to see all of the amazing places that the contestants get to travel to.


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Google Maps Mobile gets StreetView

StreetView has come to Google Maps Mobile! This should prove to be a very useful addition, since many people use GMM when trying to find a location.  Having a street-level view of their destination will be great!

In addition to StreetView, the mobile versions now have walking directions and business reviews as well.

The software is available for: Blackberry and “many Java-enabled phones”.  The software has not yet been updated for Symbian devices (like the Nokia N95), Windows Mobile devices or the Apple iPhone.

To download it for your phone, simply visit google.com/gmm.

Here is a short video showing off the new features:

(via LatLong blog)

Microsoft launches “ClearFlow” traffic on Live Maps

Microsoft has just released “ClearFlow” traffic data on Live Maps, but it’s far more interesting than you might think.  While it shows the colored traffic speeds in a similar manner as Yahoo, Google and Mapquest, it also goes much deeper.

From Search Engine Land:

In addition to real-time traffic data, the service offers traffic predictions across highways and improved information on secondary routes and surface streets. Horvitz said that this predictive modeling has proven to be very accurate in Microsoft’s ongoing development and refinement of the program. Based on artificial intelligence, as well as dynamic traffic monitoring, ClearFlow appears to be quite a bit more sophisticated that competing systems.

This could easily become the best traffic data on your PC.  Of course, therein lies the problem — it’s chained to my PC.  It’s very useful to get traffic data when I’m at my desk, but it’s brilliant to be able to get it while I’m on the road.

Here’s what needs happen next:

  • Microsoft releases a version of Live Maps Mobile, with similar features to Google Maps Mobile.
  • One of them steps up and includes turn-by-turn GPS into their mobile software.  GMM is so close to being the killer mobile app.  I can get turn-by-turn directions.  It can see/follow my GPS.  It just won’t tell me how far until my next turn!  I have very high hopes for the next version of GMM, but it’s been very quiet on that front lately.  A push from Microsoft would be a great thing for us consumers.

MapQuest keeps trying, but still can’t get it quite right

I’ve been quick to give MapQuest credit for effort, as they’re really trying to catch up the big boys now that their lead is quickly shrinking.

Yesterday they introduced live traffic. It looks very similar to the traffic info on Google Maps, but with more detailed information. The screenshots look pretty nice:

MapQuest Traffic: MiamiMapQuest Traffic: Miami

Here’s the problem — it didn’t work right away. I refreshed and reloaded and zoomed around for a while before I could make the “Traffic” checkbox appear. I later found another page on their site that gives more information about this feature. I thought I might find the answer there, but instead I found this:

Traffic List to Come

Fortunately, they mark the traffic-enabled cities with a traffic light, in a virtually identical manner as Google. A quick glance seems to show that they have more cities than Google, but not by a wide margin.

The real test, of course, is who gives better data? Here is a side-by-side shot of Atlanta using Google Maps and MapQuest:

Google Maps vs. MapQuest for Atlanta traffic

Assuming their data is accurate, the clear winner appears to be MapQuest. Google has much of the highway in gray (“no data”), while MapQuest is showing data for everything. In addition, MapQuest has the clickable icons so you know exactly what the problem is.

For me, however, 95% of my Google Maps traffic usage is from my cell phone while I’m on the road — Google Maps Mobile is very useful. As far as I know, MapQuest has nothing to compare to that. With that in mind, Google Maps will still be the winner by default for when I’m on the road, but I might give MapQuest a try next time I check traffic info from the house.

Edit 10:08pm, 3/18/08 – MapQuest does have a mobile product to compare to Google Maps Mobile, and it’s called MapQuest Navigator.  It appears to be a little better than GMM, but it costs $50/year and works on a rather small selection of phones.

Mobile demo of Virtual Earth at CES

Mobile Virtual Earth demo(via VE / LM) Yesterday at CES in Las Vegas, Bill Gates showed off a completely fake but completely cool demo of Virtual Earth on a handheld device. The technology used in the demo is still a few years away, but it’s a cool glimpse at the future.

One thing that stood out to me in the demo was the trees in the 3D city. Microsoft has hinted before that they’re working on getting trees into VE, and I’d love to see that happen soon. I don’t think this demo indicates that they’re coming anytime soon, but I’d obviously expect to see them in the desktop version of VE before they appear in a mobile version.

Be sure to watch the full video (4:21) to see it in action.

Yahoo Go 3.0 released, with a nice version of Yahoo Maps

Yahoo Go MapAs reported by Mobileography, Yahoo has just released Yahoo! Go 3.0.  Among the many features in this new mobile suite is a pretty good version of Yahoo Maps.

In my brief testing, it seems very similar to Google Maps Mobile, though I give a slight edge to Google. Their app seems to load tiles a bit faster and it’s much smoother when moving, but they’re really very close.

I’m hoping this release forces Google to bring out more mobile products, or at least enhance their existing ones.  Google Maps Mobile is great, but certainly could be better in a few areas.

If you have a compatible phone (and if you have a non-iPhone that can access the web, you probably do), go check out Yahoo Go and leave your comments below.

Don’t forget about Google Maps Mobile for traffic info

GMM TrafficWith so many people traveling over the next 10 days, I thought it would be worth reminding you about the excellent Google Maps Mobile.

The searching and directions are neat, but the live traffic is the real killer feature in this product. It saved us a good deal of time yesterday (don’t go down 75 — take 285 around) , and will likely be a big help again tomorrow.

Their latest update also included “My Location”, which is a simulated GPS using cell tower information. My phone has GPS (N95 FTW), but this is a useful feature on my wife’s BlackJack.

Bottom line: If you have a compatible phone, GMM is a must have during the holidays.

Location information in Google Maps for mobile — without GPS

Google has just released a new version of Google Maps for mobile today.  This version includes a new feature called “My Location”.  By using cell tower triangulation, it can pinpoint your location to within a few hundred meters.  It’s not as accurate as GPS, but it’s pretty darn good.

In addition, it can assist with your location if you already have GPS.  It will typically kick in more quickly than GPS and works better indoors.

For more information, visit the Google LatLong Blog or the Google Mobile Blog.

Google Earth will run on Android, Google’s mobile platform

As reported in the New York Times (and detailed on Ogle Earth), the new Google mobile platform will run Google Earth!

Stefan seems to cover the big questions that result from the article:

- Is it just on a phone, or on a larger device?
- Is it possible that the reporter is confusing Google Earth and Google Maps?

Stefan answers the questions rather well.

GPS for the iPhone — sort of

Gizmondo has a nice write-up about a GPS-like add-on for the iPhone from Navizon.  Using cell tower data, along with any local wifi that it can find, the software calculates your location to within a few hundred feet.  While it’s not as accurate as real GPS, it provides a nice starting point for driving directions and will push your location to the Google Maps app so it will start at your current location.

The program is free for 15 days, then $24.99.  More details on the Navizon blog.