Saturday, July 10, 2010

Playing Games with Google Maps

Many of Google's products have a "Labs" option that allows you to try out experimental features before they are released to the general public. Google Labs is highly volatile-- features are added and removed without warning. Most of Google's products, Gmail, YouTube, Blogger, Docs, Maps, have a labs feature. Visiting labs can reveal some exciting new additions and give you a head start on tools and features that may become the default in the near future. 

Chris Atkinson (@chrislatkinson), recently Tweeted about a new labs feature in Google Maps-- the "Where in the World" game. I gave it a try this morning and it was fun! It needs a little refinement, but has great potential for any class which teaches geography. 

To enable "Where In The World", go to Google Maps and look for the test tube icon in the upper right hand corner of the screen. Scroll through the available lab features (you might find something else that looks interesting) and enable "Where In The World Game." Make sure you click "save" at the bottom of the window. 


Once the game is enabled, a new link will appear on the Google Maps home page on the right side of the screen just above the "Map, Satellite, Earth" buttons. 

Clicking on the link will start the game. You will be asked 10 multiple choice questions based on the map view that is generated. At this point, the questions will only ask you to identify countries, not capitols or states. Hopefully those features will be added at some point. Political boundaries and cities are not shown to make the game more difficult. The faster you answer, the higher your score!

One of the flaws in the game at the moment is that some of the map views that are generated give very few geographical clues as to the country. When fully zoomed in, the center of Mexico looks more or less the same as the center of Africa. When playing the game the zoom controls are disabled. 

In my first attempt at Where in the World I scored 135 points (53%). Obviously I don't teach geography. See if you can beat me! 

3 comments:

  1. Sigh ... I tried so hard to beat you but Google was on your side. It never did give me more than 5 questions before hanging on me. Most times it would give one and then just stop. It was fun .. so I will try again in a few weeks time.

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  2. Lab features are predictably buggy. If the game grows in popularity more resources will be devoted to it. My guess is that an engineer at Google devoted his/her 20% time to this project.

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  3. fun but a bit buggy right now. also i got the same set of images on my second round and so was able to use features to improve my score. that said, it wouldn't help me spot the country on a different scale map.

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