Street View at the Top of the World

Tanquary Fjord, Quttinirpaaq National Park. Google Street View (screenshot).

At 82° north latitude, Quttinirpaaq National Park is on the northernmost tip of Canada’s northernmost island, Ellesmere Island. It takes days to fly there and requires you to hire a charter plane. Fewer than 50 people visit every year. And along with the remote northern communities of Grise Fiord and Resolute Bay, it’s just been added to Google Street View: Parks Canada staff backpacked across the park with the iconic Street View camera. More from CBC News and Google.

New Google Earth Launches

A new version of Google Earth launched today. Unlike previous versions, the desktop version runs in a web browser rather than a standalone app. Also unlike previous versions, it’s no longer cross-platform: for now at least, the desktop version only runs in Chrome, and the mobile app is Android-only.

Frank Taylor has been covering the new release at the venerable Google Earth Blog and has a first review.

For my part, I’ve poked around in it in Chrome a bit and I found it fairly responsive and easy to use. If it runs this well in the browser I can see how a standalone app would be redundant; this is a better delivery method. I would much prefer it, though, if it also ran on platforms that didn’t belong to Google.

Update, 21 April: Coverage from AFP and Geoawesomeness focuses on the features, which I gave short shrift to above.

Google Map Maker Is Now Closed

Google Map Maker, Google’s tool to allow users to edit its maps, has been shut down, Ars Technica reports. “A support page went up over the weekend declaring that Map Maker is closed but that ‘many of its features are being integrated into Google Maps.’” You may recall that Map Maker was temporarily suspended in 2015 after a series of embarrassing edits came to light; its editing tools have been increasingly limited to a smaller circle of editors.

Ms. Pac-Maps

Google tends to release wacky things around April 1st, as well as some more serious things (like Gmail). Ms. Pac-Maps is one of the former, and the latest strange thing to be added to Google Maps around this time. In the same vein as the Google Maps Pac-Man feature from 2015, it enables you to play Ms. Pac-Man on the road grid in Google Maps, and runs on the most recent Android and iOS apps as well as on the desktop until April 4th. [The Verge]

Google Roundup for January 2017

Google Maps has updated its ride services mode in its iOS and Android app, allowing you to book an Uber ride from within the app, and may offer parking availability in an upcoming Android release. [Engadget]

Meanwhile, Google’s parent company, Alphabet, seems to be scaling back its satellite imaging ambitions: it’s apparently in talks to sell its Terra Bella division, which it acquired as Skybox Imaging for $500 million in 2014, to competitor Planet. [Engadget]

Electionland Map Tracks Search Interest in Voting Issues

electionland

The Electionland Google Trends map visualizes voting issues during today’s electoral process. It’s based on real-time Google search interest (rather than actual reported problems) in five issues: inactive voter status, long wait times, provisional ballots, voting machine problems and voter intimidation. More about the map and how it works. [Maps Mania]

Street View Protects Cow Privacy

Google’s Street View blurs people’s faces for privacy reasons. Licence plates, too. But a tweet by the Guardian’s David Shariatmadari reveals that Google’s algorithm sometimes extends privacy rights to cows.

See the BBC’s coverage. Some context from Slate.

Fast Company Profiles Ed Parsons

Fast Company profiles Google’s geospatial technologist Ed Parsons, whose name should be familiar to longtime Map Room readers. (I first encountered his work when he was still at the Ordnance Survey; he joined Google in 2007.) In some way the profile uses Ed to understand Google’s mapping ambitions, which Ed discusses at length. Understanding the corporate via the personal, as it were. (Parsons was also the subject of a similar profile in The Independent in 2014.) [Owen Boswarva]

Human-Annotated Maps for Self-Driving Cars

Self-driving cars need extremely detailed and comprehensive maps in order to work—far more detailed than what’s usually available. Paradoxically, Vox’s Timothy B. Lee reports, that’s going to require significant human labour, in the form of human analysts annotating the map. “As Google and its competitors expand their self-driving vehicle programs nationwide, they’re going to have to hire thousands of human analysts to produce the detailed maps that enable cars to drive safely.” [MAPS-L]

And in Google Maps News …

Google’s Map Maker is in the process of reopening, with six countries reopening on August 10 and another 45 countries last Monday. Map Maker, Google’s tool allowing users to make changes to Google Maps, was suspended last May after some embarrassing edits came to light. Regional leads are now in place to review user edits before they go live on the map.

If mapcodes and other geographical shortcodes aren’t Googly enough for you, take a look at Open Location Codes, a Google-developed, open-sourced project. Generated algorithmically rather than with data tables. Announced for developers last April, they can now be used in Google Maps searches.

Google Apologizes for Offensive Map Search Results

Google Maps had to apologize again last week, this time because searching for racist terms gave results like the White House and Howard University. The results were derived from online discussions: idiots using an offensive term to describe a place associated the term with the place in Google’s search algorithms. Google says it’s changing the algorithm to fix the problem (because algorithms are to Google what procedures are to bureaucracies—the source of, and solution to, all life’s problems). Boing Boing, Engadget.

Previously: Google Map Maker Program Suspended.

Google Map Maker Program Suspended

Google is temporarily suspending Map Maker, its tool allowing user contributions to Google Maps, until they fix their edit moderation system. Auto-approvals of map edits had been suspended in the wake of the notorious and high-profile edits to the map near Rawalpindi; since then edits to the map have required manual approval, which has created a massive backlog. “We believe that it is more fair to only say that if we do not have the capacity to review edits at roughly the rate they come in, we have to take a pause.” Via The Verge.

Previously: Google Maps Edits Cause Embarrassment; A Google Map Maker Roundup.