Author Archive for Rob Burns

29
Jan
13

CAR-Tography

A UK design agency has reproduced the world map using outlines of Landrover’s familiar range of 4×4 vehicles.

Under the title ’70% of the world is covered by water, the rest is covered by Discovery’ this delightful marketing piece uses  irregularly shaped topography to accommodate its vehicle silhouettes. This is a great example of cartographic double entendre that is arguably more honest and open than many accepted or ‘real’ world maps in print.

This is not the first imaginative, travel-themed campaign adopted by Landrover, according to the Creative Review Blog. In 2011 they used a cluster of passport stamps in the shape of a Land Rover Vehicle as part of a print campaign.

What Cartographic Advertising favorites stick in your mind? Let us know in the comments.

landrovermap4_0

landrovermap2_0

14
Jan
13

Its that time of year when Geography People get to strut their stuff……

Geography Bee season is upon us, and this year Maps.com was lucky enough to take part at grass roots.

Instead of just writing about maps, geo-politics and an increasingly bizarre group of place-shaped kitchen products we elected to use our time more effectively by assisting in the early rounds of the National Geographic Geography Bee at our local school, Goleta Valley Junior High.

The results were inspirational. This is the second Geo Bee we have been involved with locally in recent weeks and once again it was a delight to see kids of school age up for geography.

You can read about it here at our Maps101 blog.

19
Dec
12

Apple + Maps needn’t = a crappy holiday gift.

This blog has something of a history of being slightly cynical about map-shaped things. Or at least reporting them in a cynical way. If anybody DID want to send us a skillet in the shape of Texas it would not be returned to sender.

One of the craftiest members of our team (and by that I mean artistic crafty) has been customizing iphones using old maps and we have to say the results are wonderful. The process is simple and looks equally good whether you are using maps of South Africa or San Francisco. Indeed, if you are seeking a gift for your favorite  couple you could even refer back to one of our recent stories using maps from Scotland and the American North West and wish them a Dull and Boring Christmas from the bottom of your heart.

Get the full story – including a detailed ‘how-to’ in the following video.

30
Nov
12

In Theaters Now – Caught Mapping, The Movie.

Ever wondered what goes into a map? We let the cameras behind the scenes at Maps.com to reveal the intricate and detailed work of our expert draftsmen and scouts. Its truly amazing some of the tricks they use to ensure that maps can be updated almost every 2 weeks! All done unmindful of gruelling road and weather conditions.

Vacuum frames, glass negatives and zinc plates – Enjoy this 9 minute vintage movie all about mapping for the modern motorist, keeping pace with the rapid change of America’s roads.

03
Oct
12

Maps for the Blind: From 1837 to today.

Recently a group of Maps.com representatives head to San Diego for the ESRI User Conference.

They absorbed a ton of information covering wide and varied topics in the mapping and spatial data arena. One of the main themes of the conference and a recurring one in Cartographic arenas is how we gather, process and present the amazing amounts of data now available via the internet. 3-D terrain data, publicly sourced cartographic data, Landsat imagery and collaborative imagery management are all topics that were discussed and reviewed at the event.

Using a tactile map

When creating maps for the blind, less is truly more. For a product to successfully convey spatial data it must be limited to the most vital information and avoid data ‘clutter’. This most disciplined branch of Cartography has actually been around for over 180 years and  is addressed in this recent Strange Maps article. Those with visual impairment and blindness are required to be more spatially aware than most of us as they negotiate the hazards of everyday life, but when it comes to the bigger picture cartography frequently comes up short in trying to deliver ‘the Google Maps’ experience to this audience.

In 1837 the New England Institute for the Blind published 50 copies of the ‘Atlas of the United States printed for the use of the Blind’. The maps are produced in a Braille-type print that embosses the various lines of the map for touch reading. The text was not produced in Braille (an alphabet consisting of raised dots in various configurations) but in standard Latin characters. The ocean is distinguished by horizontal cross-hatching and the major cities are identified using a key. There are 24 state maps which included numbers for latitude and longitude and illustrations for mountain ranges.

Each map is accompanied by a descriptive piece outlining points of note about the region covered, again using Latin characters as opposed to Braille.

Despite being a pioneering innovation, with such limited circulation it is difficult to regard the atlas as a major commercial success, however parallels can be drawn  with some of the innovations in contemporary cartography as we attempt to use our maps to solve very specific problems and address the difficulties of presenting complex data in a user friendly format. This atlas also represents the first instance of touch operated maps – an altogether more common attribute since the advent of the iPad.

Jump forward to today and there several approaches to providing mapping for the blind. A German project, The Look and Listen map, is attempting to crowd source data that we naturally absorb and process and adapt to as we walk down the street. For example locating street crossings that have tactile paving and sound or vibration alerts can be a vital part of safely negotiating a busy downtown. In France, researchers have used stereo cameras mounted on glasses to record and render 3D imagesthat are then translated through an electronic tactile device that instantly produces embossed maps similar to the ones Lowe produced, but with greater detail and accuracy.

Maine Map for Blind Readers

Map of Maine, S. Howe 1837. C. David Rumsey Collection

“The ability to wander around and get  lost on a map is so much better than getting lost in real life” said Josh Miele, a scientist at the Smith Kettlewell Eye Research Institute, himself blind, in an interview with NPR. The maps they have developed are printed by the Lighthouse for the Blind in San Francisco using an automated version of Lowe’s embossing process, which enable blind people to build up a strong cognitive understanding of an area before they have visited it.

The report reveals a change in the attitudes of cognitive scientists who have long believed that blind people could never understand maps because they are visual representations of spatial concepts. While tools such as the Trekker Breeze – a GPS device that gives voice prompts regarding current locations, intersections etc offer a detailed view of immediate surroundings, tactile maps give a much broader relational view of an area. Interestingly the concept of all maps being a ‘spatial’ tool as much as a visual tool is reinforced when one considers the pros and cons of the Breeze-type device versus the Braille print version.

Smith Kettlewell have been attempting to bridge the gap with its Audio Tactile maps which include a detailed audio component activated when using a tactile map. They have produced a version for the BART stations in San Francisco including street, concourse and platform maps for each station.

Much more of the atlas can be viewed here in the David Rumsey collection.

19
Sep
12

business insider: you are really going to hate apple maps

Business insider is reporting that the initial findings on the new Apple Maps app is that it really sucks.

The new iOS6 will drop Google as the default mapping program and begin using the package that Apple has developed with a number of vendors including TomTom.

Apples new iPhone5

Several differences have been highlighted, including the lack of transit information in the new package, but Apple intends to overcome this by integrating the best public transit apps around, providing a more thorough handling of local transportation.

However, many developers and privileged insiders are already using iOS6 and are reporting a much bigger problem with the maps – they don’t use Google. Apple has utilized the Yelp search engine to provide results for geographic queries. However those used to the powerful Google engine could well be disappointed with the results. According to BI, one Apple Repair Shop employee they interviewed demonstrated how a search for ‘Ipad Repair’ yielded no results. Yelps struggles with searches that are not based on Yelp categories, business names or addresses.

To add to the noise, Noam Barden, CEO of Waze (itself a super social/crowdsourced/opensource mapping application that runs on the iPhone) is quoted as saying that TomTom were “the weakest player” that Apple could have partnered with, and warns that users may find that at least initially, many places just don’t show up or are misplaced on the maps.

2 million pre-order customers are still coming to terms with the fact that their old cables will not be usable on their new iPhone 5s,  so the lack of a quality mapping application on their 5th generation handset could make life unbearable for a short time. Whilst we can only speculate as to how much of an inconvenience the teething troubles will be, this is yet another reminder as to the huge hold that Google continues to have over the world’s geographic data.

Rest assured that print maps will not be affected by the new operating system and can be purchased here.

Unhappy with your new iPhone 5? If you experience disappointment with your brand new gadget, whether because of cables, maps, reception or any other reason, our editors will happily exchange them for fully tested alternative phones from big name suppliers including Ericsson, Nokia and Motorola, fully tested over long periods (ie used).

18
Sep
12

BBC Interviews Jerry Brotton: Maps and their biases from Mercator to Google

In “A history of the world in 12 Maps” Professory Jerry Brotton demonstrates the bias and distortion behind a variety of cartographic examples  stemming back to the first Mercator projections. In this interview for the BBC, he shows how maps at their worst can be a deceptive expression of the politics of the author,  or simply a reflection of a particular contemporary view of the world. He asks if there should be more concern about a private entity such as  Google being the single biggest collector and owner of geographic data worldwide.

(Of course some authors would argue that expressing our feelings and beliefs through maps is a freedom we should treasure and celebrate).

Help yourself to a Peters or Mercator projections at Maps.com’s online map store.

BBC Meet The Author: Prof. Jerry Brotton

31
Aug
12

Apple rejects drone strike app as ‘objectionable and crude’

Apple’s submission process made a strike of its own as it rejected the app Drone+ for the third time.

On two previous occasions they rejected for functionality reasons and then suggested it was ‘not useful’. The app notifies users when a drone strike takes place overseas using a public database provided by the UK’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Strikes are also plotted on a map with details of each strike including location and numbers killed in areas such as Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia.

The creator, NYU student Josh Begley has admitted he is at a loss to explain the real reason behind the rejection of an app that simply aggregates freely available news in this report from Wired.com.

 

 

31
Aug
12

Amazon courts Nokia as digital mapping soap heats up.

While the worlds’ eyes have been focused on the public divorce of Apple and Google, it appears that a very different kind of love triangle has been developing in the mapping arena.

Kindle Fire 2 – Pinnoy Technologies.com

The European cell phone manufacturer Nokia, who recently improved the traffic data and added geo-coded addresses to Microsoft’s Bing Maps, now look set to provide Amazon’s Kindle Fire 2 with it’s built-in mapping features. What is perhaps most interesting in this development is that the new Kindle is expected to use the Android platform, for which Google has continued to invest in its own mapping software  in a kind of Gloria Gaynor “I will survive” gesticulation to Apple. The idea of the new device using mapping different from Google would come as a significant snub to the search giant. It would also be the most public display of affection so far between mobile’s newest celebrity couple, Microsoft and Nokia, who have so far only flirted through Bing and the apps they have developed for the new Windows 8 powered phones. A further shift in the balance of power could also be in progress as Amazon and Microsoft become ‘close’.

No official announcement has been made but the technical press is alive with the rumors. Nokia has continued to develop and market devices in Europe despite assuming a lower profile in the US. Earlier this year Nokia CEO Stephen Elop announced his intention to make the company the go-to provider of location based services. Distribution through Amazon and Microsoft could be the fast lane to at least becoming a third major player in online mapping.

Nokia Maps San Francisco 3d

San Francisco as seen through Nokia Maps 3-D

If the Samsung vs Apple battle creates more competition in the smart phone arena, the arrival of Nokia as a force in mapping could open up a wealth of opportunity for developers and end users in digital mapping. It’s an exciting time to be in digital cartography and mobile applications.

25
Jul
12

More flooding devastates China.

For the second time in 2 years China is reeling from massive flooding that has left death and destruction in its wake.

NBC News: Flooding in central Beijing

Last weekend Beijing, China‘s capital, experienced its biggest rainstorm in 60 years. Rain flooded streets and underpasses, caused buildings to collapse and led to 37 confirmed fatalities.

Many residents were critical of the preparations and handling by the Chinese authorities, who announced in 2010 the development of a flood risk map to identify those regions most at risk. The city has been modernized so quickly – with much of the most recent focus around the 2008 Olympic Games – critics are suggesting that essential infrastructure improvements including drainage have not kept pace.

In defense, Ministry of Transport Engineers argue that no city could cope with what equates to six months’ average rainfall in a single day.

Most embarrassing for the Chinese authorities was the closure of Beijings airport – stranding tens of thousands and preventing hundreds of flights from coming in or out. China relies heavily on international business visitors as it continues its global expansion of trade.

One silver lining from the catastrophic events in Beijing was the performance of the Three Gorges Dam, which this week began using the final 32 of its hydroelectric generators making it the world’s biggest power plant of this type. The dam appears to have come through the flood peak unscathed and protected areas in the lower Yangtze river from further damage. The plant can now provide the equivalent output of 15 nuclear reactors to the increasingly energy-hungry nation. What isn’t known is whether massive amounts of trash, which clogged the dam after last year’s rains will return to cause further problems.

NBC News: 3 Gorges Dam




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