Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Non-Clustering Custom Place Labels


Planet of Sound was created by Dorothy to crowd-source the music playlist for an event they held in May of this year. That event is now over but the map still works and is well worth visiting. Not least for its magical non-clustering custom map labels.

The Planet of Sound map allows you to tag any location in the world with a song and a memory. If you don't want to add a song you can just browse the map to explore what songs other people associate with different places across the globe.

The map doesn't include any real place-name labels. In fact the only labels on this map are the song titles people have added to the map. What is particularly impressive is how the map avoids clustering and overlapping these custom labels. This is not a simple thing to achieve.

If you want to add your own non-clustering & non-overlapping labels to a map then you can should have a look at James Milner's Labelgun for reducing label clutter. The GitHub for Labelgun includes examples of the library being used with Leaflet, Esri and OpenLayers. If you check out these examples you can see how Labelgun works to avoid custom labels clustering and overlapping as you zoom in and out on the map.

Vintage Maps of Japan


The Japanese Historical Maps Collection of the East Asian Library has worked with the David Rumsey Map collection to digitize around 2,300 early Japanese maps. The Japanese Historical Maps collection allows you to explore all of these digitized historical maps from Japan as zoomable images.

If you want you can explore some of these vintage maps in more detail on Google Maps. The Japan Historical GIS page has eight maps from the collection, dating back to 1694, which you view on top of Google Maps.

The University of British Columbia has a huge collection of maps and guidebooks from the Japanese Tokugawa period (1600-1867). Their Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era includes digitized versions of the maps which can be explored online.

The National Archives of Japan also own a large number of rare vintage maps of Japan. In particular they have digitized the Genroku Kuni Ezu (national land maps). Around the turn of the Eighteenth Century the Tokugawa Shogunate ordered maps to be made of the whole of the Japan. You can explore these maps on the National Archives Classic Maps website.


Gunma GIS Geek has used the Leaflet mapping platform to create interactive maps from a couple of famous Japanese pilgrimage mandalas. Pilgrimage mandalas are paintings which provide a panoramic view of temple and shrine sites.

The first map on Temple Pilgrimage Mandala is of the Nachi Pilgrimage Mandala. This 16th–17th century hanging scroll depicts the Nachi Shrine on the Kii Peninsula in Japan. The painting presents the journey of two pilgrims (the couple clothed in white) as they enter the scene (bottom right) and take a circuitous route through the temple complex to the Nachi shrine.


You can learn more about some of the over 50 buildings depicted in the painting at the Embodying Compassion website. Embodying Compassion includes an interactive version of the Nachi Pilgrimage Mandala. This interactive version of the mandala features a number of markers which allow you to learn more about the buildings, temples and statues depicted in the mandala.


If you want to explore vintage maps of Tokyo then a good place to start is with the Past and Present Map, which uses some beautiful vintage maps to illustrate how Tokyo has developed since the Nineteenth Century.

The application lets you explore ten historical maps ranging in date from 1896 to 2005. The dual map control places the historical map side-by-side with a Google Map. Pan and zoom the historical map and the Google Map will also move to ensure that both maps are always showing the same view.

Monday, September 18, 2017

School Safety Snapshot


Zendrive has rated the road safety around 75,000 schools nationwide. Using mobile phone data from car drivers Zendrive has measured the levels of dangerous driving around schools across the United States. You can find out the Zendrive ratings for dangerous driving around your local schools on the Zendrive School Safety Snapshot interactive map.

The map uses three different administrative levels to show ratings for states, counties and individual schools. When zoomed out on the map you can view the ratings for each state (California and Florida have the worst ratings). If you click on a state on the map you can drill down to view the ratings in each county. If you the click on a county you can view the ratings for all the individual schools.

The interactive map is well designed and it is very easy to navigate down to view the ratings for individual schools. I'm not entirely convinced about Zendrive's data and methodology. They claim that their model "predicts future collisions six times more accurately than leaders of the industry". If you are worried about dangerous driving around your local school then it might be worth checking the traffic accident records of the local roads for yourself.


For example you could look at Mapping Ten Years of Fatal Traffic Accidents, an interactive map showing every single fatal traffic accident in the United States from 2004 to 2013.

When zoomed out this map shows a heatmap of fatal traffic accidents across the whole country. When you zoom in on the map markers appear showing the location of each individual fatal accident. This means that you can zoom in on any city or town in the USA to view a detailed map of where accidents occurred locally.

When you zoom in on the map option controls also appear which allow you to filter the accidents shown by contributing factors (alcohol, speeding and driver distraction). The markers are also colored on the map to show who was killed in each accident (driver, passenger, pedestrian etc).

Mapping Marine Protected Areas


Marine Protected Areas (MPA) are areas of oceans where human activity is restricted for conservation purposes. 6.35% of the world's seas are now covered by MPAs. That is a ten-fold increase in the area of our oceans designated as MPAs in the first seventeen years of this century.

You can view which areas of the world's oceans have MPA status on Protected Planet's Marine Protected Areas interactive map. The map shows the location of MPAs around the globe and provides information about the status of each MPA. If you select an MPA on the map you can click-through to read more about its designation and the name of its management authority.

The Protected Planet also maintains a database of all the world's terrestrial and marine protected areas. The World Database on Protected Areas includes an interactive map showing both marine & terrestrial protected areas around the globe.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Free Style OSM


If you like the Emoji Map Generator then you will probably love Map Stylizer. Where the Emoji Map Generator allows you to create maps from your favorite emojis the Map Stylizer gives you more scope to create a custom styled map from an OpenStreetMap tile.

The Map Stylizer includes a number of pre-set map styles. For example the screenshot above shows the White House styled using the Map Stylizer's treasure map style. The other pre-set styles include  'circuit board', 'paper' and 'scribbles'. However you don't have to use these pre-set styles. If you choose the custom option you can select to choose which map features you want to change and how you want to change them.

Both the Emoji Map Generator and the Map Stylizer create pretty awful maps but they are fun to play with. They are both also interesting examples of how individual OSM map tiles can be manipulated on the fly.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Cleaner Air = Longer Lives


You can use this interactive map to find out how many extra years you could expect to live if your country met the World Health Organization's recommended safe levels of air quality. The Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago's Air Quality-Life Index map shows how many life years could be saved in countries around the world if they met WHO standards for safe levels of airborne particulate matter pollution.

The darker the color on the map then the more years could be saved. In other words the darkest areas have the worst records of air pollution. You can actually view particulate pollution concentrations on the map by switching to the 'Pollution' layer.


Air pollution causes 1 in 8 deaths worldwide. The World Health Organization's own interactive map, Global Ambient Air Pollution, also shows the levels of pollution across the globe. The map displays the average annual atmospheric particulate matter levels throughout most of the world. The data used is from the WHO Global Urban Ambient Air Pollution Database, which covers 3000 cities in 103 different countries.

The Global Ambient Air Pollution map helps highlight the fact that air pollution most effects those living in low and middle income countries. However 56% of cities in high-income countries also don't meet the WHO air quality guidelines. Even in high-income countries urban air pollution levels tend to be higher in low and middle-income cities and in the poorest neighborhoods of high-income cities.

Rocking All Over the World


Taylor Swift really likes playing in Nashville. If you check out her gigging history on the Music Globe you can see that the number of concerts she has played in Nashville dwarfs all other locations. Mind you she did move to Nashville at the age of fourteen, so perhaps her gigging history isn't that surprising.

You can find out where other musical artists like to gig on this new 3d Music Globe. Just type in an artist's name and you can see a visualization of how often they have gigged at locations around the world. The height of the colored towers on the map represents the number of concerts played at that location.

The data for the number of gigs an artist has played comes from the Bandsintown API. Unfortunately Bandsintown was founded in 2007, so I assume the data for historical concerts only goes back that far. The globe itself was created using Google's WebGL Globe library. The source code for the interactive Music Globe is available on Github.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Before & After Irma


The Washington Post has used satellite imagery from before & after Hurricane Irma to show the scale of the destruction caused by the tropical storm in the Carribean and in Florida. Before and After Hurricane Irma uses high resolution satellite imagery from DigitalGlobe to provide an aerial view of just a few of the areas devastated by the storm.

NOAA has also released an interactive map which includes aerial imagery of Florida taken since the storm. Hurricane IRMA Imagery uses aerial imagery captured on Monday and Tuesday. The map includes post-Irma aerial imagery for much of the Florida Keys. The map also has imagery along the west coast of Florida, from Naples up to Punta Gorda.

Street Views of 1980s New York


Broadway in the mid 1980s had a lot to offer.  Karate Kid Part II was on at the cinema, Cats was being performed nightly at the theater and on Times Square you could buy just about any drug that you wanted. If that sounds appealing to you then get ready to jump into this new Street View time machine.

80s.NYC is a fantastic collection of vintage photographs of New York City street scenes, all taken in the 1980s. The photos were taken by the Finance Department of New York City in the middle of the 80s. In order to accurately assess building taxes the department photographed every single building in the five boroughs. The pictures could then be used to estimate property values.

Thanks to Brandon Liu and Jeremy Lechtzin you can now travel the city streets of 1980's New York City. Their 80s.NYC map allows you to browse the City's photographic collection by location. Just click anywhere on the map of the city and you can instantly view the vintage Street Views of that location. The map also includes a number of curated 'Stories'. These stories provide historical background to some of the more interesting photos and historical buildings in the collection.


If the sleaze of 1980s New York doesn't appeal then why not go back further in time to the beginning of the 20th Century. The New York Public Library has a complete collection of vintage photographs depicting Fifth Avenue, New York, from start to finish.

The photos provide a great resource for exploring New York at the turn of the last century. Especially if you use the library's own great Street View application. Street View, Then & Now: New York City's Fifth Avenue allows you to take a virtual stroll down Fifth Avenue in Street View while comparing today's New York to those vintage photos of the same locations taken at the beginning of the 20th Century.


If you enjoy exploring old vintage photographs of New York then you might want to help NYPL geo-tag its collection of vintage photographs of the city. The NYPL's Surveyor map is a citizen science project designed to hep the library index its collections of historical photographs by location.

Visit the Surveyor website and you will be shown a vintage photograph from the NYPL collection. All you have to do is show the location depicted in the photo by clicking on the interactive map. Luckily many of the photographs have an address in the photo's title or associated data. This makes the task relatively easy, even if you don't know New York very well.

Many of the photos in the NYPL's Digital Collections are in the public domain. This means that you will be able to use many of the photos that you geo-tag in your own interactive maps. Just like OldNYC has done with its interactive map of 40,000 vintage photos of New York from the NYPL’s photo collections.

10 Street View Games to Kill Your Day

1. GeoGuessr

There are lots of 'Can you guess the Street View?' type games but there is only one GeoGuessr. GeoGuessr is probably the most popular Google Maps geography game.

In this geography game you are shown a random Street View image and you must try to guess where in the world the Street View was taken. Once you have guessed you are shown how close your guess was to the correct location and awarded points based on how near you guessed.

What really sets GeoGuessr apart from other Street View guessing games is GeoSettr! With the release of GeoSettr you can now create your own GeoGuessr game based on your favorite locations and Street Views. Using GeoSettr you can create your own GeoGusser game of five questions. All you have to do is choose five locations on a Google Map and then you then get a unique link to your game that you can share with your friends.

2. Brick Street View

This one isn't strictly a game but who isn't going to have fun seeing their house turned into Lego. Brick Street View does just that, re-imagining Google Maps and Google Street View as they might appear in Legoland.

Type your address into this Legoized Google Map and then drop the Lego Pegman onto your street. You can then actually view your house as it might look if it was built with those little plastic colored bricks. Brick Street View works anywhere in the world where Street View appears on Google Maps. So after viewing your Lego house you can take a tour of some of the world's most famous monuments as they also might look in Legoland.

Brick Street View works by using the undocumented depth data stored in Street View. It uses this data to create a depth map which can be used to plot geometry and sprites in the 3d space of the Street View panorama.

3. Sakura

Have you ever wanted to cherry bomb your house. Thanks to this beautiful application you can now view your house covered in cherry blossom on Google Maps Street View.

Sakura allows you to visualize how your house might look if you could transport it to Japan in the springtime, just at the moment when the cherry blossom is in full bloom. The effect is so amazing that it can even transform my grey London street into a road where I might actually be happy to live.

4. Earth-Picker

On the surface Earth-Picker is very similar to GeoGuessr. In the game, like in GeoGuessr, you are shown a series of random Street View scenes. The object of the game is to try to guess the location of the depicted Street View image. To do this you simply place a marker on a Google Map to show where you think the Street View image is from.

What sets Earth-Picker apart from other Street View guessing games is the neat way it shows how close your guess was to the real location. Like in other Street View guessing games you are awarded points based on how close your guess was to the real location. However Earth-Picker also places a blue circle around the depicted location.

This blue circle shows you the average distance that all the other users of the game were to guessing the correct location. Therefore for each Street View image that you guess you are able to instantly see whether you beat most other users, or whether your guess was worse than most other players.

5. My Name is Hunt

My Name is Hunt is the world's first Street View based text adventure game. In this game you have to follow a number of clues to stay alive. Each textual clue is accompanied by a Street View image showing you where you are in your search for numerous antidote syringes which have been hidden around Rio de Janeiro.

Each clue is also accompanied by two (or more) paths for you to choose from. Choose wisely as each turn you take in this game costs you a little health. If your health reaches zero before you find an antidote then you will die.

6. Where in the World

Where in the World is another 'guess the location on Street View' game. In this fun game, however, you are helped a little as the locations are all well-known locations from around the world. All you have to do is choose the correct location for each Street View from three different answers.

The game allows you to choose from five different categories, History, Travel, Royal Attractions, Nature and Parks & Entertainment. Once you have selected your categories you are shown 10 different Street View images and your job is to guess where in the world each image is from.

The main difficulty with Where in the World is the time element. You are only given twelve seconds to answer each question, which isn't really enough time to explore the Street View scene in any detail. However, even with the time element, I found it easy to get ten out of ten each time I played. But then I spend way too much of my time exploring the world on Street View.

7. Allstate Holiday Home Decorator

If you are getting tired of roaming the world on Street View then why not enjoy a few relaxing moments at home, decorating your house on Google Maps Street View. The Allstate Holiday Home Decorator allows you to decorate your house on Street View with a number of Christmas themed decorations.

To decorate your home just enter your address into the Holiday Home Decorator. You will then be shown a Google Maps Street View of your home. Once you have the Street View image of your house you can add Christmas lights, candles, decorations, Christmas presents, trees and a little snow to the scene. When you are happy with the design of your Street View Christmas card just press the 'share your home' button and you can send a unique link to your card via Twitter or Facebook.

8. Urbanopticon

How well do you know your city? Test your knowledge with Urbanopticon. Yes, this is another Street View location guessing game but this time you get to contribute to a citizen science project while you play.

By now the formula of the game should be familiar - look at the Street view image and try to guess where in the world it is from. As you play, however, you are also helping Urbanopticon develop a collective mental map of your city based on your answers and the answers of other players. Using these answers the team can begin to answer questions about which areas in cities are memorable, why some areas are more memorable than others and how developers / city planners can better build communities that help make people feel more at home.

9. The Division Map of New York

This one is also not strictly a Street View game but it will appeal to fans of Ubisoft's video game of Tom Clancy's The Division. It also might appeal to New Yorkers interested in how their city might look in a dystopian future. The Division Map of New York features a number of 360 degree panoramic Street View images which allow you to explore scenes of New York as portrayed in the on-line game. These Street View images show a post-pandemic New York, devastated by the effects of a deadly disease which has brought chaos to the streets of America.

10. Spacehopper

Spacehopper is another great Street View based geography quiz. The game was built for school kids studying geography but is lots of fun for us slightly older kids as well.

The game presents you with a series of Street View images from locations around the world (with the odd photo thrown in for good measure). The object of the game is to guess the location of the Street View image by clicking on a Google Map. To help you in this task the possible locations are marked on the map with a little red dot.

You get three attempts to get the correct answer to each Street View. If you are struggling you can also ask for clues. The game includes some user settings that allow you to restrict the views shown to various regions around the globe.