Google Maps deliver more than just directions to far-away destinations. With the help of clever developers, Google Maps APIs are constantly being used to create cool, intriguing Websites and online features for visitors around the world.
With that in mind, it's time for yet another eWEEK roundup of some of the most interesting sites recently discovered online that incorporate Google Maps APIs and use maps in different ways.
African Safari on Your Web Browser
If you're lucky enough to head to Africa on safari, you can likely see many wild animals—from elephants to lions to giraffes—in their native habitats. But if a safari isn't on your agenda any time soon, you can at least share in the wild animal sightings of others through Wild Africa Live. The site uses Google Maps to invite visitors to report the live animal sightings they have made in the wilds of South Africa and surrounding nations while the visitors are on safari.
Wild Africa Live shows the sightings made in the last 24 hours and designates each sighting with a tag that lists the animal type, date and time and the sighting, and the Internet handle or name of the person who made the report. The site doesn't offer photos of the sightings, but there are different icons used on the map to show what was spotted, from giraffes to lions, elephants, hyenas, leopards, kudu and more.
The map, created by Satpack Travel of Johannesburg, also has a database of long-term sightings over the last eight months that features more sightings across much of the African continent. Visitors can search that database by animal species and date to see what sightings were reported. There's also a Website and Android and iPhone apps to use the maps.
See the Night Sky and Constellations
For years, publishers have printed books with detailed maps of the night skies and constellations, but to use them, you need to head outside with a flashlight and the books to begin your search for the stars. Not so with developer Paul Neave's Planetarium map site, created with Google Maps APIs.
Planetarium is an interactive sky map for exploring the stars and planets that uses a visitor's location to provide accurate maps of the night sky in an area. Users can view the stars and planets in skies by night or day, and can hide or see the constellations on the map. They can also set the time and date of their visit to get the most accurate sighting information.
What makes this map very cool is that instead of taking your star map book outside with you, you can take this site outside with you on a tablet computer and compare it to what you are actually seeing in the night sky. That's awesome.
Hurricane Safety in New York City
When Hurricane Sandy pummeled the East Coast in late October 2012, key parts of the New York City metro area were inundated with floodwaters due to the powerful storm. And though the city had an online evacuation map ready for residents to use, the high number of people who went to use the site overwhelmed it, which caused the city to move to a new map using Google Maps Engine for future storms, according to Google Maps Mania.