Google engineers and partners are always adding innovative ways to show off what Google Maps can do to help consumers every day, and the latest additions include some really cool new ideas, from helping musicians find each other to giving bicyclists in 10 foreign countries a way to set out on trips using GPS navigation on their Android mobile phones.
Here are the six new Google Maps services that have been recently unveiled.
GPS Navigation for Cyclists
Already available for use in the United States, Google has now expanded its GPS-enabled mobile maps app to include bicycle trip routing in 10 nations in Europe. Using this cool app, which is available through Google's Play store, Android users can now strap their phones to their bicycle handlebars and follow route directions turn-by-turn, according to a post from Larry Powelson, a Google Maps software engineer, on the Official Google Blog. They can even get voice-guided navigation through the app.
"Whether you're a seasoned century rider or a casual beach cruiser, finding the best biking routes can be a challenge," wrote Powelson. "That's why today we're bringing mobile biking directions and navigation to the 10 countries where we launched desktop biking directions last month (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the U.K.). Plus, we're adding turn-by-turn, voice-guided biking navigation to Google Maps Navigation (beta) in every country with biking directions."
Google Maps added biking directions to their maps for the United States and Canada in 2010, with more destinations to come in the future.
"Today, there are more than 330,000 miles (equal to more than 530,000 kilometers, or half a gigameter) of green biking lines in Google Maps," wrote Powelson. "Dark-green lines on the map show dedicated bike trails and paths with no motor vehicles, light-green lines show streets with bike lanes and dashed green lines show other streets recommended for cycling. Biking navigation even helps you avoid steep hills."
Find a Fellow Musician
Musicians always seem to be looking for like-minded players to gig with so they can share their music and expand their opportunities. That's where the new MusoMap offering comes in, which was built as an interactive Google Map where musicians can join to seek out others nearby with whom they can meet for gigs.
"A useful tagging system makes it very easy to find musicians who play a particular instrument," according to a post on the Google Maps Mania blog. "You can use the search function to center on a location on the map or to refine the results shown by instrument or by musical genre. Users can send private messages to other musicians shown on the map, post on other musicians' profiles or use the chat function to talk with other registered members."
Book a Hotel Room with Google Maps
Users enter the name of their destination, which then displays a Google Map showing all available hotels, according to a post on the Google Maps Mania blog. "The displayed hotels can be refined by date, price, number of stars, TripAdvisor rating and by amenities."
Users can click a quick link at the bottom of each window to book hotel rooms, and they can select from several booking services.
Add Fun Decorations to Google Street View Images of Your House
Want to have some silly fun and dress up the images of your house that are visible to the world in Google Street View? Well, now you can do just that with a little app that lets you add some true decor with a few keystrokes.
Blockee "allows you to pimp up your house by adding some bling to its Google Maps Street View image," according to a post on the Google Maps Mania blog. It's reminiscent of the old Colorforms toy sets, where you could "paste" in everything from people to objects and create fun scenes.
"Using the application you can find your house on Google Maps Street View and then drag and drop a number of items onto the static image of your house," according to the blog post. "Once you have completed decorating your house, you are given a nice short URL to the finished image so you can share your pimped up house with your friends via your favorite social network."
Note: It's possible that you will need to use the Google Chrome browser to get this to work, the post states.
Take a Google Map Quiz
Google Maps aren't just great for mapping out routes for trips. The information you get can also be educational. That's where the Uncharted.fm country quiz comes in, according to a post on the Google Maps Mania blog.
"Uncharted.fm is a great way to learn about and explore the countries of the world with Google Maps," states the post. "The quiz takes you through progressive stages exploring different continents and parts of the world. In each stage of the quiz users are shown a number of countries on Google Maps and told the name of each country. The user is then tested on the countries they have been shown."
The site uses audio and text to reveal the correct answer if the user answers incorrectly, so that their learning is reinforced as the quiz progresses. The site also provides fascinating information about each country, including images, Wikipedia information and basic facts about the country, according to the post. Users can also link their Uncharted.fm accounts to their Facebook accounts so they can post their scores and compete with their friends.
Use Google Maps to Find Zip Codes
If you ever need to find zip codes for specific neighborhoods, now you can use the Google Maps-based Zip Code Catcher to make it easier, according to a post on the Google Maps Mania Blog. Zip Code Catcher includes two drawing tools that allow users to plot out the areas where they are searching for zip codes.
Once you make your selections, you can click the download button to save a .CSV file of all the zip codes in your selected area. "The downloaded spreadsheet includes all the zip codes and the city, state, latitude and longitude, the population and even the distance from the center of your selected area for each zip code," according to the post.