GeoGuessr: It's "like 'Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?' for computer-bound grown-ups."


Fri, May 17th, 2013 21:00 by capnasty NEWS

You've probably played GeoGuessr when we linked it last week, a game that puts you in a random place using Google Maps' streetview and asks you to guess where you are. Willy Staley of The New York Times has been playing the game and explains "the thrill of visiting Japan... and thinking you're in Ireland."

Here’s how it works: you’re ?dropped off? at a random spot within the Street View universe, with no hints about your location but what Google’s cameras have captured. It might be a bustling Brazilian city; it might be the middle of nowhere in Australia; it might be suburban South Africa. You have as much time as you like to explore the area — then you drop a pin on a map to make your guess. Your score is calculated based on the distance between the pin and the actual location. You get five turns.

The most you can hope for, usually, is that you get the country right, because more often than not, you’re dropped off in the middle of nowhere. Road signs help — not only the language, but also the design and whether distances and speeds are measured in the metric or imperial systems. If there are other cars nearby, you can figure out which side of the road they drive on, which can help narrow things down. The landscape and foliage offer clues, too, but I’ve learned to not infer much from eucalyptus trees. They grow all over the world, and have a way of making any place look like Australia or California.

If there’s an interesting lesson in GeoGuessr, it’s that the world is huge and the law of averages reigns. Landmass is destiny. Brazil, the fifth-largest country in the world, was recently added to the Street View universe, and one of your turns will inevitably land there. The Lusophone world contains a forgivingly small number of nations, but Brazil itself is massive, so even finding Portuguese signage surrounded by tropical-looking foliage hardly helps your score. Even in the U.S., the two times I thought I had successfully identified Colorado, I was actually in Alaska, which we often forget is twice the size of Texas.



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