Use Google Maps to Chart Interesting Adventures?


It's Friday, so let's talk about something besides Autodesk Forge.

Much like Michael Keaton's character in Night Shift, I am sometimes an idea guy. The problem is that most of my ideas fall in the "Feed mayonnaise to tuna fish." category. Here's another one.

Google Maps is a wonderful thing. You can enter an address and see it on a map. You can also enter a starting location and get driving directions to that address. And the best part is that Google Maps shows you multiple routes and allow you to minimize time or avoid toll roads. It's so useful that we often wonder how we ever got anywhere without it.

But what if there was an alternative to entering an address? What if you could enter "I'd like to have an adventure," and instead of proving an optimal route or one that bypasses toll booths, it gave you "the scenic route" with suggestions as to where to stop. For example, you could give it a radius of 100 miles, and starting at your current location, it could even pick the best direction to head with no particular destination in mind. Wouldn't that be useful? Isn't this a great idea?

If you couple this with a self-driving car, it seems like quite an adventure. Those of us who attended college in Louisiana in the late 1970's certainly remember "The Snake Farm" on the drive from New Orleans to Lafayette. There were signs along the way: "Snake Farm, 20 miles," "Snake Farm 10 miles," etc. Despite the signage, I attended college for 4 years, and not once did I stop at The Snake Farm. I probably missed an excellent adventure.

With the not-too-far-off convenience of a self-driving car handling the arrivals and departures, car travel will be less of a focused-on-only-getting-there kind of activity. Now all I need is a way to see where I should tell the car to stop. Using machine learning to comb big data like social media (e.g., Yelp reviews) could easily inform the Google Maps application to allow it to offer me a set of alternative and entertaining travel routes. It could lead to many interesting adventures.

Daydreaming is alive in the lab.