Can Google Maps Pass the Test?

| December 5, 2014 | Reply

After reading an article about a Google Maps trick enabling users to type in non-geographical search terms, I decided to test Google Maps to see just how well this trick works.

First, going off of their example of “tom cruise birthplace,” I typed “bruce willis birthplace” into Maps, knowing that he was born here in Germany. Sure enough, Maps knew it, too. Although the search term “bruce willis birthplace” remained in my search box, below it appeared Idar-Oberstein, the German town where Bruce Willis was born; in the background, Google Maps had already brought up the region.

idar-eberstein germany

Next I tried “most beautiful place in Belgium.” The first result was an ad for viator.com, followed by Grand Place, a market square in Brussels. I can’t personally attest to its accuracy, but at least it didn’t take me to Yonkers.

belgium

Speaking of Yonkers…I typed in “biggest city in new york,” which brought up New York City. But that was an easy one.

baby with a map

Even I know that.

Unfortunately, I then stumbled upon a term that seems to give Google Maps trouble: “in the world.” I tried to search on the “smallest country in the world” and Maps asked, “Did you mean: smallest country near The World”

google maps Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 9.15.55 AM

Well, no, I didn’t, but I clicked nonetheless. It did not show any result (unless the country was too small for the naked eye to detect).  I tried “highest waterfall in the world” and came up with the same result: “Did you mean: highest waterfall near The World.”

Nope. Sure didn’t.

Then I decided to ask “where dachshunds come from.”  Google brought up a red-outlined Germany. We were back in business.

germany

I typed in “cinderella castle in Germany” and sure enough, a pin on Neuschwanstein Castle appeared.

I thought perhaps I could stump Maps. I typed in “big elephant in new jersey” and sat back. But Google was not to be underestimated. That pin pointed right to Margate’s Lucy the Elephant, which was described as a “roadside attraction national historic landmark.”

margate lucy the elephant

new jersey nj roadside america

I’m hard to miss.

Excitedly, I searched on “roadside attraction in west Virginia,” thinking perhaps this would be a road tripper’s dream: to just type in “roadside attraction” + [city] and come up with a list of places to see–and directions for finding them! Alas, the total cluster of a results list was comprised of almost entirely roadside parks, all over the Mid-Atlantic, with the exception of one roadside attraction at the very bottom. Unfortunately, it was for Dinosaur Land—in Virginia. The state of West Virginia is not devoid of roadside attractions, so I was pretty bummed.  The map itself showed Pennsylvania’s museum Roadside America, which would be awesome…if I’d asked for attractions in PA.

west virginia roadside america PA WV VA

pink elephant west virginia

There is Roadside America to be seen in WV, thank you very much. (Said the elephant who wishes she were as big as Lucy.)

Thinking along the lines of places to pull over, I decided to check out “Utah national park.”  The search returned all of Utah’s national parks, lodging near some of them, and a few national forests and monuments.

utah national parks

I wondered, then, if I could stump Maps with just a description of one of Utah’s State Parks: “utah state park with hoodoos.” But darn if it didn’t lead me straight to Goblin Valley State Park.

hoodoos

“I know how to use Google maps.”
“Hoodoo?”
“I do.”

Would it be stumped by city nicknames?  Nope. “Philly” brought up Philadelphia; “City of Angels” brought up Los Angeles and three other results. “The Windy City” brought up Chicago.  Not bad.

But then I discovered another query that confused maps: “Northernmost point in US.” The scattered results included ironic locations in Texas and Florida, as well as a man named Richard Whitesell who lives in Tennessee.  I clicked.  It’s just a man.  For reals. It returned some hotels in the north…over the Canadian border. I did notice Prothero’s Post Resort up in Minnesota, most likely right by the continental US’ northernmost point.

america map of the us

“Y’all know where north is?”

Not one result from Alaska had popped up, so I typed in “southernmost point in alaska.”  The results were for Florida.

Typing in “easternmost point in germany” brought up a location in the Netherlands.  Either Google is confused, or thinking of WWII occupation.

netherlands map

Netherlands: Watch your back.

So. What’s the verdict? This is a fairly handy tool, if not yet fully developed. “In the world” and “-most point” superlatives should be supported…and I sure wouldn’t mind a little more Roadside Attraction help!

Tags:

Category: Europe, Family Travel, Germany, In Germany A Broad blog, Shits & Giggles, Travel, Uncategorized, US Travel

About the Author ()

Kari Martindale is a writer and ESL instructor. She’s visited all 50 states and 37 countries, including many of the big cities of Europe and a ton of Christmas Markets. She spends her days straddling the fence between a sense of adventure and a sense of dread. She is married to what is clearly a patient man and has a daughter who, frustratingly, is just like her. Her academic and professional backgrounds are in linguistics and foreign languages. When she's not teaching ESL, she's writing. When she's not writing, she's thinking about her next trip.

Leave a Reply