By Alex Walker

A coffee break moment: Google Maps FlightSim

By Alex Walker

For me, APIs have been probably the most interesting area of Web development over the past few years, allowing modestly resourced (and perhaps modestly talented) developers to tap into bigger, richer systems than they could ever hope to create themselves.

Looking at site like FD’s Flickr Toys it’s tempting to conclude that the Flickr API has been the most widely used, but that might be selling the APIs from, Amazon, eBay and, of course, Google short. The result has been hundreds of new and interesting products, services and miscellaneous mashups that would otherwise never have been.

Some have been deeply practical — X-Moments and HousingMaps comes to mind — while others have been focusing on being clever and fun. Like this one: Goggles :: The Google Maps flight sim.

Goggles: the Google Maps Flight SimSo, next time you grab a coffee, load it up, choose a city, pull on a set of flying goggles and take to the skies over any of the great cities of the world — from London to New York to Zurich to Sydney. You can even choose your own if you’ve got the patience. The basic app is simple but addictive, using Flash to overlay a series of simplified 3D renderings of a plane over a smoothly scrolling map feed. Along with the basic directional controls, Goggles even gives you machine guns, allowing you to strafe your least-favorite city. Fun for all the family there.

I actually found it was a surprisingly entertaining way to use the maps. The constantly passing parade of maps keeps things interesting, although a ‘Freeze’ button might be nice for when you find something cool. Nevertheless it’s a great idea nicely executed.

So, does it actually use the API?

Well, technically not,… but ‘shhh’.. why be picky when it’s so much fun buzzing the mansions on Sydney Harbour?

  • Very cool.

    although a ‘Freeze’ button might be nice for when you find something cool.

    Bit of a hack, but if you right-click on the map, you get the standard Flash player menu, and the map freezes…

  • vipgraphics

    I like it, can’t wait to explore it more

  • jeff

    It’s no good. No good at all. You waste my time and the time of others with this kind of post. I am here to learn, not play around. From others I could tolerate this but I expect more from you Alex.

  • wtfjeff

    man jeff you sounds like a moron!

  • malikyte

    Not everyone learns in the same manner. Many programmers that I know (myself included) first became interested in computer science due to games. What better way to learn than with something you’re interested in? I can’t really think of anything. Just because it doesn’t help you directly doesn’t mean it’s not helpful (and/or relaxing and entertaining) to someone else. If you want to learn, take it apart. Look at the site and try to visualize how to reproduce the code. Obviously, if Flash programming isn’t something you’re interested in, you don’t have to; but that doesn’t mean it’s a wasteful exercise for others.

    Moreover, the game Goggles may be the main topic of the article, but it does also link to other interesting mashups. I personally found fd’s Flickr toys inspirational – not necessarily helpful, but definitely inspirational. Not everyone learns in the same way, or the same pace…and honestly, I think you owe Alex a formal apology since you decided to make your negative criticism public as well.

  • Thanks malikyte. That tends to be exactly how I look at it, but I didn’t mind Jeff’s comment. You could argue that view. However I thought some of Jeff’s comments in Paul’s caching post were a little less useful.

  • malikyte

    Well spotted, Alex. Hopefully Sitepoint won’t begin to suffer the same trials and tribulations that Creating Passionate Users has.

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