Map Labs For The Curious

Map Labs

maplabsAt the Map Labs, we build and curate maps that help people navigate, discover, and understand a wide variety of topics from around the world.

Welcome to The Map Labs

Running archive:

Strava, the popular fitness tracking app, uses billions of points of public data to create highly detailed heatmaps of user exercise locations. The data and the maps are also used to create user challenges and Leaderboards for enthusiasts who compete against each other along predefined routes.  In other words, it’s a social network meets fitness tracker.

fitness tracker maps
A heatmap created  by beachgoers at New Jersey’s Gateway National Park, showing activity along the road, in the parking lots, on the beaches and in the water.

Interestingly, some speculated that the heatmaps might reveal secret military bases where personel neglected to lock down their privacy settings.  Despite the speculation,  only known bases with running trails and bike paths have been found so far.

It can be hard for people to locate places in remote or sparsely populated areas. That’s why Mongolia is using a clever mapping solution from the British startup what3words that uses just 3 words, to find any location on Earth.

For instance, this sentence was written at precisely this location: political.episodes.possibility

The startup’s solution assigns memorable word strings to 57 trillion 9 square meter locations on the planet, and lets users resolve the words into precise locations. Users can choose from multiple languages to map things.


Applications for the system are emerging from logistics companies, mail officials and others.

A 15-year-old may have discovered an ancient city without leaving his bedroom.  William Gadoury of Canada amazed experts by using old Mayan star charts and Google maps to extrapolate the location of an undiscovered city deep in the forests of Mexico.   Satellite images from the Canadian Space Agency seem to confirm his discovery.

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Pick a country on the map, choose a decade, then hear the popular music from that period. From, it’s a dead simple map interface to a crazy-cool music time machine.  Check out Thailand 1970 for some party music.

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Art and maps have complimented each other throughout history. Paula Sher is a talented artist who focuses her talent and energy on layering content and color and form into maps of a most appealing and cerebral nature.

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In-app maps can do amazing things. Below is a sample of an in-game map from Assassin’s Creed Syndicate which layers vital context and information onto the player landscape. Some say it is the best in-game map ever made.

The map below does a great job showing the Arctic sea lanes and military bases that Russia is opening up to take advantage of global warming. Map labs.

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Recently companies have begun to create customer experience maps that help detail the “customer journey”.  Here’s  a sample from Curiousmatic Corporate Services that shows a customer lifecycle and how content can be used to build deep, trusted understanding experiences about products and services.

customer experience map labs

Few maps provide information as clearly as this one from Charles Joseph Minard, the 19th century French Cartographer and Engineer who perfectly illustrated Napoleon’s route to Moscow – and his dwindling force in retreat.

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These are shaping up to be the forces battling Yemen. For more about a join Arab army read here.

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Map by Jeremy Singer-Vine via Buzzed

This map represents the imperiled dams around the country; with grey meaning a low threat, yellow meaning moderate, and red meaning high. For more about crumbling US infrastructure, read here.

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from the NYdailynews

Ever wonder what the fastest route to travel around the US is? Wonder no longer.  Map labs

According to new data sets, the United States is at extreme risk for climate-change-related catastrophe.

Click here for interactive version.

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Expressing your love for maps has become easier since @rachelbinx launched, where you can have your favorite map from Open StreetMaps printed on t-shirts, skirts, etc.


The Washington post developed an ISIS map that shows how brutality has washed across Iraq and Syria over a three month period:

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The map is curated in Curiousmatic’s  Asymmetric Warfare Trove – feel free to take a look and follow the trove if you like it.

In late August 2014,  Ukrainian officials accused Russia of sending tanks and troops into the  area surrounding Novoazovsk.   This map uses a simple, bold arrow to help users find the area quickly.

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During the Ukraine conflict, Russia’s President Putin spoke of “New Russia”. We  wrote about it and made a quick map to outline the area Putin was referring to. Map labs.

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Back in April 2014 The Washington Post published a map showing Russian and Ukraine troop deployment.  The full map (follow previous link) was quite good, but lacked NATO air deployments in Poland,  Lithuania and Romania, as well as NATO ships in the Black Sea and Baltic.

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Twitter’s Trends Maps is great for discovering  what people are thinking about in specific locations, in real-time.   Here’s what people tweet about when a tornado is nearby:

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The tweets, all originating from the Ann Arbor Michigan area,  form a simple, compelling narrative: “sirens-tornado-shelter-basement”.

Always on the look-out for good maps, sometimes we come across bad ones that show how things can go wrong. Here’s a thoroughly confusing map from NBC Nightly News that charts race atop a map of the U.S. .

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When eastern Ukraine first became restless , we made a map to show the locations where events were focused. Using the map as a reference point , it’s easy to see how the unrest started in just a few cities before spreading .

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The map below was designed to show Russia’s  border with eastern Ukraine, using red dots to fill in Russian land mass. One of our Twitter followers noted that the red dots could be mistaken for Russian forces massed near Ukraine’s border. They are right- no  more red dots for land mass representations.

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We’re big fans of the New York Public Library and admirers of their map collection, which is one of the best in the world. Recently they released 20,000 maps online. We sample one of them, below. Map labs.

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Courtesy New York Public Library

4 Mysterious Satellite Images To Feed Your Inner Conspiracy Theorist

Maps and satellite images can be plenty of fun. We took a look at some satellite imagery that has inspired armchair analysts and provided ample fodder for conspiracy theories.

Map of weird things on Street View:

Here, we added some funny situations you can find while exploring Google Street View. Feel free to add your own!

Map of world conflicts:

We want to give users a way to navigate our global conflicts content by using interactive maps. If you hover a cursor over the map, small “cards” will display with links t the full content. We’re still working on this approach,  but go ahead and try the hovers (or touch with mobile).

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If you see any good interactive content map solutions out there please let us know.

Homage To A Map Master

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Edward Imhof , Swiss cartographer, mastered the art of cartographic relief shading cartography in the 1930’s and beyond. Imhof used the simple act of shading to bring more depth and dimension to the subjects he studied.

To see relief shading in action on modern, digital maps, be sure to check out the terrain view on Google Maps. Map Labs.

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