Let the silly news cycle begin: Google launches the first April Fools’ salvo with an 8-bit Google Maps “upgrade.”
Leave it to Google to get the April Fools’ party started one day early. One of the company’s fun little experiments for tomorrow’s day of tech tomfoolery is the addition of a new “8-bit Quest Maps” feature to Google Maps.
But you might want to be careful before you load it up. Google (jokingly) warns that, “Your system may not meet the requirements for 8-bit computations.”
Accessing 8-bit Quest Maps is easy: Just fire up your normal Google Maps web app and click on the “Try it now” button on the left-hand menu. Once you do, your default map will transform from the pretty, MapsGL-enhanced view of the world you’re used to seeing into a map more akin to something you’d find in the game Dwarf Fortress, or perhaps even SimEarth.
But, in true Google tradition, the 8-bit map isn’t just for show. You can still perform the same functions in your “oldschool” map view as you could in your normal Google Map. Driving directions are still available, for example, but it’s probably going to be a lot more difficult to discern where the 8-bit roads actually are. Zooming all the way down within 8-bit Maps brings you to the default Google Street View – no pixelated buildings there, alas.
“In our pursuit of new digital frontiers, we realized that we may have left behind a large number of users who couldn’t access Google Maps on their classic hardware. Surprisingly, the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was unsupported, despite its tremendous popularity with over 60 million units sold worldwide,” wrote Google software engineer Tatsuo Nomura on the Google’s Lat Long blog.
“As the first NES cartridge to be released in nearly 18 years, we’re working hard to make Google Maps 8-bit for NES available in the Google Store as soon as possible. A mobile version for Game Boy is also under development,” Nomura added.
While nifty, the 8-Bit Maps “upgrade” isn’t going to be as celebrated by Google Maps users as the company’s most recent (official) update to the web app. Google finally slapped travel time estimates back into Maps just the other day, a feature missing from the browser-based version of the app since this past summer. Google had initially taken away its app’s ability to guesstimate a user’s travel time due to the fact that the calculation used less precise historical traffic data.
Now, however, Google Maps estimates users’ travel times in real-time based on the current traffic conditions that exist for a particular area. So long as your location is one that Google tracks for traffic, the measurements of how long it’ll take you to get from Point A to Point B should be much more accurate than before.
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By David Murphy, PCMag