Atlas Changes The Way We Use Maps




Maps continue to get more and more useful thanks to satellite imagery and dedicated developers. Companies like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft have taken the time, effort, and money to build maps that are unrivaled by their competition. These companies have also opened the doors for smaller businesses to create their own software or Web sites that utilize the map database via an API. There have been amazing products produced and I have developed a list of 20 sites that use Google Maps as their building block.

Atlas Changes The Way We Use Maps

Today I also stumbled upon a product called Atlas which brings a lot of amazing features to the table by using Microsoft’s Virtual Earth API. It lets you search for things like movie theaters, gas stations, events and much more. Atlas will display the results for your search on the left-side of the screen in a semi-transparent window that is created. If you are searching for gas stations then it will show the location on the map and will also give you details such as the price for the different fuel grades. Movie results are also similar where it will show what movies are playing at a given theater and the time it is playing. If you search for multiple things (as displayed in the first image above) it will select a unique color for each type of result. In my picture you will see that blue represents gas stations and yellow represents movie theaters. This makes it easy to distinguish between multiple kinds of results. I also tried searching for some Wi-Fi spots but I couldn’t find any in my town. However, if I did a search for Chicago, IL then it had no problems at all. They also have traffic results that are provided by Yahoo, local blogs, and an event finder. All of this put together makes it a very appealing tool to use. Atlas GPS There is also an integrated GPS functionality for devices that run Windows Mobile 5. You can find a demonstration of the GPS by going to the Atlas homepage and selecting Services->GPS (Beta). It shows you how it can track multiple devices simultaneously so that you can easily stalk, I mean track, someone. You will get a lot of amusement out of Atlas but I have also found what I consider to be some design flaws. You can zoom with your mouse-scroller or with some keyboard shortcuts but there is no on-screen display for zooming in and out. The same issue is present for panning around the maps because there is no button that you can simply press. They need to stick these in because these kind of buttons should be standard on any map. Overall the service is really nice and runs smoothly. I ended up registering because they said you will receive more features. Well, that wasn’t exactly true because the new features, which were finding movies and gas stations, were already available to me before I registered. So if you are looking to kill a little time then try it out, it’s fun!