Sunday, February 21, 2010

Get with the program

When I have to go anywhere, I always make a mental note of the route in my head before I embark on the journey. My comrade-in-arms is usually Google Maps. While I do not particularly dislike Navigation Systems (erroneously called a GPS unit by most folks), I prefer to have the route in my head and am able to make adjustments on the fly if I run across bad weather or construction-related traffic irregularities.

Getting directions and following them is a fairly easy proposition in the US, where most streets are well-labeled and (in many cases) can be discerned by compass orientation. Getting directions in India is an altogether different beast. Even so, Google Maps has an Indian version that bridges the gap between knowledge and field conditions.

The folks at Google Maps have modified the program to incorporate landmark-tags that are uniquely Indian so as to offer a way of getting to your destination. Read the entire piece to see how commendably they have adapted to the uniqueness of Indian directions.
We found that using landmarks in directions helps for two simple reasons: they are easier to see than street signs and they are easier to remember than street names. Spotting a pink building on a corner or remembering to turn after a gas station is much easier than trying to recall an unfamiliar street name. Sometimes there are simply too many signs to look at, and the street sign drowns in the visual noise. A good landmark always stands out.
I did a simple search on Google Maps and came up with this set of directions from my locality to Lal Bahadur Stadium in Hyderabad, a route I took countless times during my early years. A look at the textbox on the left will tell you a lot about how much they have modified their program.

(Google Maps - India 2010)

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