A decade ago, Apple’s brand was limited mostly to the USA, with some limited penetration in Europe and Asia. Now, only a short time later, they’ve built an incredible worldwide empire of stores, one of which I visited today.
The Beijing Apple Store is massive, with a multistory glass storefront right in the heart of Beijing’s more upscale commercial district. Just down the street, a variety of vendors peddle everything from candied fruit to fried cockroach skewers. Drawing visitor from hundreds of yards away is an incredibly bright monitor, displaying a constant loop of Apple commercials. As the commercials transition from white to black, the area becomes noticeably darker.
Inside the store, multilingual geniuses direct customers through the massive retail space. A large Apple logo lights up a massive glass spiral staircase, which leads to the next floor.
All around are happy patrons, enjoying the products inside just as much as their US counterparts. This consistency of design, grandiose scale, and service is what makes Apple amazing.
This is our new Google maps features photo tour (2013).
We were invited to preview and test Google’s new maps beta interface yesterday, and we went through and created a whole photo tour, talking about what we liked, and what we didn’t. The full review is coming soon, but for now, enjoy the photo gallery of Google Maps 2013.
Below is the text from our photo tour. Each headline indicates a new photo.
Welcome To The New Google Maps
Currently, the new maps is invite-only. The browser limitations on the new maps are a bit disappointing (many features don’t work in the latest Safari, Firefox, or Internet Explorer).
This is particularly annoying because the current Chrome is such a RAM hog, that I can’t even keep it open. With only a few windows open, it shudders, occupying nearly 7 gigabytes of RAM.
The New Google Maps Interface
Simply put, the interface of the new maps is awesome. Gone is the giant white bar, stealing valuable screen real estate. Every function can be done straight from that white bar, and it’s close to instantaneous. The new coloring, resembling Apple’s maps, is snazzy as well.
Finding the Best
The new Google Maps unfortunately still takes all context literally. I was expecting it to pick up some cognitive abilities from Google’s Now service, perhaps allowing it to understand phrases like “best” or “closest”.
No dice. On the bright side, sorting by top results and top reviewers does allow for the same functionality, albeit a bit more challenging to do.
Also a positive is the Circles feature, allowing you to take recommendations from friends, and share with your circles as well. I like the added social element.
Easy Access Features
Another fantastic addition to maps is a variety of shortcuts. Simply clicking on the white bar allows for instant traffic help, biking maps, public transportation, and directions. Many of these features are new to the online version of maps, or required a lot of work to do previously.
A bit Confused…
The instant results need some work (especially given that this is their own example). When searching for sushi in Boston, it came up with results in Florida, Italy, Switzerland, and Grenoble, but oddly enough not Boston (a major US city).
On the bright side, upon pressing the search button, it brought up results in Boston right away, displayed graphically on a map of the city.
Graphically Displayed Sites
One of maps’s prior weaknesses was that when searching, everything on the map was labelled with a letter (i.e “A”) and you had to look at the key to the right to figure out what anything was. Keys are certainly more functional on real maps, than digital ones.
On the new Google maps, everything is displayed graphically. Every place is labeled with name and category, getting rid of the need to constantly refer to keys. Great improvement there.
And Clicking Things is Better Too
Numerous enhancements to finding things fast have been made. First of all, simply double clicking anywhere on the map pulls up the address. Double clicking a restaurant pulls up reviews, menus, contact info, hours. It’s a fantastic integration of the formerly underutilized Zagat acquisition.
Finally, maps is now gesture based. New controls of the map make it much more touch/tablet friendly, and that’s certainly a positive.
One-touch Street View
After finding a location (by double clicking), getting directions is literally as easy as pressing one button. Another one touch feature is streetview. One click allows you to enter the new street view.
Google Street View is better than ever, because the expanded Window size means that you have an absolutely massive view of everything. I did some virtual street photography (see later).
Enhanced Google Earth
Google Earth is now built entirely into the new Google Maps, and available with a single click (if you have a supported browser – see photo 1). This is a great addition of a fantastic project. Another progressive step was the addition of 3D imagery, and building, which were previously only available in Google’s desktop earth app.
Photo Tours of Famous sites are very nicely integrated into the new operating system.
This is a tribute to Humans of New York, and the legendary band of street photographers it represents. This was just spotted in the new streetview.
Who here has watched one of those ghost hunting shows? Come on, and admit it Mr.science. You like watching them flaunt their cool gadgets to prove mythical creatures. And how about those creepy pictures in the dark where they’re walking through furniture? Want to know how to do that? I’ll teach you how to do that with only a camera and yourself. SCARE YOUR FRIENDS.
What You’ll Need:
- A dark room. Not a photographic “dark room” but rather a room with very little light
- DSLR, superzoom, or other large sensor digital camera with controllable shutter speed
- Piece of Furniture
- Ghostly Costume- because ghosts from the 50s didn’t where Nike t-shirts and jeans
- Free Photo Editing Software. Even programs like iPhoto will work for this
- Rudimentary Knowledge of how to operate said camera
To make it extra scary, include a detailed background behind your scene, such as a poster. The poster will be visible through the person, giving them a further ghostly appearance.
Steps to make your ghost photo:
- Put on your costume. Be creative. I created a lab setup and put on a lab coat I had from last halloween and a creepy wig.
- Set up your camera on a tripod. With long exposures, the worst thing you can do is let your camera shake. If you don’t have a tripod, at least set your camera up on a solid flat surface.
- Focus your lens. Autofocus doesn’t work in the dark, so you’ve got to focus manually before you turn out the lights.
- Further configure your camera. Automatic ISO is best, and you’re going to want a shutter speed of at least 15 seconds. Most DSLRs max out timed shutters at 30 seconds.
- Put your furniture in the shot. Scout out a place where you can quickly hide it.
- Turn out the lights. Use your flashlight to navigate and find the shutter. Turn the flashlight out BEFORE you turn on the shutter. For a cool fog effect, leave the door open a crack for a tiny bit of light leak. Be careful not to let too much in though, or it could ruin your image.
- Start the shutter. A.K.A Click the photo-taking button on your camera.
- Stay out of the shot and count out half of your shutter speed. For example, if I shoot at 30 second exposure, I’m going to count to 15.
- After getting halfway through. Run to where your furniture is, push it out of the view of the camera, and pose for the remaining 12-15 seconds until the shutter closes.
- Review your shot to make sure you got it.
- Load your shot into your photo editing software.
- Increase the brightness just a tad, and crop it to crop out unnecessary areas of the room. Even the automatic optimization tool iPhoto will fix your photo enough in a single click to make it clear and scary.
- Share your photo and scare your friends.
How this works.
Your camera sees you in its’ sensor for the last 15 seconds, and your furniture for the first 15 seconds. It essentially blends you with the furniture, and fades you naturally based on how long you’re in the photo, while the background is solid. This is similar to the principle behind the blur of fast-moving people in timelapses of streets.
The lack of light does two things: It gives you a darker, ghostlier appearance, and it prevents the image from being overexposed. Remember that ever 1/1000 of a second that your shutter is open, it’s exposed to light, and long shutter speeds without the right equipment in even dim daylight can completely overexpose it, and make it one indistinguishable white blob.
Are you going to give it a try?