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More on Maps: What3Words , StreetView and Zuckerberg October 11, 2017

Posted by P, J, or J in Uncategorized.

As I prepared this post news came across my Facebook feed of Mark Zuckerberg’s virtual visit to Puerto Rico. His aim was to show how amazing his new technology is and, as he stated after getting some flack for the images of his cartoon avatar amidst scenes of devastation, to also show it’s capacity to inspire empathy.

“One of the most powerful features of VR is empathy. My goal here was to show how VR can raise awareness and help us see what’s happening in different parts of the world. I also wanted to share the news of our partnership with the Red Cross to help with the recovery. Reading some of the comments, I realize this wasn’t clear, and I’m sorry to anyone this offended.” – Mark Zuckerberg


My own reply is likely to get lost in the global discussion but I made it anyway

“Thanks Mark. I really do believe that VR can assist empathy but it brings with it the risk of virtual empathy and desensitisation. I’ve only spent a couple of minutes immersed in Google Earth via an Oculus Rift but yes you feel like you are there and it’s powerful, but how long until it just feels as normal as TV and you channel hop from experience to experience. The technology is amazing. The possibilities are amazing. But real empathy will cause us not just to teleport in and out of situations but to truly stand alongside people so that we are not just there as invisible ghosts feeding off their emotion, but supporting them as friends and advocates.”

Later in the day I saw this amazing 360 video from the BBC of Radhika and Yashoda heading to school in from a “remote Himalayan village” that doesn’t yet have Google streetmap, or a bridge to cross the river. (more on their inspiring story here)

I don’t have a spare £500 for the latest VR headsets but I have been touring the world via my screen lately. It wasn’t hard to find their village and with a bit of work I could probably have found the exact point where they cross the river.

Streetview without the streets

I also learned that for the last few years anyone can add their own pictures to Google Streetview, and even go where there are no streets. These ‘photospheres’ can be taken on many of the newer smartphones without the need for a more special camera or a Google camera van, and can be viewed on VR headsets, phones, tablets, smart TVs and even laptops and PCs.

Here’s a link to a spot somewhere in the Philippines that someone has shared:


And for anyone looking at this from the Philippines here’s a British view to compare it to.


There are lots of places around the globe to take in the view and it’s hard to remember all those grid references.

What 3 Words

Everywhere on the planet can be mapped in 3×3 metre squares using different sets of 3 words. This is transforming postal services in Mongolia and Côte d’Ivoire , and is a great improvement in places that don’t have postcodes, house numbers (or sometimes even street names) .

I won’t pinpoint where my office desk is but I think https://map.what3words.com/curries.stockpile.ranted may pinpoint the spot I proposed to my wife 15 years ago, and steps.march.froze is probably the place in the church we stood to say our vows.

The front door of our current church is at pose.shins.ritual, and map.what3words.com/empathy.tourist.teleport will leave you drifting a long way from land the middle of the Indian Ocean.

I’m impressed that the company didn’t just restrict the service to English but recognise what the critics are saying about the service being in the hands of a single company rather than open source.

Whether you travel virtually to another part of the globe and empathise, observe or pray; whether you get to see some distant location in person; or whether you are already in someone else’s distant location it’s good to be able to share the experience with others.

I’m looking forward to a few more immersive tours of place people call home, and I hope I don’t cease to lose my sense of wonder.




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