What are Interactive Maps?

Donn Saylor

Interactive maps are computerized maps that allow users to interface with various aspects of the maps themselves. These interactive learning materials utilize the latest technologies in the field of interactive media to offer users a range of options when viewing a map. These options may include zooming in or out on a specified location, panning easily between geographic areas, planning driving routes and sightseeing vacations, and providing satellite views of a desired locale.

Interactive maps available on GPS and smartphones make trip planning and long drives easier.
Interactive maps available on GPS and smartphones make trip planning and long drives easier.

This style of interactive media has long been utilized by cartographers and other geographic experts. Since the advent of computers, geologists, mapmakers, and scientists have used them to illustrate their maps with such details as changes in the landscape, demographic information, and data on weather, wildlife, and health. With advancements in technology, these maps have become even more detailed and user-friendly, permitting professionals the ability to interact, update, and make changes to the maps in real time.

There are several distinct benefits to using interactive maps over more traditional types. The interactive design makes it exceptionally easy to pinpoint a given location. A particular position or landmark can be identified by simply entering its address or, with certain models of interactive maps, its name or latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates. With many interactive maps — especially online varieties or varieties directly connected to satellite technology — changes in a geographic area are updated on the map as they occur; these are called real time maps. When used to determine driving directions, interactive maps make route-planning a breeze; users also typically have the ability to locate gas stations, restaurants, and points-of-interest along the way.

One of the most popular interactive maps is Google® Earth. Google® Earth uses maps, geography, and satellite data to craft a sort of virtual globe. Users enter the name or address of a location and are given full access to the sights, geography, and physical components of the area. In addition to maps, users can also access 3D mockups of buildings, historical imagery, satellite views, and perspectives of the skies and oceans.

Another popular interactive map is a Global Positioning System (GPS). Many drivers use a GPS to plan their driving routes and determine driving times, estimated times of arrival, driving speeds, and detours. These systems are in constant contact with satellites, feeding the satellite with the precise location of the vehicle at all times. These helpful devices keep drivers on the most efficient routes while providing a measure of safety and reliability.

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