The Google Headquarters, aka “Googleplex”, is a required and favorite destination for all visitors to Silicon Valley. For groups without access inside, there are some outdoor destinations to enjoy, including the T-Rex in the courtyard of Building 43, the onsite garden, and the Android life-sized characters at Building 44. An interesting aside, the main building is #42. As you perhaps already know, 42 is “the answer to life, the universe, everything”. If you don’t know, “google it.”

Google’s sprawling campus is a testament to its rapid growth since 1998. What began as a powerful and efficient search engine with a mission statement “organizing the world’s information” has evolved to a multidimensional company, looking for “high tech solutions to human problems”. Thus we have the Google driverless car, the Nest high tech smoke alarm, Google glass, and many ongoing projects yet to be announced.

In 2005, Google bought Keyhole, a small data visualization company that led to the launch of Google Earth. Along with Google Maps, this program has evolved to become invaluable resource for individuals with increasing reliance on mobile devices. Consider the following added conveniences since 2005:

  • Finding your location and giving you directions from there
  • Embedding Google maps in websites of businesses and services
  • Planning a route by car, on foot, or by public transportation
  • Reporting current traffic conditions
  • Viewing the street and rotating around it
  • Viewing inside a public building or a business
  • Expanding the universe of Google maps to closed off countries (North Korea, for example)

Going beyond maps, Google asks the user “may we use your location” when you download an application or when you are asking for directions. If you answer, “Yes”, consider yourself “geotagged.”

Geotagging implies the convenience of assuming you, on your mobile device are the starting point for the directions. You can even see yourself move as you walk or drive to your destination. Geotagging has led to an array of new applications which locate your friends, your preferences, and even your iphone.

One of these applications, and a favorite of mine, is called Field Trip. This application uses the web to locate every interesting fact and item in your vicinity, complete with directions and maps. It’s your own personal tour guide anywhere you go and it’s free!