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If dropped randomly on earth, would you know where you were?

Posted by Kevin Hartnett  May 17, 2013 09:41 AM

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Can you tell the difference between the arid Australian Outback and the desiccated American Southwest? What about a quiet alley in Buenos Aires and a back lane in Barcelona? If you can, you'll do well at Geoguessr, the new hyper-addictive online game that drops you into a scene from Google Street View somewhere in the world, and asks you to guess where you are. You can zoom in on your surroundings, spin around, and walk down the street to look for clues. When you think you know where you are, Geoguessr, which was created by Swedish programmer Anton Wallén, has you indicate your supposed location on a map, and the closer you guess to the actual location, the more points you get. The game yields an enjoyably vertiginous sense of global travel and plenty of satisfying moments, like when you come within 15 kilometers of identifying an inter-coastal waterway in Florida. However, the depth of shame it produces is even stronger: It's hard not to feel hopelessly parochial when you say Alaska and then the map reveals that you're actually in Turkmenistan.

And before you get started, one Geoguessr addict offers this helpful reminder: Google and China don't get along. (Play here.)

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About brainiac Brainiac is the daily blog of the Globe's Sunday Ideas section, covering news and delights from the worlds of art, science, literature, history, design, and more. You can follow us on Twitter @GlobeIdeas.
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Brainiac blogger Kevin Hartnett is a writer in Columbia, South Carolina. He can be reached here.

Leon Neyfakh is the staff writer for Ideas. Amanda Katz is the deputy Ideas editor. Stephen Heuser is the Ideas editor.

Guest blogger Simon Waxman is Managing Editor of Boston Review and has written for WBUR, Alternet, McSweeney's, Jacobin, and others.

Guest blogger Elizabeth Manus is a writer living in New York City. She has been a book review editor at the Boston Phoenix, and a columnist for The New York Observer and Metro.

Guest blogger Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer and editor in New York City. She edits Smithsonian's SmartNews blog and has contributed to Salon, Good, The American Prospect, Bloomberg News, and other publications.

Guest blogger Joshua Glenn is a Boston-based writer, publisher, and freelance semiotician. He was the original Brainiac blogger, and is currently editor of the blog HiLobrow, publisher of a series of Radium Age science fiction novels, and co-author/co-editor of several books, including the story collection "Significant Objects" and the kids' field guide to life "Unbored."

Guest blogger Ruth Graham is a freelance journalist in New Hampshire, and a frequent Ideas contributor. She is a former features editor for the New York Sun, and has written for publications including Slate and the Wall Street Journal.

Joshua Rothman is a graduate student and Teaching Fellow in the Harvard English department, and an Instructor in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government. He teaches novels and political writing.

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