Swedish developer Peder Norrby collects screenshots of places where Apple’s satellite images don’t quite capture what’s actually going on in the world.

Apple’s bridges, for instance, pull up the land beneath them into a shimmering wall.

It has a lot of problems with rollercoasters.

And roadside foliage.

Apple is constantly fixing the glitches, so keep scrolling to see the ones Norrby has memorialized.

Apple is constantly fixing the glitches, so keep scrolling to see the ones Norrby has memorialized.

Apple is constantly fixing the glitches, so keep scrolling to see the ones Norrby has memorialized.

Apple is constantly fixing the glitches, so keep scrolling to see the ones Norrby has memorialized.

Apple is constantly fixing the glitches, so keep scrolling to see the ones Norrby has memorialized.

Apple is constantly fixing the glitches, so keep scrolling to see the ones Norrby has memorialized.

Apple is constantly fixing the glitches, so keep scrolling to see the ones Norrby has memorialized.

Apple is constantly fixing the glitches, so keep scrolling to see the ones Norrby has memorialized.

Apple is constantly fixing the glitches, so keep scrolling to see the ones Norrby has memorialized.

Apple is constantly fixing the glitches, so keep scrolling to see the ones Norrby has memorialized.

Apple is constantly fixing the glitches, so keep scrolling to see the ones Norrby has memorialized.

2013-06-28

Apple's Mesmerizing Map Glitches Show How Its Maps Differ From Google's

Look a little closer into Apple’s maps, and you’ll find a surreal world where bridges are mashed into land, houses look like they’re throwing up trees, and a Coney Island roller coaster looks like a twisted steel vortex.

Where there are maps, there are glitches. This seems to be a universal law of the Internet circa 2013. The mash-up of photographic, topographic and geographic data that allows you to fly around the world, sightseeing by browser, is miraculous, but just too huge and too complicated to be error-free.

"The system tries to infer a 3-D geometry from a set of 2-D images," explains Swedish developer Peder Norrby, who has been documenting glitches in iOS Maps on Flickr. "That is hard to do and honestly I think they’re doing a great job, but errors happen and sometimes they look funny, weird, twisted, and beautiful."

They’re also mildly instructive. The companies don’t disclose their algorithms much less their algorithms’ errors, but Google Earth, as documented by programmer and artist Clement Valla, seems to have a problem with skyscrapers on hilly terrain, and with bridges, which get smooshed down onto the ground underneath. iOS Maps, on the other hand, appears to have a more varied repertoire.

"The errors happen mostly where there are large complex multi-level structures such as bridges, viaducts etc.," says Norrby. Apple’s bridges have the opposite problem of Google’s; instead of mashing the bridges onto the land, the bridges pull the land up into a distorted, shimmering wall.

Google Map’s bridges get sucked down into the ground they’re passing over.
Apple’s bridges pull the land up to meet them.

A particularly difficult structure to capture seems to be the roller coaster, with its irregular and unpredictable surfaces.

iOS Maps also has trouble with roadside foliage. You can see this in the strange blend of trees and roads in Central Park, or in a photo Norrby titled "Houses throwing up trees, Barcelona."

But like Google, Apple is constantly improving to get rid of these glitches. "’Houses throwing up trees’ just seem to have disappeared," Norrby says. "Or at least I cannot find it anymore."

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5 Comments

  • ronwagn

    Just got lost for three hours in Montreal thanks to Apple maps! Did not list the major street we needed, but did list one with the same name in  a suburb across town!

  • Ned Berke

    That's not the Cyclone. Not even close. It's the Screaming Eagle, a coaster built, I believe, two years ago - on the opposite side of Coney Island.

  • Russ Alman

    I would hope that Norrby is sharing these glitches with Apple and Google to help track them down.

    Maybe that's part of why Google bought Waze.   Their crowdsourcing concept is very effective.