It’s 2014, and thanks to the pesky limitations of physics, we still don’t have teleporters. But at least we have the Internet: A new website from a Canadian artist will transport you instantly to random places around the world via the newest Google Maps API and a series of panoramic photos.
Teleporter opens, appropriately, with a shot of the Tardis, the sci-fi spacecraft Dr. Who uses to travel through space and time. "The Tardis is a little unreliable—you’re not quite sure where or when you’re going," says creator Jim Andrews. Like the Tardis, when a person clicks the "teleport" button on the Teleporter, he could end up anywhere—the algorithm calculates a random latitude and longitude somewhere on Earth, and then finds the closest panoramic photo in Google’s archives.
A few clicks took me from a park in the Amazon Basin, to a grave on an island in the South Atlantic, to a boat in Russia, and to a town square in Rwanda. Finally, I ended up looking at a research station in Antarctica—apparently a somewhat likely place to turn up, since there are few panoramic photos in Antarctica and the continent takes up a lot of space.
Andrews says he was inspired by Geoguessr, an addictive game that also shows a picture of a random location, and then asks users to try to guess where it is. While Geoguessr seems to usually end up on a road and sticks to shots taken by Google’s cameras, the Teleporter often goes off the grid, ending up any place there happens to be a panoramic photo. Though it’s not designed as a game, you can still guess the location before clicking on the map.
"I’m doing this basically as a piece of art," says Andrews, who calls himself a "programmer-poet" and has been working with experimental online art and writing since the late 1990s. "Part of the inspiration for Teleporter is this idea of trying to create imaginative online machines, to present people with a machine that they drive. It’s fun."