Cosmo Guessr?

I got hooked on GeoGuessr over the last few days. Apparently its the latest Internet Craze so I don’t feel so special, but I do feel a bit of a junkie. Its hard to stop. The idea is v.simple. They show you a Google Streetview image of some random place in the world. You can roam around somewhat with the usual arrows, looking at the vegetation, hunting for street signs, etc. Then you guess where you are by plonking a pin on the world map. The closer you get the more points you score.

The closest I’ve been is 62km, somewhere in Poland. Generally on a five-go game I am averaging about ten thousand points, corresponding to about 2000km out on average. I usually get the right continent… I do NOT search for things on the real Google. I decided that is cheating, although my kidz don’t agree. Sigh… the look-it-up generation.

My main conclusion is most of the world is scrub, and the rest looks vaguely like Kazakhstan.

So who is up for making CosmoGuessr? It would be easy to knock up using the Google API. Or perhaps Jonathan Fay could add it to World Wide Telescope. Actually this is likely to be the most boring game ever, because of the Cosmological Principle. Everywhere looks the same on average. Bunch of random galaxies. You would at least spot when you were at low galactic latitude I suppose, by seeing all those pesky stars. In fact maybe to work it has to be GalactoGuessr, confined to the Milky Way. Even then, could be a bit dull. If you happen to land bang on the Eagle Nebula or whatever you’d be in there, but otherwise… It would basically boil down to estimating (l, b) from star density. Or am I wrong?

Meanwhile, you can play with billion stars on our zoomable Milky Way from UKIDSS and VISTA data. Still an unofficial feature of our archives at the moment, but I am sure we will realise it sometime… While I am plugging (relatively) new stuff, check out the UKIDSS coverage maps. You can browse them in Aladin. Many thanks to our CDS chums for pushing this through the IVOA. (Hope you like the new look web pages btw). Anyway, enough VO-ish meanderings.

17 Responses to Cosmo Guessr?

  1. Aleks says:

    It is even worse. If one would try to emulate GeoGuessR, one needs to make an arbitrary decision about the vantage point. The Google space camera roams around, and doesn’t conveniently stay on one point (like Earth). It even enters buildings (i.e. nebula, stars, black holes?). It could be fun to simulate the CosmoGuessR landscapes. I’m not so sure about playing it though.

  2. Are games fun which computers can do better? http://astrometry.net/ can tell you where you are.

  3. andyxl says:

    Astrometry.net is pretty cool. It can still be fun playing a game that some other entity is better at… but indeedy it can be dull playing something that only involves guesswork and calculation. Why do people enjoy Sudoku?

  4. Norman Gray says:

    Our group has an annuallish quiz fixture against the RAS (that’s http://www.renfrewshireastro.co.uk/ rather than the usurpers in that London). The winners are usually determined by whose turn it is to set the questions: there’s nothing like identifying close-up images of minor constellations (with the audience shouting out ‘that’s upside down!’) to _really_ separate the pros from the amateurs.

  5. Mark McCaughrean says:

    Hmmm. Just played GeoGuessR for the first time on a Friday evening and managed 17,000+ points at the first go, including one location correct to within 15 metres😉 Nope, it wasn’t outside my house, but the big sign saying “Lulea” was a bit of a giveaway, allowing me to backtrack quite nicely to the bridge I’d started off on.

    Then another one to within 45km; northern Norway has a certain something about it.

    But it’s not quite obvious how random this is: out of the five, two were (obviously) in Sweden, one in Norway, and then two in the midwest of the US. I’ve been in Gothenburg this week and the concidence struck me as odd. Have you been to Kazakhstan recently?😉

    • Mark McCaughrean says:

      Right; quite enough of that. Best score so far: 31,532 points, with the closest to correct being just 7m on Calle Juan C Doria in Tulancingo in Hidalgo, to the east of Mexico City. One each in Mexico, Texas, Ireland, Sweden, and Finland. And, scout’s honour, all without recourse to any information except what was presented by GeoGuessR itself.

      Horrifyingly addictive.

      • andyxl says:

        I think a lot of people hate you now Mark. Never got more than 13,000. Its a happy fluke if you land somewhere you actually recognise, but I think the real fun is more general detective stuff.. well they drive on the left, and this looks like semi-tropical vegetation, and there is nowhere this empty in Europe, etc etc.

        The other day I landed in Kauai but I thought it was Kona, so the score still wasn’t that high…

      • Mark McCaughrean says:

        Oh dear; sorry🙂 I managed a 0km one before cycling home this evening, somewhere in Canada, albeit not in the context of a new high score. Somewhere around 25,000, I think.

        I agree completely though; it’s all about the detective work, looking for street signs, road junctions, vegetation, language used. I’m not sure that the starting locations are random, as I’ve found that I start off in or near habitations quite often. But many of them are small and lost in wild, barren landscapes. Quite an eye opener …

        I shall endeavour not to lose my entire weekend to this …

        (p.s. One leveller might be to have a time limit for each location, although personally, I’d find that very frustrating; it’s a perfectionist thing …)

      • ian smail says:

        having a time or distance limit would make it more interesting: a sudden-death version where you have ~30 sec to decide?

        we usually got the right latitude but the worst matches were mistaking south africa for southern australia.

        and i agree with mark – the choice of location didn’t look that random – unless for some reason google have digitised more of alaska/western canada/ukraine/southern russia than the rest of the globe (we were playing in aspen – which did make me wonder if it used your IP location).

      • Mark McCaughrean says:

        Ack: damn it for being a Friday night.

        32,373, beating the challenge set by one of the highest scorers I could find online (32,176). And unlike him, cross my fingers, hope to die, I nothing used except the information on GeoGuessr itself; I was sorely tempted once or twice (the Eyre Highway is very long and very boring), but I did not succumb.

        Seems to be very close to the maximum possible score; some are getting 32,39(2,3,4,5).

        http://goo.gl/3CeIU

    • Nick Cross says:

      I noticed that all the ones I get in Russia are in cities, but I get random bits of countryside in Australia, South Africa, Alaska, Canada and Lithuania. Lithuanian roads seem to be untarmacked. I haven’t got any UK locations yet. The closest to the UK have been Northern France and the west coast of Ireland.

  6. John Peacock says:

    I tried it, and one of my locations was inside a large barn, from which there was no exit…..

    Mark, how did you find your location on the Eyre highway without in effect using google maps for place-name information? The “plant your guess” map is basically a google map, and you get extra info as you zoom in – so that is sort of cheating. It would be a more interesting challenge if you got roads and rivers, but no labels.

    It’s great, and will need some self-discipline to stop it becoming a time sink….

    • Mark McCaughrean says:

      Indeed, you’re right, John: I did need to use the built-in google map that’s in the corner of GeoGuessr. Although in my (minor) defence, there’s no search box and it’s fixed at such a small size that it’s a pain panning around. So, I restricted myself to what was on the GeoGuessr page, but that included the map, yes.

      For the Eyre Highway location, I wandered up and down the road until I saw a sign which gave that name and the highway number. My Aussie geography wasn’t good enough to locate it very well on that rather large island, but fortunately, there was a garage nearby which had a big map in its window that, at full magnification, I could see was of Western Australia.

      I’ve managed to avoid playing it for a few days, but …

      • John Peacock says:

        I wish there was a way you could tell it to drive down the road automatically until you click to stop. In some places, the roads are pretty devoid of information.

      • Mark McCaughrean says:

        Close, but no cigar: 32,362. Actually, this set was relatively easy, at least to begin with:

        http://goo.gl/4LDa0 (click to challenge my score)

        (Same rules applied: only using the street view images and small google map in the corner).

  7. Mark McCaughrean says:

    Well, it kept me away from the TV of an evening for a few days … but now it’s over. Apparently the highest possible score in GeoGuessr is 32,395 … which I got on the following challenge:

    http://goo.gl/ZX0t2

    Again, nothing used apart from the street view images and the small Google map inside GeoGuessr.

    Have a go; I’m done🙂

  8. Rob Ivison says:

    9,476, conveniently ignoring 1st attempt wherein i mistook Oz for SA, Chile for Brazil, etc.

    shaln’t be catching you any time soon, Mark.

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