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Imagine for a moment that you’re on a cross-country road trip with a friend. After many long hours on the highway, your friend offers to take the wheel and let you get some rest. You doze off in the passenger seat, but awake with a jolt to find yourself alone in the car on the side of a completely unfamiliar road. You have no idea how long you’ve been asleep, where your friend went, or where you are. The car appears to have a flat tire and there’s no cell reception, so you’ll have to set out on foot.
This hypothetical scenario would test your ability to ascertain information from your surroundings, and use that information to navigate to safety. What does the terrain look like? Is the road a well-maintained highway or a rural backroad? Are there any identifiable signs or structures nearby? Is there evidence of cultivated land, crops, or livestock? What sort of pedestrian traffic and vehicles do you see, if any? All of these questions will help you establish where you are and, hopefully, where you need to go.
GeoGuessr is a free browser-based online game that could also be referred to as Google Street View: The Game. It uses the massive database of existing street-level photographs, virtually drops you onto a random street somewhere on Earth (or any specific country, state, or city), and tasks you with guessing your location. You can pan, zoom, and move the camera in any direction to gather more information, but the goal is to mark your guess on the map as close as possible to your virtual location. The closer you get, the more points you receive. There’s also a timed Challenge Mode where you can compete with other players.
While this might seem like little more than a fun way to kill some time, it can actually help to improve your observation and navigation skills. GeoGuessr provides a compass, but the rest is up to you. Just like if you’re lost in real life, you may need to travel down miles of empty road to find a highway marker, intersection, or even a building with signage that indicates where you are. You can also narrow it down based on other clues, such as passing vehicles (although license plates are blurred, so you can’t determine the state you’re in that way). The “World” version of the game amps up difficulty further, since the signs may all be in a language you can’t read.
If you’ve got some down time and are interested in testing your land nav skills, you can play the game at GeoGuessr.com.