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Custom Maps Android App Lets You Create Digital Maps from Any Map Image

A new Android app called “Custom Maps” — recently released as open source allows for easy creation of digital maps from any map image. The image can be a photo of a paper map, a photo of a brochure map, or a picture of the map posted at a trailhead or at the entrance to an amusement park. It could also be a .jpeg or .png image hosted on the internet or a screenshot of a PDF map, revealed Marko Teittinen, Google Geo Team.

“All you’ve to do is choose two (or more) matching points that are common to both the map image and Google Maps, and Custom Maps can show your GPS location on the map. Custom Maps stores the geo aligned map images into KMZ files, which’re simply ZIP files containing the geo location information in KML format, and the map image file. This makes it possible to take the map image out of the KMZ file, add some personal markup in the map using an image editor, and put the image back into the KMZ file. As long as the image isn’t resized in the process, the marked up map image can now display the user’s GPS location,” explains Teittinen.

“Custom Maps users can share created geo aligned map images as email attachments or by using QR codes. When a Custom Maps compatible QR code is scanned by a barcode scanner application, users can open the link directly in the Custom Maps app instead of a web browser.”

Custom Maps is published under Apache License 2.0 at Google Code. The source code can be studied for examples of how to deal with the following topics on Android mobile apps:

  • “dealing with large images in constrained memory environment of mobile devices
  • parsing XML (KML) documents using XML pull API
  • using Google Maps Android API and displaying translucent overlays on MapView widget
  • declaring an app to be able to handle special URLs and file types so it can be launched by QR codes and mail applications can direct attachment to it
  • triggering file sharing intent from an app,” Teittinen stated.

Custom Maps showing a birdwatcher’s location overlaid on a photo of a posted park map.

Custom Maps showing a hiker’s location on Mist Trail in Yosemite National Park.

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