Google could have saved Hansel and Gretel with My Tracks

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In the Grimm fairy tale Hansel and Gretel, the children leave a trail of breadcrumbs as they walk into the woods so they can mark where they’ve been and remember the way back. Unfortunately, some animals eat those breadcrumbs and the children stray into big trouble. Had Hansel and Gretel just had a G1 phone, they might have been saved.

A new application for Android-powered phones called My Tracks, lets you set out on a trail and keep track of your path via your phone’s GPS. You can then upload your path to Google and get live statistics such as time, speed, distance, and elevation. These are all viewable on a Google Map. And you can even send you data out via email or Twitter to have others follow you in real time.

As is the case with much of what Google has done recently with location sharing, those paranoid about their privacy are going to hate this. I’m sure someone will come up with a reason for why sharing a hiking trail in real time isn’t cool — perhaps they’ll worry a witch will use it to track you down, plump you up, and eat you.

I, however, find it to be a very cool use of GPS combined with Google technology. Not surprisingly, this was another “20 percent” project from Googlers, who apparently are outdoors enthusiasts.

The only question I have is, will the fact that the G1 has awful battery performance when applications are running in the background mean I won’t be able to complete an entire trail without the thing dying? And also, when is this coming to the iPhone? (Perhaps if and when Apple ever enables background tasks.)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBmjJrgUGdE&hl=en&fs=1&color1=0x2b405b&color2=0x6b8ab6]

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