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Sure, Apple Maps Stinks, But Look at These Crazy Cool Dalí-Esque Scenes

Sure, Apple Maps Stinks, But Look at These Crazy Cool Dalí-Esque Scenes

It's not exactly news that Apple's iOS Maps program has been a dud. The company apologized for the app shortly after its release last fall, and while Apple recently announced deals to put Maps in several big name cars, Google Maps remains king of the digital cartographic castle. But iOS Maps isn't a total loss — on the contrary, some of its glitches distort places in a grotesque, surrealistic way that would have made Salvador Dalí proud.

We're talking facades melting into streets, trees vomiting leaves, roads vanishing into buildings, hills sloping straight into the Earth's core — the list goes on.


"The Drop" - Stockholm

Apple Maps malfunctions are so enjoyable that Stockholm-based tech developer Peder Norrby has collected a whole series of them (via Animal New York). Norrby, the founder of a digital graphics company called Trapcode, says he can roam the 3D "buildings" mode of Maps for hours just looking at sites and cities. He captures screenshots of twisted images and adds them to a Flickr page he calls "mapglitch," though he keeps another set of lovely glitch-free images, too.

"I call this 'maphotography,' " says Norrby. "I like to imagine I'm flying a little spaceship and can go anywhere on Earth."


"Houses throwing up trees" (Barcelona)

As a digital graphics guy, Norrby knows better than most why the glitches appear. The images shown in iOS Maps are 3D composites of two-dimensional photographs taken by satellites and airplanes, he explains. Computer software analyzes the photos, infers the complex geometry underlying various structures, and tries to depict the image in three dimensions. But sometimes a structure is just too quirky or complicated for a program to handle — especially bridges, viaducts, and tunnels.

"Some of them I just stumble upon," says Norrby of the Maps glitches, "and sometimes I actively look at places that I know are hard for computer software to understand."


"Coney Island" (New York)

Norrby's favorite glitch is probably the Gröna Lund amusement park in Stockholm. He calls the computer's efforts to make sense of the roller coasters "amazing, amusing, and beautiful." (A similar effect occurs with Coney Island.) In the end, though, his appreciation for the source of the map glitches doesn't diminish his appreciation for their accidental artistry.

"I like the weird, twisted, trippy, contorted shapes," he says. "I just like they way they look."


"Abrupt Stop" (Stockholm)


"Trouble on the Strip" (Las Vegas)


"Tricky Roundabout" (Stockholm)

All images courtesy of Peder Norrby.

Eric Jaffe is a contributing writer to The Atlantic Cities and the author of A Curious Madness (2014) and The King's Best Highway (2010). He lives in New York. All posts »

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