Well, Christmas is very nearly here now. All the presents are wrapped (just about), the house is looking suitably festive and I’ve got Christmas dinner planned with military precision – we’ll see how that goes…
But for one particular bit of Christmas preparation, I’m glad to have technology on my side. And that’s the trip down to Plymouth to see Tim’s family.
I remember when we were first married – travelling down for Christmas in a little Mark 1 MX5 with a not-so-little paper road map – coming up to stationary traffic on the M5 and not knowing if we’d be there for 10 minutes or 2 hours. (The latter, as it turned out…)
But for the last few years, I’ve used Google Maps on my phone. Not so much for the actual directions – it’s not exactly a complicated route – but for the live traffic data.
A huge number of people use Google Maps on their phones, and the clever chaps at Google put that fact to good use. They can tell how quickly the traffic’s moving, and so how long you’re likely to be waiting in a queue, based on how quickly other people’s phones are moving – it’s ever such a good idea.
And it’s clever enough to figure out whether you’re better off leaving the motorway and heading for the A roads to get around the traffic, or just gritting your teeth and starting the next round of “I Spy”.
This year it’s being even more helpful – at least if you’ve got an Android phone (the feature hasn’t come to the iPhone version yet, I’m afraid). You can now tell it what time you plan to travel, and it’ll estimate the length of your journey so you can try to avoid the busiest times. It’s not perfect – but it’s a lot better than setting off blind!
And a little bit of nonsense for Christmas Eve
I also thought I’d pass on a cute little bit of “augmented reality” for anyone with little ones to entertain this year. You can capture one of Santa’s reindeer eating carrots in your living room!
It’s a simple online app made by MacDonalds. You just go to this web address on a smartphone or tablet, and follow the instructions. It’ll ask you to take a picture of your room – it works best if you hold your camera close to the ground – then position the reindeer on top. Then it’ll work the magic for you and come up with a little video that you can save to your phone or share on Facebook.
Laura’s been having a play with it in the warehouse – and it’s actually pretty good. I’ve popped the results here if you want to have a look!
Well, that’s it from me… and the reindeer…
I’d just like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas from everyone here at the Helpful Book Company.