Hyperlapse Tool Takes Google Street View To A Whole New Level

Google Street View was a boon to desk- and couch-bound wanderers when it debuted back in 2007, but even the most fervent Street View explorers would agree that the endless clicking is a bit of a chore.

Enter a free online tool that uses Street View images to create a personalized animated road trip. The Hyperlapse tool, created by a Toronto design company, lets you choose any two drivable points on the map, and then stitches together the Google Street View images to create an animation that you can pan around in real time.

The above video demonstrates the hyperlapse tool’s remarkable capabilities. The montage includes drives past major American landmarks and through other countries like Denmark Slovakia, Canada and Australia.

The online interface currently only provides basic point-to-point animation with a locked frame rate, so a two-hour drive like the one I animated from Montreal to Ottawa will take but a couple seconds. However, the featured hyperlapses, which show custom-made drives through the places like the Australian outback and Yosemite National Park are well worth a look. No word yet on when we will be able to animate trips to Street View’s more unique destinations, like up Everest or down the Amazon.

Canadian hotel offers amnesty to thieves

old teacupIn honor of its upcoming 100-year anniversary, the Château Laurier Hotel in Ottawa is offering an amnesty for anyone who has pilfered something from the hotel over the last century. The historic, castle-like hotel in the Canadian capital put out the call for the items on February 23, 100 days before the 100-year anniversary, and has already received more than 60 items from people all over North America.

“The amnesty part means there are no questions asked,” said Deneen Perrin, the hotel’s director of public relations, in a telephone interview with Gadling on Wednesday. “It doesn’t matter whether your grandmother took a silver spoon and put it in her purse or if someone’s parents maybe worked in the hotel and took something, we’ll take it back.”

Perrin said that the hotel has had a steady stream of returns, both in person and through the mail. Many of the mail returns had no return address and some who return items in person place them on the front desk and slink out. One gentleman pulled up in front of the hotel and handed a bellhop a circa-1912 doorknob from the hotel before speeding off. Others have sent in old stationery, a print likeness of the hotel, swizzle sticks, teacups, china, old brass keys, and a 20′s era utility knife with the hotel logo on it.

%Gallery-150435%”We haven’t received any old TV’s or clock radios, yet,” said Perrin, who noted that hotel bathrobes are now the most commonly pilfered item in guestrooms. She said that the hotel automatically charges a guest’s credit card if they steal towels or a bathrobe but demurred when asked if guests who returned recently stolen bathrobes could get refunds.

“I’m not sure about that one,” she said. “We’d consider it.”

The hotel opened on June 1, 1912, with rooms going for $2 a night. The opening of the hotel was actually delayed by several weeks because the man who was to manage the place died on the Titanic. Perrin said that the hotel plans to open an exhibit featuring all of the returned items from the last century on June 1 this year.

According to Perrin, everyone who makes a return seems to have an alibi. Some better than others.

“Everyone who calls says, ‘now I have something but I swear I didn’t steal it,’” she said.

VIA Rail Canada brings back bike trains for summer season

bike trainsTraveling with your two-wheeled best friend just got a whole lot easier. Since 2007, VIA Rail Canada has provided seasonal bike racks on select VIA Rail departures, as part of its mandate to provide more environmentally sustainable, affordable passenger transit. Now, the racks will be available yearound, and increased baggage cars mean that cyclists can connect to even more cycling destinations.

By taking VIA (Canada’s national rail service), you can access thousands of miles of cycling paths running from Toronto, Ottawa, Montréal, Quebec City, London, Windsor, Jonquière, and Senneterre. Popular cycling trips include Quebec’s La Route Verte (2,671 miles), the Greater Niagara Circle Route (86 miles), Ottawa’s Capital Parkway Network (136 miles) and Ontario’s Waterfront Trails (559 miles).

Using the bike trains is easy. Check your buddy at the counter for a small fee; VIA staff do the rest, reuniting you on the platform at your destination. For a full listing of VIA’s Bike Train schedules click here.

[Photo credit: Flickr user cycle.nut66]

Vegetarian child stranded in airport, fed burgers

Julien Reid, at only nine years old, is used to air travel. He routinely flies between his parents in Ottawa, and San Francisco, so he’s seen it all … well, he has now. Reid was forgotten in a children’s waiting room in Chicago, where he spent eight hours waiting and hoping to be discovered.

According to the Ottawa Citizen:

He was in a “tiny, little room cramped with kids,” where they played the same video on a loop all day, he said. The only food he’d been given was McDonald’s, a less than satisfactory option for a vegetarian like him. He said he and the other children were yelled at “to stop being kids.”

Meanwhile, the flight left without Reid. How did it happen? Among the many calls made to find out what was happening, Reid’s mother, Genevieve Harte, spoke with the United Airlines attendant tasked with keeping an eye on the kids. According to the Citizen, “It was this frazzled attendant who let it slip, Harte said, that no one had come to fetch Julien to put him on his flight.”

Citing something of an airline “omerta” policy, Harte, who suspects her son was bumped from a crowded flight, told the citizen: “It’s a lot easier to have a kid that’s not going to say anything than an adult who has a business meeting that’s going to scream at you in front of everybody.”

United said it’s going to give Harte “a refund for the childcare fee and an undisclosed goodwill gesture.”

[photo by FHKE via Flickr]

The top 50 cities for quality of life

If you don’t live in Vienna, you might consider moving there.

A new survey lists the top 50 cities for quality of life and Vienna comes out as number one. The survey, conducted by Mercer, a human resources consultancy firm, looked at criteria such as infrastructure, economy, housing, recreation, personal and press freedom, and education. Vienna certainly scores high in all that, plus it has historic neighborhoods and cool clocks. It’s just a shame the Toilet Bar had to change its decor.

The top ten cities are:

Vienna
Zurich
Geneva
Vancouver
Auckland
Dusseldorf
Frankfurt
Munich
Bern
Sydney

European cities dominate the top fifty. No U.S. city shows up until number 31 (Honolulu) followed by San Francisco (32), Boston (37), Chicago and Washington (tied at 45), New York City (49) and Seattle coming in surprisingly low at 50. Canada did much better with Vancouver at number 4, Ottawa at 14, Toronto at 16, Montreal at 21, and Calgary at 28.

Mercer actually surveyed 221 cities, with Baghdad scoring dead last. Go figure. They also listed the most eco-friendly cities, with Calgary taking the top spot.

Image of Cafe Central, Vienna courtesy Andreas Praefcke via Wikimedia Commons.