Friday, November 29, 2013

Explore Tolkien's Middle Earth with Google Maps

More than a few of us, I'm sure, have used Google Maps to look around our old neighborhoods, college towns, and of course, current locales. Many have also used Google Maps to virtually walk around prospective places to travel or live. But how many have used this popular Google feature to explore the map of Middle Earth?
A map of J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth.
Image via

In advance of the December 13 theatrical release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the second in the trilogy of film adaptions of The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien, Google and Warner Bros. Pictures have collaborated on what is being called a "Chrome Experiment." This experiment allows fans of Tolkien to visit the actual physical locations that comprise Middle Earth, the fantastical setting for The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings adventures.

It's basically a guided, interactive tour of Tolkien's Middle Earth, with the current destinations being Rivendell, Trollshaws, and Dol Guldur (more locales will be added later). Out of curiosity, I opened Google Chrome, went to Google Maps, and alternatively typed in "Rivendell," "Trollshaws," and "Dol Guldur," just to see what would happen. Well, it turns out that you can't explore Middle Earth in that way. You actually have to go to a particular link in order to do so. It's Going to this link will take you to the following screen:
Image via

Clicking on "Begin" will take you to a screen showing an aerial view of a map, from which you can choose to explore "The Wild Upland Woods: Trollshaw," "The Elven Enclave: Rivendell," or "The Once Great Fortress: Dol Guldur." Venturing further into each you will find that you need to use a compass point in order to navigate the terrain, just like you do in Google Maps. I found the graphics within each realm to not be as cool as those on the realm's cover page. Maybe they're still working on that. Still, being able to explore Middle Earth in this way is such a novel idea that Tolkien fans will be intrigued and perhaps pleased.

"In addition to the interactive map," reported Alexandra Cheney of the Wall Street Journal, "there's a 3-D explorable rend of each place designed to work on Chrome and Android. The project marks the first time Chrome Experiments have brought 3-D to a mobile device."

To get an idea of what it is like to take a "Journey through Middle-earth, a Chrome Experiment," check out the brief YouTube video below:

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