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How GeoGuessr pros can pinpoint any place in the world just from a Google street image

Imagine someone handing you a photo of a random street corner, neighborhood or field anywhere in the world and expecting you to know where it is. Occasionally, you might get lucky and see a sign or a landmark that gives a helpful clue, but chances are good that all you’d have to go from is some vegetation and maybe a building or two to guess from. We live in a huge world—seems impossible, right?

But that’s often all that GeoGuessr pros need to be able to tell you in seconds where on the globe the image came from, often within just a handful of miles.

When Swedish IT consultant Anton Wallén launched the GeoGuessr app in 2013, he surely didn’t expect it to launch an entire global esport phenomenon. It was just a fun game to be dropped somewhere on the globe and try to guess where you are. But thanks to the pandemic forcing people to travel virtually for a while, it took viral hold as a competitive game in 2021. Now there’s even a GeoGuessr World Cup championship, and it’s a wild ride to watch.

In fact, these players are so fast at pinpointing locations based on photos that would have most of us scratching our heads, saying, “Heck, that could be anywhere,” it’s almost hard to watch. Check out even just a minute or so of these highlights:

One of the most popular Geoguessr players on social media is Trevor Rainbolt, one of the hosts of the 2023 GeoGuessr World Cup. While he says he’s not as good as some of the other pros, his TikTok account has 2.7 million followers and he consistently demonstrates his ability to find anything on the planet based on an outdoor photo. Literally anything, anywhere.

Rainbolt explained to WIRED some of the tools and tricks of the Geoguessr trade, and it’s both incredibly impressive and surprisingly mundane. Obviously, when there are street signs visible that offers a huge clue, but players learn details about every element of different countries’ landscapes, from telephone poles to vegetation the way lines are painted on the street to what garbage bins look like in different cities. They even get so specific as the color and texture of soils.

Watch Rainbolt explain:

Geoguessr players educate themselves using Google Maps so thoroughly that they are able to piece together every tiny clue to make an educated guess about where an image comes from. But it’s the speed with which the pros make their guesses that’s so mesmerizing—the result of years of learning and practice, just like any other highly developed skill.

If this all seems a bit pointless (though one could argue there’s always a point to knowing where you are), there are actually some really heartwarming things that have come out of the “geonerd” world. For instance, a woman had a photo of her mom, but zero other information about her. Rainbolt was able to pinpoint the exact location the photo was taken, giving the woman a clue into her own past.

@georainbolt

this one felt good #geo #geoguessr #geography #geowizard

And another similar request yielded similar results:

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@georainbolt

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Sometimes people’s requests are even more challenging, and yet Rainbolt manages to find locations with remarkable accuracy.

@georainbolt

road matching #geo #geography #geowizard #geoguessr #ReadySetLift

People often tell him he should be hired by the CIA or FBI, and for sure that seems plausible. But what’s great about what he does is that he explains exactly how he does it. It just takes countless hours over years and years to get to know the planet as well as he and other Geoguessr pros know it.

Anyone can play—just download the GeoGuessr app or play online and give it a go. Fair warning, though. It’s not nearly as easy as these guys make it look.

Highly recommend following @georainbolt to watch more.

Source: Upworthy
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