John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It basically turns your city into Tron.
Ever wish your city was a geekoplex of glowing geometric shapes and animated light cycles? Log into the "Vector Map," then, and experience life as it appears in everybody's favorite (and least favorite) Jeff Bridges' cyber saga.
The futuristic cartography is a stunning use of New York-based Mapzen's Tangram engine, which can create intricate, 3-D cityscapes based on OpenStreetMap data. Skyscrapers jut out like huge, translucent crystals—swivel the mouse around to see different perspectives—and traffic is simulated with gliding, xanthous dots and dashes. The whole presentation looks like a lit-up circuit board that's crawling with radioactive ants.
You can get a small taste of the map's mesmerizing draw from the below screenshots. But as Maps Mania notes, these pale next to the real thing, and "you really need to view the map yourself in a WebGL enabled browser." (Check out your own city quickly by entering its coordinates at the end of the site's URL, as in "tronish.yaml#5/38.8923012/-77.0352517" for Washington, D.C.)
Chicago's grid and Tron's The Grid are nearly indistinguishable:
Los Angeles' notoriously knotted Pregerson Interchange looks like a particle-beam mishap:
Singapore has gained some kind of alien mothership (actually, it's the VivoCity shopping complex):
The Burj Khalifa seen from an angle: