It’s one of many flashy design demos available on the new customizable map animation engine Tangram.

For the casual map fan, Mapzen’s new suite of animated global maps are sweet, delicious eye-candy. And for the developer or map-maker, they hint at cartographic possibilities hardly available until now.

Tangram is a map-making engine that allows users to create multi-dimensional, animated maps for free. It combines Mapzen’s new vector tile service, which chops up OpenStreetMap data into easily processed chunks, and WebGL, a fancy graphics renderer, to allow “real-time map design, display, and interactivity,” according to the Mapzen website. Peter Richardson, a Tangram developer, expands in an email:

All of these things together produce effects you'd normally only see in video games, data visualization, or VFX. The Tangram team is made up of representatives from all of these industries, and we're used to a certain level of control over graphics which hasn't been readily available in the map world, so we've been working to fix that.
To give a sense of what developers and cartographers can do with Tangram, Richardson and his team created a number of demos. Ever wondered what your city might look like after Neo takes the red pill? How about if it were stacked together with Legos? Permanently encrusted in glitter? Street grid turned Tron grid? Mapzen’s got those layers and more. (CityLab wrote about Mapzen’s Tron map in late March, after it had accidentally leaked.)

Richardson stresses that these effects aren’t necessarily intended for re-use; rather, they’re meant to inspire creativity with Tangram’s unprecedented level of interactive map-making control and flexibility. Still, even if you’re not about to sign up for Mapzen’s services, the imaginative maps are still plenty of fun to play with. There’s no location-search functionality on these embedded maps, but follow there is on the main Tangram page.

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Transportation

    How Seattle Bucked a National Trend and Got More People to Ride the Bus

    Three experts in three very different positions weigh in on their city’s ridership success.

  2. Equity

    The Side Pittsburgh Doesn't Want You to See

    Pittsburgh filmmaker Chris Ivey has spent over twelve years documenting the lives of the people displaced so that the city can achieve its “cool” status.  

  3. Construction workers build affordable housing units.
    Equity

    Why Is 'Affordable' Housing So Expensive to Build?

    As costs keep rising, it’s becoming harder and harder for governments to subsidize projects like they’ve done in the past.

  4. Transportation

    If You Drive Less Than 10,000 Miles a Year, You Probably Shouldn't Own a Car

    Up to one-quarter of all U.S. drivers might be better off using ride-sharing services instead.

  5. Etiquette

    9 Annoying Things That Ruin Community Meetings, According to Absolutely Everyone

    Step away from the mic.