There are people dedicating themselves professionally to guess places on Google Maps. The result is spectacular

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To have a fun time —and make it happen to others— Trevor Rainbolt you don’t need much. You get a computer, a good connection to move around Street View and a few seconds. Maybe less. Based on spending hours learning the secrets of Google’s street map and some other geography manual, Rainbolt, a 23-year-old American, is able to do something amazing with those meager resources: accurately identify any image taken from Maps.

His ability is as peculiar as it is extraordinary.

He gets to see briefly any screenshot of Stree View to affirm, quickly, almost without hesitation and an amazing level of accuracy, which country or region you belong to. A remote and poorly paved road flanked by desert hills? Australia. A dirt path surrounded by leafy trees? Sri Lanka. A neighborhood with two-story white houses and wide sidewalks under an overcast sky? United Kingdom. That easy. so of convolutedly difficult.

Show me a picture and I’ll tell you where you are

Rainbolt claims in fact that it is able to recognize the location of an image with a simple glance of 0.1 seconds, less than what we ordinary mortals need to keep even a vague image of what we have looked at. To delight his fans — who have them, and not just a few — and convince skeptics, the young man posts videos showing off his skills on his accounts. Twitter, Instagram Y Twitter, in which he uses the username @geonrainbolt or rainbolt and accumulates thousands of followers. Between the three, it adds up to 86,000.

On TikTok it’s on its way to 602,000 followers and a whopping 17 million likes. There he defines himself simply as a “professional Google Maps player”. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Rainbolt is not alone in his passion for geography and identifications on Google Maps. The game that has made him a celebrity is called GeoGuessr and had its golden age almost a decade ago, in 2013, when he attracted the interest of a community eager to show off his Mountain View street skills. Over the years she had run out of steam, but exceptions like that of Geostique or Rainbolt himself have allowed him to return to the spotlight in the middle of 2022.

The idea is quite simple: you are located randomly at any point on the map and, with no more clues than those shown in the image, you must get as close as possible to the place where it belongs. In the case of Rainbolt, his talent began to materialize in the midst of a pandemic, when he was looking for ways to discover new places without leaving home. “I really wanted to experience different cultures and see the world a bit, so I looked at GeoGuessr and the rest is history,” relates to EuroNews.

The big question is, how can Rainbolt know that this dusty road is located precisely in the north of Australia? doWhat do you see in that normal service areaso conventional that it would go through any secondary road in Spain, to know —Surprise!— that it is hidden in the north of Serbia, just a few kilometers from the border with Romania?

The truth is not everything is intuition. Rainbolt and other great GeoGuessr players handle certain keys that help them orient themselves in Street View. Some are not even related to the place itself. For example, Google has used several generations of cameras in Street View, so depending on the quality of the image you can tell if it is one or the other.

Something similar happens with the cars used by the company to move through the streets or even with clearer clues, such as faded or escort vehicles. Many houses in Germany, for example, appear blurrywhich offers any aspirant a valuable clue.

With that starting point, the players of GeoGuessr they can look at a wide range of small details that help them to locate themselves: the type of license plate, the signs, the side on which the vehicles are driven, clearly distinguishable markings, such as telephone booths or slip warnings. The rest… that depends on agility and good eye each.

What is clear is that to succeed in the game it is more important to pay attention to the details than to have traveled a lot. Rainbolt himself acknowledges that has never left America.

To have a fun time —and make it happen to others— Trevor Rainbolt you don’t need much. You get a…

To have a fun time —and make it happen to others— Trevor Rainbolt you don’t need much. You get a…

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