Hey kids, here’s a trick you can try at home — right up until Google figures out how to stop you from doing it (seriously though, don’t do this in South Africa). A chap by the name of Simon Weckert caused a traffic jam using nothing more than a little red cart and a whole buncha phones.
On a go-slow
You can see the actual hack in the video above and it’s just what it looks like. A lone man with a cart trundling down an empty road, mucking with Google’s results. All that’s involved are some 99 smartphones in the little wheeled conveyance, giving Google the impression there are an awful lot of cars stuck in traffic.
Weckert, who is an artist when he isn’t messing with Chilled Big Brother, got the idea after noticing that Google Maps reported a traffic jam at a Berlin May Day demonstration several years ago. He said of the project “The question was if it might be possible to generate something like this in a much simpler way. I don’t need the people. I just need their smartphones.”
And thus, the Google Maps Hacks project was born. Basically, Weckert wandered around town slowly, towing 99 phones he either borrowed or rented, and messed with Google’s traffic data. Google’s systems were about an hour behind, but eventually it caught up. Even when he went by Google’s HQ in Berlin.
The point of this low-tech hack? To examine “…the connection between technology and society and the impact of technology, how it shapes us”, according to Weckert. Seems to have worked.