This Tool Creates a Heat Map of All the Places You've Visited

Screenshot of the Location History Visualizer tool
Screenshot of the Location History Visualizer tool

Can’t remember the address of that cafe you visited five years ago? Want to keep track of all the places you’ve visited around the world? Perhaps you just want to know how much Google knows about your whereabouts. (Hint: It’s a lot.)

A tool spotted by Lifehacker lets you download your entire Google location history and neatly present it in a “heat map,” with different colored blobs representing the places you’ve been. It’s called the Location History Visualizer, and although the company charges a one-time fee for premium features, the heat map tool is free.

“Everyone deserves to know what data is being collected about them, without having to fiddle with cryptic pieces of software,” according to the description on GitHub, where the data for the open-source project is being hosted. The steps are simple to follow, but it may take a while to download your location history, depending on how far and wide you’ve traveled.

You’ll want to keep two tabs open: the Google Takeout website and the Location History Visualizer site. On Google Takeout, choose “select none” at the top of the page, then toggle “location history” only. After hitting “next,” you’ll be prompted to choose the file type, archive size, and delivery method, but the default settings are suitable for most people’s needs. Finally, click “create archive” and download the file.

When it’s ready, you’ll click the Location History folder, then drag the LocationHistory.json file and drop it onto the Location History Visualizer page (alternately, you can upload it). Simply submit your email and your personalized heat map will be ready to view. You can drag and zoom in just like you would use Google Maps, but keep in mind that any places you visited in foreign countries will be presented in the local language.

As Lifehacker notes, you (and Google, of course) are the only ones that will be able to see your location data. According to an AP investigation, Google tracks the location of those with Android phones, as well as iPhone users who have Google Maps installed. Turning off Location History doesn’t stop you from being tracked, either. If you feel a little weirded out after seeing how much data Google has on you, you can put an end to it by changing the Web & App Activity settings in your Google Account. Check out this step-by-step guide from Wired for detailed instructions.

[h/t Lifehacker]

Charge Your Gadgets Anywhere With This Pocket-Sized Folding Solar Panel

Solar Cru, YouTube
Solar Cru, YouTube

Portable power banks are great for charging your phone when you’re out and about all day, but even they need to be charged via an electrical outlet. There's only so much a power bank can do when you’re out hiking the Appalachian Trail or roughing it in the woods during a camping trip.

Enter the SolarCru—a lightweight, foldable solar panel now available on Kickstarter. It charges your phone and other electronic devices just by soaking up the sunshine. Strap it to your backpack or drape it over your tent to let the solar panel’s external battery charge during the day. Then, right before you go to bed, you can plug your electronic device into the panel's USB port to let it charge overnight.

It's capable of charging a tablet, GPS, speaker, headphones, camera, or other small wattage devices. “A built-in intelligent chip identifies each device plugged in and automatically adjusts the energy output to provide the right amount of power,” according to the SolarCru Kickstarter page.

A single panel is good “for small charging tasks,” according to the product page, but you can connect up to three panels together to nearly triple the electrical output. It takes roughly three hours and 45 minutes to charge a phone using a single panel, for instance, or about one hour if you’re using three panels at once. The amount of daylight time it takes to harvest enough energy for charging will depend on weather conditions, but it will still work on cloudy days, albeit more slowly.

The foldable panel weighs less than a pound and rolls up into a compact case that it can easily be tucked away in your backpack or jacket pocket. It’s also made from a scratch- and water-resistant material, so if you get rained out while camping, it won't destroy your only source of power.

You can pre-order a single SolarCru panel on Kickstarter for $34 (less than some power banks), or a pack of five for $145. Orders are scheduled to be delivered in March.

Watch Ford's Sweaty-Butt Robot Put a Car Seat to the Test

iStock.com/gargantiopa
iStock.com/gargantiopa

Buyers tend to look at price, safety, and gas mileage when shopping for a car; a question that rarely comes up at the dealership is how well a car seat stands up to years of butt sweat. But even if it isn't a priority for car owners, the vehicle testers at Ford work to ensure the cars that leave the factory can accommodate the sweatiest passengers.

The secret to Ford's durable seats is a device called the Robutt. This video from the car company shows a Kuka robotic arm pushing a buttocks-shaped cushion into a car seat. To replicate a person sitting in the car after exercising, the dummy butt is heated to approximately human body temperate and pumped with half a liter of water. The average person produces about 0.7 to 1.5 liters of sweat in one hour of intense exercise, and people who are especially fit perspire 1.5 to 1.8 liters in the same time.

The sit test is repeated 7500 times over three days—simulating one decade of someone driving their sweaty behind home from the gym. If the surface of a car seat can make it through all that abuse without any wear and tear, the design is good enough for a Ford vehicle. Robutt-approved seats were first introduced in the 2018 Ford Fiesta and are now being built into all Ford vehicles in Europe.

You can watch the messy process play out below. Here are some more robots that, like the Robutt, were designed for oddly specific tasks.

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