The Maps Of The Future Look Like Giant Cracker Jack Toys

Paper maps are a pain. They’re clunky, get torn easily, and never seem to fold back the way they’re supposed to. Sure, you can always turn to a laptop or iPhone to get a digital copy, but most transit websites are painfully slow and difficult to navigate. What’s a wandering traveler to do?

Urban Mapping, a San Francisco based company founded in 2001, may have developed the next generation of maps. At least, they’ve made some maps that look cool and fold up nicely, which is enough for me. Each map consists of a layered plastic material, which comes together to form three (or more) maps in one. Each map appears depending on the angle that you view the sheet – it looks a lot like those toys you used to find in Cracker Jack Boxes, and uses the same (albeit improved) printing technique.

The two maps currently in production display the street view, neighborhood layout, and subway routes of Chicago and Manhattan, and retail for around $20. Depending on their reception, Urban Mapping say it can create simialr maps for any number of cities or other applications.

Urban Mapping actually released similar maps years ago, but the idea never took hold and the company wound up going bankrupt. It then switched gears and now licenses extensive mapping data related to neighborhoods and transit to big players like Yahoo, along with a number of smaller companies. Now that he’s got a sustainable company, founder Ian White is giving the dynamic maps another shot.