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Drawing paths on Google Maps, the Indiana Jones way

I was looking into the Google Maps API the other day and came across some APIs which are really cool. I came up with a use case to show path from the current location to a particular destination entered by the user. I was also trying to achieve that Indiana Jones like effect on the map i.e. to show an animation of the path being drawn on the map.

The idea here is to show the moving path until the destination is reached and also to pan the map accordingly.

Unable to display content. Adobe Flash is required.

As seen in the video, a marker is added to the map specifying my current location (Bangalore, India). The current location data is retrieved using the HTML5’s Geolocation API. Once the latitude and longitude information are available, a marker can be added to the map. You can now enter one of your favorite destinations in the text box provided and click the Submit button to see a path drawn from your current location to the destination. The path is drawn using the Google maps ‘Polyline’ API.

Getting the current location data using HTML5’s Geolocation API:

The Geolocation API allows users share their current location information with trusted sites. You can examine the property navigator.geolocation to see whether the browser supports the Geolocation API. Alternatively, Modernizr can be used to determine the same. All modern browsers support the Geolocation API; however users are required to provide permission to the websites. Once the user has provided the permission, the method getCurrentPosition can be invoked on the navigator.geolocation object:
     var mapElement = document.getElementById('mapelement');  
     startLatitude = position.coords.latitude;  
     startLongitude = position.coords.longitude;  
     mapObj = new google.maps.Map(mapElement,  
         zoom: 3,  
         center: new google.maps.LatLng(startLatitude,startLongitude),  
         mapTypeId: google.maps.MapTypeId.TERRAIN  
     var markerPosition = new google.maps.LatLng(position.coords.latitude,position.coords.longitude);  
     var startPosition = markerPosition;                                     
     var marker = new google.maps.Marker({position:markerPosition,map:mapObj,title:'You are here'});       

Once the latitude and longitude information is available, they can be used to specify the center address and to add a marker on the map.

Drawing the path using the Polyline API:

A polyline is a linear overlay of connected line segments on the map. To draw a line on the map using the Polyline API, you have to pass the map object along with the coordinates specifying the end points as arguments. However, to get the Indiana Jones like effect, you must get as many points between the start and the end location. The latitude and longitude information of these points are then stored in an array and will later be used to achieve the desired effect.

For the purpose of this example, I’ve assumed 30 animation frames and have calculated the increment:

 function getPathData(destLatitude,destLongitude){  
    var xInc,yInc;  
    xInc = (destLatitude - startLatitude)/30;  
    yInc = (destLongitude - startLongitude)/30;  
    for(var i=0;i<30;i++){  
      path[i] = new google.maps.LatLng(startLatitude += xInc,startLongitude += yInc);       

The path array would then contain the latitude and longitude information for the points between the start and the end location. This information can then be used to draw the path and get the desired effect:

 function drawPath(){  
    var polyLine = new google.maps.Polyline({  
                       path: [startPosition,path[positionIndex]],  
    positionIndex = positionIndex + 1;  
    if(positionIndex < 30){  

As seen in the above code snippet, the Polyline API is invoked with the arguments path, strokeColor, strokeOpacity, and strokeWeight. Also, the map is panned to the current position while the path is being drawn on the map.

Can I use ColdFusion’s CFMAP tag to get this effect?

This was the initial idea and I did attempt to get this effect using the CFMAP tag. However, I found that the map object retrieved using the was not compatible with the Polyline API and hence decided to use the Google maps API to get that effect.


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