Google's engineers want to help you brush up on your geography knowledge. The company has taken its vast Google Maps database and used it to create a new game called Smarty Pins. The concept is extremely simple: Google asks you a random trivia question about a specific city or country, and you're tasked with dropping a pin on the right spot. Players can pick between six categories that influence the line of questions they're given. These range from arts and culture to entertainment fodder, and it didn't take very long before we ran into a stumper.
Each player starts out with 1,000 "miles" which basically serve as your points. Drop the pin down on a right answer quickly and you'll get bonus miles. But if you're wrong, Google will look at just how far off your guess was and take away the distance in miles. That's the idea, anyway; we noticed that Smarty Pins occasionally gave us credit for hitting the mark even if we dropped a pin at the completely wrong location. Other times it recognized mistakes, and Google offers pick-me-ups like "Even Columbus took a few years to find the right way," when you're left cluelessly staring at the map and botch a question. It's a fun (and educational) time-waster that we're frankly surprised Google didn't produce sooner. If you really know your surroundings, there's also GeoGuesser, which drops you into a random position in Street View and requires you to identify what part of the world you're looking at. As Kottke notes, that one's much tougher, so Smarty Pins probably makes for a better starting point.