Panamaps: A Multi-Layered Map

A map is valuable for its ability to convey information. Too much and its illeligible; too little and the map isn’t very useful. Layers are used by cartographers to make maps more usable. Layers are easy to turn on and off on digital maps, but it’s difficult to have multiple ones on a physical map. The recently-released Panamaps are able to have three layers on a single map. You can get Panamaps for Chicago and New York City. The layers include neighborhoods, transit and streets.

The maps are very cool and are very solid feeling. As you tilt the map you see a different layer. At certain angles you can see two layers at once. The technology behind the layers is fairly advanced as they explain:

1. Artwork for three views of Manhattan is created and optimized for visual performance. This requires a detailed understanding of typeface, line orientation, color contrast and a host of additional subtle but significant design concerns.


2. The three Images are interlaced by alternating horizontal strips from each. The resulting compound image is calibrated to a specially designed polymer lens substrate. Lenses contain between 60 to 200 micro-lenses per inch, depending on the desired outcome. This is mounted to a backing, die cut and packaged.


3. The underlying technology essentially fools the human eye. By rotating the map, the angle of viewing is changed and one of the resulting three layers can be viewed.

Panamaps are produced by Urban Mapping, a geo-data company known for its neighborhood and transit data (Radar post). The company sent me a map of each city. I will definitely be taking my Panamap with me around Manhattan when I am there for Web 2.0 Expo. Neighborhoods, streets, and transit are the most sensible layers for a city map, but what would really get me excited would be the ability to create Panamaps for any set of layers – perhaps your favorite Platial or Google MyMap of a city. Ian White, the CEO, didn’t think the economics of this idea would work, but I think that there could be a real market for this.

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