Mapping Hotpot Ratings in Austin, Texas, to Discover the Popular Spots

For a lot of attendees at SXSW this month, including myself, it was our first trip to Austin, Texas. We’ve all heard stories about the great restaurants and bars found throughout the city, but I didn’t know where to start looking.

Luckily for us, on February 11, Google launched a campaign in Austin to promote Hotpot, a new tool to help you find the places you’ll love. Rate and review the places you know using Hotpot, and Google will personalize your search results based on your preferences and recommendations from friends.

To help newcomers identify great places in Austin, we began importing anonymous rating signals into Google Fusion Tables in near real-time. When a new rating came in, it was directly inserted into Fusion Tables using the Fusion Tables API. In the examples below we used a FusionTablesLayer with the heat map option enabled. We used Styled Maps to tone down the background colors to make the heat map stand out more.

After the first day of collecting anonymous Austin ratings, using the heat map function in Fusion Tables, we were able to see a few patterns start to emerge:

Austin, Texas – 24hrs of Hotpot ratings heat map starting on March 1, 2011

Just 24 hours of rating data was able to provide a good idea of where to target my Hotpot search in Austin, but I wanted to see what the concentration would be like after a few days. With just 12 days of Hotpot data, the heat map generated in Fusion Tables really starts to show much more concentrated patterns:

Austin, Texas — Hotpot ratings heat map March 1, 2011, to March 12

Having never been to Austin, I could tell by looking at the heat map that the hottest places in the city are along 6th Street, between Lamar Avenue and the I-35. Additionally, Guadalupe Street near the University of Texas at Austin campus also has a lot of activity. Based on the high activity, those areas would be a good place to start exploring the city.

If you’d like to watch Hotpot trends as they shape over the coming days, you can view more Hotpot ratings in near real-time on

Unlock offers, check in, and gain status with Google Latitude in Austin

Do you have a go-to restaurant you love – a place where everybody knows your name? If you’ve been checking in there from Google Latitude in Google Maps for Android, we want to help you get a little extra love right back. After launching check-ins for Latitude last month, today we’re rolling out our first check-in offers at more than 60 great places in Austin, Texas.

Checking in from Google Latitude lets you easily share the places you go with friends, and you can even choose to get check-in notifications or automatically check in to make it even easier. In addition to sharing places, you can also gain status as a “Regular”, “VIP”, or “Guru” at places depending on how often you’ve checked in there. You can even see your progress along the way by tapping your current status. I’ve been checking in almost everywhere I go, and after a steady stream of caffeination at my favorite coffee shop, I’m proud to be a Guru there!

From the Place page, find available check-in offers (left); tap your status to see where you stand and find your check-in history (right).

In addition to pride, you can now unlock check-in offers that places have created for your status level. So, a restaurant or shop can give their Regulars a reason to keep coming back and their Gurus an awesome reward for their loyalty. Check-in offers can be as creative as places want for any of the three status levels. You can find places where check-in offers are available in Google Maps for Android search results and Place pages.
See if a place has check-in offers available in your Google Maps for Android search results.
You’ll be able to see both available and locked check-in offers. And once you gain status and unlock a check-in offer, just tap Redeem and show your phone to use it. Learn more at

See locked offers and ones available at your status level (left); tap an unlocked one and redeem it (right).
We’re kicking off check-in offers in Austin this week, and we’re working on bringing them to more people and more places. If you’re in town for South by Southwest this week or just happen to live near Austin, find check-in offers at some of its finest establishments, such as:
  • Free coffee for Regulars at Frank
  • Free sundae from the cafe for VIPs at Toy Joy
  • Buy a slice and get one free during certain hours for VIPs at East Side Pies
  • 10% off any upcoming event book for Gurus at BookPeople
  • 20% off select merchandise for Gurus at Waterloo Records
Find all the check-in offer locations in Austin on a map, and then see more details by opening their Place pages in Google Maps for Android.
To get started unlocking offers, update to Google Maps 5.2 in Android Market (requires Android 1.6+) and tap Check in here from a Place page or from Latitude’s menu. If you haven’t yet, join Latitude and check in wherever you go. And if you’ve got an iPhone, the Latitude app for iPhone will be updated with check-ins and check-in offers soon.