Here’s a video clip of a recent TEDx presentation by Bernhard Seefeld, product manager for Google Maps. Trained as a theoretical physicist (I’d like to map his career path), Seefield charts the history of mapping in under 15 minutes. Well, a very abbreviated history that mostly focuses on Google’s efforts to be the epicentre of the world’s most comprehensive user-created map.

Seefeld starts slowly with a history lesson about the early mapping of Australia; his point being that map users have always been map creators. He picks up speed at the 4:15 mark when he talks about road maps: he shows a cool 1940s-era map that included photographs of each turn drivers had to make to arrive at a particular destination. Sounds a little like Google Street View.

For me, the most interesting part of the clip starts at the 6:20 mark, when Seefeld talks about Google’s efforts years ago to “fill in” map details in the disputed Kashmir region. When Google failed to source mapping data via conventional means, it created Map Maker to allow people on the ground to chart the area themselves. Seefeld shows a time-lapse view of the city of Madurai being throughly mapped over a period of six months by Google users (surgeon by day, cartographer by night).

He finishes with a nice overview of the ever-evolving Google Street View mapping initiative (7:55 mark).

Seefeld is not a riveting speaker, but bear with him. This theoretical physicist knows a thing or two about where mapping is headed.