If you gotta go, Google has an app for that

If you have an Android phone, you can now find your way to a bathroom inside a building—without having to ask anyone where it is.

In the season 10 finale of “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” character George Costanza coined the iToilet. The invention was an “iPhone application that leads you via your GPS to the nearest acceptable toilet, wherever you are in world,” as Jerry Seinfeld described it in the episode.

Now, Google Maps has come close to making that fabled product a reality. For Android devices, the search giant just released a beta version of Indoor Maps, detailing “your accurate location inside select airports, shopping malls, and retail stores.” The service adds to Google’s already extensive mapping services, including compass mode, 3D maps, traffic, and Street View.

Of course, Google isn’t the first to capitalize on Costanza’s stroke of genius.

The app Where to Wee has been offering a similar product since 2009, while CLOO’ takes a crowd-sourced approach. According to the site: “CLOO' is a community of registered users who choose to share their bathrooms and make city-living easier, while earning a small profit. Using social media connections, CLOO' shows what friends you have in common with the host, turning a stranger’s loo into a friend of a friend’s loo.”

But this is the first product that actually helps you navigate inside a building. (It's unclear whether Google uses cellular data or other technology to do this since GPS signals often do not penetrate buildings.)

While there are countless other practical applications for the service, like better coordinating a flash mob, none will be handier than finding an alternate restroom when faced with a “Closed for cleaning” sign.

Photo by Gerard Stolk

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Apple is a company that’s all about polish—and sometimes that means taking other people’s ideas, handing them a cup of coffee and a clean shirt, and waiting for them to sober up. As Samsung and Apple duke it out and the iAcolytes wage an endless war with Android fanboys, it’s worth remembering that "borrowing" goes both ways. And, as the course of human history but not the course of humans-doing-business would suggest, some ideas just occur in two places at once.
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