GPS maps have covered the globe, allowing users everywhere to map their way to work, landmarks, coffee, brunch, and more no matter the time of day. Yahoo Labs are changing the way we know the GPS map. Daniele Quercia, who works at Yahoo Labs in Barcelona, Spain, intends to add beauty to your commute map. She is doing this through an algorithm that searches for beauty through crowd sourcing (UrbanGems.org) and Flickr.
If time isn’t a main concern, especially for pedestrians, commute can be mapped as a leisurely stroll. But how do we know which route is the most beautiful? More specifically, how does a GPS map know which route is most pleasing? GPS maps can tell time, traffic, toll, and weather. Beauty, however, has always been a judgment unavailable to computers.
Yahoo’s new GPS maps have been tested in London and Boston. On average, the commute map tends to take 12 percent longer. In London, 30 locals tried Quercia’s scenic map. Fifty-four tried the map suggestions in Boston. Overall everyone agreed that, when compared to the shortest route, these scenic GPS map suggestions were in fact more beautiful.
So what are the specifics? The first hurdle is mapping the beautiful locations within the cities. UrganGems.org is a site that has users look at two photos, choosing which out of the two are more beautiful. Images are ranked and mapped on the GPS map. To add to the pool of data, Yahoo Labs are also using information from Flickr for the map. Flickr photos and tags are processed through an algorithm, and positive words in the caption help to boost the beauty rankings of locations.
This offers a new level to GPS maps. For short trips it’s true that someone searching their phone for a beautiful route instead of looking up and seeing it for themselves… well there’s only so much that technology can do for broadening perception. However, for long routes, an app like this may be very useful. Unknown sites may lay along the way, and for the everyday commute this map could offer some variety.
The only downside:
“Of course, there are potential problems. Some locations are less attractive at certain times of the day, for example during rush hour when traffic is heavier or at night when the character of some parts of the city can change dramatically. The algorithm cannot account for these differences.”