Satellite navigation used to be reserved for the military and the elite of traveling salesmen. However the power of the smart phone has brought it into our pockets. It’s now used by walkers, runners, cyclists and even taxi drivers to navigate through the day. Firing it up to find the shortest or fastest route to a destination. However Yahoo have developed a new selection for your route, the most scenic.
A team of researchers at Yahoo in Barcelona have developed a mapping route that picks the most scenic whilst making your way to the destination. Publishing research in the poetically titled paper “The Shortest Path to Happiness: Recommending Beautiful, Quiet, and Happy Routes in the City”. Yahoo partnered Rossano Schifanella to develop a new algorithm for finding the most “emotionally pleasant” routes.
Mapping Urban Gems
All this is possible through crowd sourced and publicly available images. Research started by processing 3.7 million images from locations around London. Uploading them to UrbanGems.org allowed them to be graded and opinions made on the appeal of each image. Visitors are shown two images side by side, and simply choose which is more appealing. Allowing for the images to be ranked by feedback from 3,300 visitors.
Having such data available, the team were then able to plot out the most beautiful journeys through London. The new “beautiful routes” were tested by thirty London locals. All agreeing the recommended paths were more enjoyable and beautiful. For a much more enjoyable experience, the new routes only sacrifice was increasing journey time by on average 12%. Making them a great alternative to well-worn tourist paths or the shortest route.
For example, paths recommending touristic attractions tended to be half-a-day touristic experiences (twelve hours), and those capturing people’s salient experiences tended to be 60% longer than the shortest path – The Shortest Path to Happiness: Recommending Beautiful, Quiet, and Happy Routes in the City
Crowd sourcing the information can be time consuming and impossible for some locations Yahoo are wishing to map. In an effort to streamline the experience Yahoo have expanded to use its own Flickr photo service. Taking the data from five million Flickr photos, analysing location, number of the photos and the positive comments. Researchers were able to improve the mapping process when using the same locations highlighted initially .
Yahoo chose the City of Boston to test out the expanded algorithm, using Flickr data to map routes for Fifty-four locals. Comparing to the shortest routes participants rated the new routes on average 35% more beautiful.
Not content with this Yahoo now intends for the mapping to take into account the current time, day of the week, and weather. Once testing is complete we will be able to try out the most scenic paths around us. Yahoo plans to build a mobile app and test this in cities across the U.S. and Europe.
Yahoo Pushes On
This may or may not be the influence of having Jean Baptiste Queru on board. The legendary head of Android AOSP is heading a huge push. Improving and launching Yahoo services and in particular mobile apps. The excellent Yahoo News Digest allows bite sized news for those pushed for time. Displaying 6 top stories to you handset both morning and afternoon. As well as the much rumoured video service to rival YouTube. Is it only a matter of time before we see Yahoo return to being a powerhouse of service?