Innovation That Matters

Mapping tool helps users take the most beautiful route to their destination

Travel & Tourism

Yahoo Labs in Barcelona has developed an algorithm that gets users from A to B in the most scenic way.

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Google Maps has become an indispensable way for city dwellers to find their way around, helping them get to wherever they’re going in the quickest time. However, the shortest route isn’t always the most desirable. In the past, we’ve seen apps such as Roadtrippers help travelers adjust their cross-country routes to take in unusual sights off the beaten track, and now Yahoo Labs in Barcelona has developed an algorithm that gets users from A to B in the most scenic way.

Created by computer scientists Daniele Quercia and Luca Maria Aiello, along with the University of Torino’s Rossano Schifanella, the team gathered millions of images of London from Google Street View. They then uploaded them to UrbanGems, a crowdsourcing site that gets users to compare images of city streets and pick the most beautiful, happy or quiet. After collecting the opinions of around 3,000 volunteers, the scores for each area of London were inputted into an algorithm that takes into account both the speed of the route and prettiness.

Publishing the details in a paper titled ‘The Shortest Path to Happiness: Recommending Beautiful, Quiet, and Happy Routes in the City’, the team found that more beautiful routes could be recommended without extending the distance traveled by more than 12 percent on average. They also tested the suggested routes with 30 people that live in London, who responded positively to the results.

Yahoo Labs has also carried out tests using the metadata of Flickr photos to create an algorithm for Boston, and hopes to expand the tool to other cities following further research. Are there other ways mapping tools could take into account other metrics than simply the shortest route?

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