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The Periscope

Curing Ignorance Through the Lens

Mindful Mapping


New mapping projects bring the human touch to getting directions.

Tools like GPS have made getting from point A to point B easier and quicker. But efficiency isn’t always the most gratifying. That’s why a team of researchers in Europe are mapping out pedestrian routes that are more enjoyable, reports Randy Rieland for Smithsonian Magazine

The researches uploaded images of London taken from Google Street View and Geograph to UrbanGems where they crowdsourced reactions to come up with a “beauty score” of various spots. Using an algorithm, they were able to create directions using the better scoring places and found that the directions were only about 12 percent longer in length than the most efficient route. To double check their initial findings, the researchers turned to Flickr where they found that the locations they had included in the map had received more positive comments and were featured more often. In the U.S., the only city that they have mapped out so far is Boston, but the researchers are planning on expanding the project to many other cities.

Another idea that brings more consciousness to mapping is an app called Mapkin which is also using crowdsourcing to gather data. Users can submit references about landmarks and places that the app company then reviews and incorporates in their GPS directions if they like it. Marc Regan, co-founder of Mapkin commented, "GPS navigation does one thing extremely well, which is getting you to the destination as fast as possible. But what if you want to point out the great coffee shop on the way or know about the most scenic route for a bike ride?"

Photo by Nick Page, licensed under Creative Commons.