GPS technology gets you from A to B by the most scenic route

A road less travelled: Taking the scenic route. Photo: David Fulmer / Flickr The Boston GPS route is compared to it’s scenic alternative. Photo: Yahoo Labs

UrbanGems: Crowdsourcing quiet, beauty and happiness Photo: UrbanGems杭州后花园

Researchers in Barcelona are changing the way we think about GPS.

For the past two decades, GPS users have been moving from A to B via the most direct way possible.

Now, Daniele Quercia, a researcher at Yahoo Labs, has engineered a piece of technology to direct users via the most “beautiful” way.

“The goal of this work is to automatically suggest routes that are not only short but also emotionally pleasant,” the Yahoo team 

While motorists may still be more interested in the fastest route, the technology could have significant implications for pedestrians, particularly tourists.

Quercia and her team have worked out an algorithm to measure the beauty of specific locations.

“Compared to the shortest routes, the recommended ones add just a few extra walking minutes and are indeed perceived to be more beautiful, quiet, and happier,” the researchers found.

The user is faced with 10 sets of photos and asked to choose the most beautiful of the two. 

The results are then crowdsourced, in an attempt to eliminate some subjectivity.

The recommended scenic route comprises the 10 most “beautiful” photos along the path from A to B.

At the heart of the idea is that a user can enter a start and final location and the algorithm will be able to map the most beautiful route between the two.

Currently, the only two routes available are through Boston and London, but expansion plans are under way, particularly through the mass photo-sharing website Flickr.

The team chose 5 million pictures of specific areas and tried to work out what data could be associated with beauty.

As it turns out, the more beautiful the place, the more photos are taken of it.

There are also far more positive comments under the photo, so qualitative sentiment tools were used to track more beautiful routes.

The algorithm does have a couple of pitfalls however.

It currently has no way of differentiating between locations that are more beautiful during the day or at night.

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