If time is not an issue and you’re rather take a more serene route to your destination chances are that your GPS won’t be of much use. Those devices are often used to find the shortest routes to the final destination and normally don’t come with features that let you opt for the most beautiful route. Yahoo researchers aim to change that. They have created an algorithm that will find the most beautiful route to your destination, even if it may not be the shortest.
The Yahoo Labs team is being headed by Daniele Quercia in Barcelona. Their first task was to come up with a way to actually measure the beauty of any particular route. The team developed an algorithm that picks up a route between two locations while maximizing beauty between the two.
They created a database of images of parts of London’s city center collected through Geograph and Google Street View. Using a website called UrbanGems the team then crowdsourced opinions about beauty of each location. Each visitor to the website were shown two images and asked to select the most beautiful location.
Once the database was created and the algorithm started picking routes that were deemed to have the highest beauty scores the team recruited 30 people in London who were familiar with the areas to assess the recommended routes. The majority agreed that routes recommended by the algorithm were in fact more beautiful than the shortest available routes.
Since crowdsourcing information for every part of the city can be a time consuming process Quercia and her team turned to Flickr and started using the data and tags attached to photos which was then fed to the algorithm. They specifically looked for pictures of locations that were posted by a majority of users and had positive emotions in the comments.
Ultimately the team found out that on average the routes recommended by its algorithm were only 12 percent longer than the shortest routes. This would certainly appeal to travelers who would be able to walk or drive on routes that they otherwise wouldn’t have known, making the experience of exploring a new city a bit more scenic. Quercia and co. have plans to turn this into an app.