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Researchers develop algorithm that looks for the most scenic routes

Researchers from Yahoo developed the algorithm and found that on average, the recommended scenic paths were 12% longer than the shortest ones.

London scenic rotue Source: Cornell University Library

NAVIGATING A CITY or country has usually been a case of getting from point A to B in the quickest time possible.

It’s necessary for those driving, but for others who just want to walk to their destination, looking for the quietest or most scenic route would work better, so long as it doesn’t significantly increase the amount of time travelling.

Researchers at Yahoo Labs in Barcelona have created a system that allows people to find routes that are “not only short, but also emotionally pleasant.”

The study, named ‘The Shortest Path to Happiness,’ measures the “beauty” of specific locations within cities and then designing an algorithm around this, it chooses a route that’s the nicest one to take.

The lead researcher Daniele Quercia and her team first began by creating a database of images from London, using Google Street View and Geograph to source them.

They then crowdsourced opinions about the beauty of each location though UrbanGems.org, a site which shows visitors two photos beside each other and asks them to choose the nicest one.

When testing the recommended paths, they found that, on average, the recommended paths were 12% longer than the shortest route.

Once done, they asked 30 participants in London, who had lived in the city for an average of two and a half years, to test the routes. They agreed that the algorithm had chosen routes that were more beautiful than the quickest route.

Since crowdsourcing opinion for every possible location in a city is time-consuming, the team automated this process by using photos from Flickr and the data and tags attached to them to help. The team used the same approach to provide a similar service in Boston.

The next goal is to build a mobile app and test it in different cities across Europe and the US.

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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