Forget the Fastest Route. Why Not Use Digital Maps to Plan the Most Beautiful Instead?

Yahoo is developing an algorithm that will allow you to choose the scenic route

lovely road
Martin Ruegner / 145/Photographer's Choice RF/Ocean/Corbis

In a new paper, scientists working with Yahoo Labs announced that they are working on an app that will calculate not the fastest route, or the one with least amount of traffic, but the most beautiful option for your journey—especially if you’re traveling on foot.

These reseachers first looked at data from a custom-built crowdsourcing site, where people were given choices between two photographs of roads in London and asked to pick the option that was priettier, quieter or made them more happy. They then took those findings and wrote an algorithm that searched through millions of Flickr images in London and Boston to figure out which walking routes between points of interest were quieter and more beautiful. They found that the pleasanter options were on average only 12 percent longer than the shortest routes between two places. 

There is still considerable work to do, though. Human volunteers in London and Boston pointed out that some of the computer-generated routes could get crowded or busy at certain times and that there was a difference between what the area was like in the daytime and at night. The researchers hope to continue polishing their design to account for differences in season, time of day and even day of the week in order to to come up with the ideal walking routes in each city. 

It’s not something you can download yet, but Yahoo hopes to launch a mobile app based on this research soon, and test it “in the wild across different cities in Europe and USA.”

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