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Ryan

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Take the scenic route [Oct. 28th, 2009|10:05 am]
Ryan


Okay so HERE IS A GREAT IDEA that if it doesn't already exist, I expect will exist within the next 5 years or so.

There's two ingredients: first off, is GPS software!

Right now most GPS software offers you two choices when going from A to B: shortest distance or fastest time. They do this giving each section of road two scores: a distance score (how long you go along road X) and a speed score (how fast road X will take you: is the speed limit 40? 80?). Fancier ones use real-time traffic information to tell you how fast traffic on the road is actually moving, so you have a better speed score.

The second ingredient is photos: specifically, geotagging photos. Right now Google uses some geotagged photos to give you shots of things nearby on Google maps, since the geotag stores where on the planet the photo was taken. The problem is a lot of this tagging is done by hand. Once everyone starts buying cameras with GPSs in them, you get geotagging for free, and the number of geotagged photos will explode!

All you need to do is put these together and you've got a third score you can now add to roads: "number of photos taken on or near this road" - in other words, "scenicness". You'll be able to say "I want to go from here to school, and I want the scenic route!" and your GPS will say "How much are you willing to be delayed for some pretty scenery?" and you'll say "Oh, 10 minutes", and hey presto, an alternate route to your destination that gives you some more interesting views than you might get otherwise.

There's some wrinkles: you'd need to do some smoothing to filter out shots of accidents from the day before, say, and also filter out people who might try to grief the system, but it'll work pretty well right out of the box. Add on some content analysis (tags, say) and you might even be able to figure out what pretty scenery you should be looking for at each point, and even filter by them. It would probably work better in the country than in the city (where things like "Michael Jackson's House" will be covered in photos), but it'll still be pretty neat.

Anyway it's a pretty obvious idea but I wanted it out there in case someone tried to patent it, if they haven't already. GOOGLE/GARMIN GET ON THIS PLEASE, I WOULD LIKE TO USE THIS FEATURE
linkReply

Comments:
[User Picture]From: frabjously
2009-10-28 02:20 pm (UTC)
This is a Good Idea.
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[User Picture]From: qwantz
2009-10-28 02:40 pm (UTC)
If I had the means I would develop it, but as I don't, someone else should!
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[User Picture]From: frabjously
2009-10-28 03:31 pm (UTC)
I hate it when I have ideas like that - "If only I had the capital!". You should write a personal letter to Eric Schmidt or something.
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[User Picture]From: qwantz
2009-10-28 03:44 pm (UTC)
Think of how cheezed the people who are already working on it are going to be when they find this. "I WAS ALREADY DOING IT, I DIDN'T NEED SOME CARTOONIST WITH A LIVEJOURNAL TO TELL ME ABOUT IT"
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[User Picture]From: frabjously
2009-10-28 03:47 pm (UTC)
Pshaaww, what's with all this Google Wave stuff? They should be working on this! It should've been released yesterday!
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[User Picture]From: mr_z
2009-10-28 02:36 pm (UTC)
There's some wrinkles: you'd need to do some smoothing to filter out shots of accidents from the day before, say, and also filter out people who might try to grief the system, but it'll work pretty well right out of the box.

You know, that was one of my first thoughts on reading your description. STOP READING MY MIND! ESPECIALLY BEFORE I'VE EVEN HAD THE THOUGHT. ;-)

Seriously, though, this is similar to Google's original PageRank and how it worked nearly "out of the box" on an Internet that wasn't yet affected by Google's relevance. You look at the phrases people use to link to pages, and you get an automatic sense of how the community perceives the linked resource. The more links to a resource, the more interesting it must be. Replace "link" with "geotagged photograph" and "resource" with "location", and voila!

Now, once Google existed, it changed how people linked things. You started getting link spammers and so on, and PageRank had to learn new tricks to sort the wheat from the chaff. I suspect, to prevent SREO (Scenic Route Engine Optimization) from clogging things up with crud, you'll need another layer on this. (Remember Sturgeon's Law: 90% of everything is crud. This is what we're fighting here. The whole point of the Scenic Route score is to find that 10% tht isn't!)

Google's already doing a Street View. Suppose it lets you preview a proposed scenic route in Street View along with some subset of geotagged photos. Then suppose it also lets you tag the photos you see with keywords and maybe a simple thumbs up/down indication. That could serve as an additional check on the "scenic-ness" of a route, as well as provide information on what kind of scenic-ness it offers.

For example, some routes are truly their most beautiful only in certain times of year, such as when trees begin turning color in the fall. The rest of the time, they might be "meh." You could tag the route that way. Others might be interesting if you're into geological formations—my wife, the geologist, loves "road cuts" into the rock—but others might not care so much.

And so on...

Edited at 2009-10-28 02:37 pm (UTC)
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[User Picture]From: qwantz
2009-10-28 02:38 pm (UTC)
Yep! But it should work long enough to get it working, and then you've got money coming in that you can use to counteract everyone trying to game it. There'll always be people taking shots of their business, and once you filter them, they'll pay others to take shots of their business, and then you build a network of trustworthiness and so on and so on until it becomes sentient!
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[User Picture]From: dickardo
2009-10-28 03:16 pm (UTC)
Ryan, I like your idea! But I don't know if the quantity of photographs in an area is a good metric to determine scenic-ness. In residential areas, there will be all sorts of pictures taken of people inside homes and in back yards and whatnot. I'd actually imagine that would be where the majority of pictures would be taken (which would be interesting to test in itself!).

I would argue that at the very beginning the data would be jumbled with all of those pictures which aren't really scenic. Of course, you could always exclude any pictures with faces in them, then you would be theoretically left with pictures of scenery.

I'd probably argue that at the beginning you would need some human hand to analyze the data of picture counts and assign roads their initial "scenic" number.
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[User Picture]From: qwantz
2009-10-28 03:22 pm (UTC)
Interesting, I hadn't considered that! You could probably look for big swaths of sky and ground-like colours for really-rough "is this outside" metrics. Also, tagging would help some with that too: "tree" and "mountain" are probably outside, "sister" maybe isn't.

Anyway even with these bumps, someone needs to do this, someone needs to make this happen
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[User Picture]From: nickmurdoch
2009-10-28 03:33 pm (UTC)
You could probably use neural network software to sort out the landscape photos too; kickstart it with some known data and then classify photos automatically using that! Photo analysis can be pretty sophisticated these days, I'm sure Google could manage it!
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[User Picture]From: qwantz
2009-10-28 03:43 pm (UTC)
GOOGLE WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR
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From: chrisamaphone
2009-10-28 03:48 pm (UTC)
but maybe "hot sister" is?
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[User Picture]From: qwantz
2009-10-28 03:49 pm (UTC)

an important question

how many of your photos have you tagged "hot sister", links plz
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[User Picture]From: dickardo
2009-10-28 03:55 pm (UTC)
I think if this took off, the GPS should have some sort of button on it so that it could ask "Is this scenic enough for you? Y/N" and when "Y" or "N" is pushed, record the location (and date/time of course) and submit it to the great database in the sky. That would help continually improve this data, as long as you have scenery junkies providing feedback.

I also like the idea of scenery junkies taking the initial feedback of "How much are you willing to be delayed for some pretty scenery?" and answering "I don't care" and getting some really crazy paths to go to the grocery store.
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[User Picture]From: qwantz
2009-10-28 03:59 pm (UTC)
This thread is a goldmine of good ideas!
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[User Picture]From: qwantz
2009-10-28 04:00 pm (UTC)
There's also no reason why, down the line, you couldn't classify the scenery. Give me the scenic route with trees! Give me the scenic route with cliffs! Give me the scenic route with neighbours who never close their curtains while changing!
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[User Picture]From: dickardo
2009-10-28 04:10 pm (UTC)
Heck, at that point it would stop being a scenic route and start being a scenic destination!
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[User Picture]From: thestormsurfer
2009-11-01 02:07 pm (UTC)
Take Main south to 2nd, turn right. Backpack for a week in the Himalayas. Go 200 feet on 2nd, destination on the left.
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[User Picture]From: dulcimeoww
2009-10-28 05:59 pm (UTC)
My original response was pretty much that people probably photograph more stupid stuff than they do scenic views, but as that's already been said and the idea is a good one despite the initial hurdles, I'll proceed to the expansion of the idea which immediately occurred to me... which is off-route activities.

Pretty roads are awesome, but for me what makes them interesting is the new experiences you find on the way. That could be as simple as momentary amusement discovering a gas station with a random saddle section (why do they sell saddles, and if you ride and need a saddle why would you think to buy it at a gas station?), or discovering a yummy road food type restaurant, or it could be as complex as yearly festivals and the like. If we're able to tell our GPS to take us on the prettier drive, we should also be able to tell it, "Hey, I want to stop for lunch at a nifty hole in the wall diner with unexpectedly fabulous food, what's the best one for my tastes and budget?," or "Hey, I'm in the mood to attend a little craft show, is there one on my way?" Now, I know that GPS already lists chains and gas stations and the like, but it'd be nice if that were expanded to include little local places and festivals and events, with keyword tagging and a user ratings system to help you find them.
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[User Picture]From: thestormsurfer
2009-11-01 02:08 pm (UTC)
When I am at the gas station I always pick up a new saddle for my gasoline-powered motor-horse.
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[User Picture]From: jasoneppink
2009-10-28 06:53 pm (UTC)
This is an awesome idea, though what immediately popped in my head is how confused travelers in Kyrgyzstan residents will be when iPhone photos from NYC start popping up:

http://www.macworld.com/article/134471/2008/07/geotag_errors.html
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[User Picture]From: qwantz
2009-10-28 06:57 pm (UTC)
Hah! I'd missed that story.
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[User Picture]From: jasoneppink
2009-10-28 07:03 pm (UTC)
I only know about it because it regularly happens to me!

I guess I brought it up because it highlights a problem with relying on automatic location data? GPS is great, but even if it gets the correct hemisphere, it can often be many meters off. I guess with highways it doesn't need to be so precise, but in dense urban areas, that's a significant distance!
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[User Picture]From: qwantz
2009-10-28 07:04 pm (UTC)
That's true, but in dense urban areas you just increase the algorithm's threshold. There's pictures everywhere, but there's probably MORE pictures of towers and stadiums and stuff. You look for differences outside the mean!

anyway jason you're good at stuff like this make it happen please
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[User Picture]From: ferociousj
2009-10-28 04:37 pm (UTC)
I have nothing to add but my appreciation for you always being on the Forefront of Innovation for Making Life More Awesome. There should be badges for this sort of thing.
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[User Picture]From: chickensnack
2009-10-28 05:24 pm (UTC)
GOTTA COMPENSATE FOR SEASONALLY POPULAR PHOTO LOCATIONS TOO DON'T WANNA DRIVE BY SCENIC SNOWZONE IN SUMMER OR MAYBE YOU DO
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[User Picture]From: qwantz
2009-10-28 05:25 pm (UTC)
ADD IN A DATE COMPENSATION MATRIX BASED OFF OF THE PHOTO DATE METADATA

DO I NEED TO CONNECT ALL THE DOTS HERE
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[User Picture]From: chickensnack
2009-10-28 05:34 pm (UTC)
WHAT IF THERE IS SOME KIND OF YEARLY FESTIVAL AND THEN IT GETS MOVED ONE YEAR OHNO
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-10-28 05:38 pm (UTC)
Regularly updated routes would have to be done via wifi, which probably would be a hassle, or by plugging the GPS into the computer. Either way this could be an extra annoyance.

Anyway, taking the google-street view would currently only really work in cities. So I would propose that people tag streets on GSV as scenic, once a certain number had built up an admin could verify that it was scenic.

OR

A program could take the 3D version of the landscape, then using an algorithm determine a proposed prettiness based on the surrounding greenery and the views available (dictated by land-scape, i.e. if it gives a good view over a green valley. It wouldn't be able to tell if a wall is in the way, however.) and give it a rating. These would have to be moderated some how, but it would give an indication of scenic routes. This would probably work better in the country side.

Of course these are just the basis of ideas, but I'm sure someone can run with them. I don't have the know-how to go past fleshing out the idea a bit more.

Lack_26
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[User Picture]From: qwantz
2009-10-28 05:41 pm (UTC)
Oh, I was just using GSV as an example. All you'd really need is software to scan Flickr's images by geotag, and push that into your map database. But yeah!
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[User Picture]From: e_monk
2009-10-28 05:38 pm (UTC)
I don't think I've ever heard that verb use of "grief". Did you mean to write "grift"? Still "to grief" in the sense of "to cause grief to" is a pretty cool construction. Maybe I'll start using it.
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[User Picture]From: qwantz
2009-10-28 05:40 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's used in gaming a lot, where "griefers" "grief" people.
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[User Picture]From: thebigbadbutch
2009-10-28 07:26 pm (UTC)
Yeah but then all the soccer moms and NASCAR dads with their minivans will take the scenic route as perscribed by GPS. Soon the Starbucks and Gap Outlets will start lining the sides of scenic freeways which will reduce the sceniciness.
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[User Picture]From: qwantz
2009-10-28 07:27 pm (UTC)
Man, I hadn't thought of that! I suppose then photos would drop and scenic routes would shift.

Or, you know, cities could enforce their signage bylaws and not let people put signs up everywhere. But I suspect they won't and I am just making work for the (excellent) http://illegalsigns.ca/
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-12-22 11:39 pm (UTC)
quantum scenicness
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[User Picture]From: c_duck
2009-10-29 11:05 am (UTC)
Your idea for a blog which has posts about ideas which already exists, already exists:

http://www.halfbakery.com/ (Or near as dammit.)
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[User Picture]From: koyetay
2009-10-28 10:48 pm (UTC)
"Once everyone starts buying cameras with GPSs in them"

This seems like a big assumption. I can't afford an iPhone and this is really the first I've heard of geotagging. Is there a big call for GPS-synchronized cameras? Though actually, if I was some kind of photojournalist, that'd be pretty bitchin...

This sounds like it would mostly be a feature in high-end cameras. I wonder if there's enough of a geographically disperse population base that can afford such tech. Without a large base of people, I would think the utility of such software would be pretty heavily compromised.

It sounds like a great idea, but the market would need to offer low-end camaras with geotagging functionality, affordable by a large number of people.
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[User Picture]From: pedersencato
2009-10-29 03:24 am (UTC)
My thought when I read this was that when a certain path has more photos, more people are going to be directed along that route; more people specifically following a path for it scenicness means more people taking photos along it as well, adding more photos to the cloud, thus influencing more people to take that path... after a while, anyone choosing the scenic road in an area will be directed to this one road.
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[User Picture]From: thestormsurfer
2009-11-01 02:55 pm (UTC)
This is the best response.
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[User Picture]From: c_duck
2009-10-29 10:58 am (UTC)
Have you seen ScenicOrNot? It's an ongoing project to rate every square kilometre of Great Britain for its scenicness:

http://scenic.mysociety.org/

Their data is available for use under a Creative Commons license, and is already being used for a project tangentally related to your idea:

http://mapumental.channel4.com/
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[User Picture]From: simonbob
2009-10-29 01:37 pm (UTC)
If you combine this with the fuzzy gps from xkcd then you could create a Driving With Your Mom simulator. "Okay wait, I think we're supposed to take one of these exits so we go by that house I wanted to show you WAIT IT'S THAT ONE DON'T DRIVE PAST IT UGH WHY IS MY SON SO STUPID."

Actually you might not even need that. Maybe you just need a tape which plays "you're driving too fast" and "watch out for the bread truck" over and over.
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From: pinterface
2009-10-30 05:00 am (UTC)

A better metric, I suspect, is to use the ratio of the number of photos taken to the amount of traffic on the road. A higher pictures-per-car ratio would, presumably, correlate well with the quality of the scenery. A scenic, but low-traffic road, may not have many pictures overall, but it probably will have lots of pictures compared to the number of cars which use it. Even touristy areas are liable to have lots of pictures per vehicle: what tourist doesn't take lots of pictures? The local accounting office, on the other hand, I'd expect to be photographically boring by comparison.

For even more accuracy, also take the population density (or perhaps building density) into account. A residential street, for instance, is liable to have both lots of pictures and low traffic--but you can give such areas a penalty, requiring a larger pictures-per-car ratio (pictures-per-car-per-capita!).

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[User Picture]From: rickbooth
2009-10-30 11:00 am (UTC)
You're quite right, it will happen. But I don't think it's a good thing.

At the moment, if you want a scenic route you have to take five or ten minutes to do a little thinking about it. This means most people don't.

That's good, because LOTS OF PEOPLE = NOT FUN OR SCENIC as far as roads go. You can easily get the scenic, but it's more than two button clicks away.

In five years time all the lovely little roads that you need to go out and find will be clogged with people in ENTIRELY INAPPROPRIATE motorhomes and be LESS PRETTY and NO FUN and SMELL BAD and I will USE ALL CAPS MORE because it will make me SAD.
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From: (Anonymous)
2009-11-08 10:55 pm (UTC)

This is not related to your post but.....

I was looking at my Delia's clothing catalog and something on this shirt looks very familiar: http://store.delias.com/item.do?itemID=52514&categoryID=463&sizeFilter=&colorFilter=&brandFilter=

T-Rex! Stomping! It is crazy-go-nuts.
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