The Likeways Approach Towards Urban Navigation
Sick of walking along boring routes through the city suggested by Google Maps? The Likeways mobile application (authored by Martin Traunmueller) offers a novel approach towards wayfinding to its users.
Instead of suggesting the shortest, but often rather boring routes between a point A and B, Likeways aims to generate exciting routes through areas with interesting places instead, respecting the built environment and the venues it has to offer. Interesting places, such as a cozy coffee shop or a neat art gallery, can be very close by in a backroad, but stay usually in the dark using common navigation apps, such as Google Maps or Citymapper.
With the aim to support the pleasure of walking and exploration, Likeways offers an alternative to its users to discover such hidden gems, so that their paths rather than the destination becomes the reward.
Based on Martin's master thesis (paper) from The Bartlett / UCL (MSc. Adaptive Architecture and Computation), Together with post-doc researcher Sarah Gallacher (ICRI on Cities), Martin developed the desktop version further into a first mobile prototype and tested the approach in several academic and non-academic occasions (CHI 2013, Digital Shoreditch award). With received funding, they then kept on developing the prototype in parallel to Martin's PhD in Computer Science (ICRI on Cities, UCL), up to the stage where the application is now - a product.
Likeways is now available for iOS on the app store, and here's how it works:
- The user selects types of venues s/he is interested to see along the way to a destination, such as "galleries", "cafes" or "shops".
- The Likeways approach defines interesting places by their presence on social media, such as Facebook. During the route generation process, Likeways access' Facebook Places database to retrieve geo-location and number of Likes for relevant venues along the way. The number of Facebook Likes indicates public popularity that influences the route generation: The more Likes a venue generates, the more the route gets pulled towards it, hence the more likely it is that the user will discover it!
Finally the app shows a map with two routing options:
- a grey line, indicating the shortest route as suggested by Google Maps.
- a blue line, indicating the exciting route as suggested by Likeways.
- in addition, the app shows pins for the location of each venue, which can be switched off (to focus on the explorational aspect).
Enjoy your walks!