The beautiful road not yet taken

Remember when, before pervasive phone GPS, you actually asked for directions? You know, stopping a stranger on the street or pulling into a gas station and asking somebody working there and trying to write it down on a mapkin? If you're not an american male, that is. Maybe it was awkward or ineffective, but the directions were personalized, and you could ask for all sorts of things not precisely shown on maps.

Via The Atlantic's CityLab blog, I just learned that Yahoo! labs (!) has released a paper exploring "how mapping apps could theoretically generate short walking routes that are more beautiful or quiet than standard offerings." Color me intrigued, and also excited about mapping that's pedestrian based. Could a future mapping app plot me a course that optimized not for shortest distance or quickest time but for maximum beauty, minimum chance of an accident, or maybe even one that only uses the shady side of the street?

Yahoo! maps. Who knew?

The sub-head, "In the future, GPS directions may not always be destination-driven." might be the most interestingly subversive idea in the piece. Who even says that a trip has to have a destination? Maybe the journey is the destination. Maybe you want your GPS to give you a scenic drive or walk of some duration or level of beauty. Maybe you want to explore Somerville and see as many Bathtub Marys as possible along the way.

Who knows when or if such things will ever become available, but I'm excited by the possibilities.  Until then, I recommend taking random walks when you can and also checking out some maps of imaginary places.

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