Seven Australian academics have begun an interesting project to improve computer mapping techniques. The project, funded partially by the Victorian Emergency Services Telecommunications Authority, will run for three years and will cost an estimated $300,000. The results will be used to aid emergency services operators, car navigation systems, and web map services.
The problem with most emergency calls is that often the caller only has a vague description of the location, or uses human vernacular to describe his location – for example, “I’m in the park by the fountain,” or “a block down from the post office.” The caller requiring emergency assistance is often distressed and not able to articulate a specific location. This becomes a problem because the computer only understands specific details, not landmarks.
The academics are hoping that one part of their project will assist in teaching the computers spatial semantics of placenames commonly used. They have launched an app to be used on iPhones and Android phones called “Tell Us Where.” According to the website, “The aim of this project is collecting a large body of (human) place descriptions. Since these place descriptions are given in-situ and also geo-tagged they are of high scientific interest. We are interested to learn from them how to improve human-computer interaction in areas such as emergency calls, web map services, or car navigation systems.” Participants win a chance to win a $20 (AUD) iTunes gift card.
Participants must be over the age of 18 or have parental consent. Further, players must be within the State of Victoria, Australia while playing the game.
What is surprising is that team leader Stephan Winter never intended to develop this as a commercial product. One would think that this would have many applications and could actually be used to raise funds for further research. Perhaps if this is a successful project it might be extended into the commercial arena.