Why is it easier to follow directions when they are explained through a series of landmarks instead of street names? According to the research by the University of Melbourne’s Geomatics Department and Whereis.com, when your mate says “turn right at the post office” he is actually tapping into your spatial cognitive recognition to give you a better understanding of how to get where you’re going.

Armed with this knowledge, and equipped with what is said to be a world first landmark selection system, whereis.com has incorporated a range of Australian landmarks into its map directions, finally providing users with real-life navigational context for their chosen routes.
Commercial Manager of whereis.com Fred Curtis says the addition of this tool will help the whereis.com mapping site remain at the forefront of Australian mapping by improving the experience people have when requesting directions on the site.

“We continue to find new ways to build upon the already market-leading whereis.com user experience. Current trends in technology all point to increased functionality alongside ease of use, so that’s the direction we’re heading,” he says.

Dr Matt Duckham, Senior Lecturer in Geographic Information Science at the Department of Geomatics says what makes this addition to whereis.com different from existing navigation systems is that it identifies the most suitable landmarks based on cognitive principles.

“Deciding which landmarks are most useful is really based on the uniqueness of the landmark, and this can be determined by three main things; the landmarks meaning, its visual salience and where the landmark is located, relative to the decision point on the route,” he says.
“While computers can work out how far it is to the next interaction, humans find it much easier to use instructions that refer to places with meaning and that we can easily identify.”

“It really is an exciting time for researchers in this field. The unique partnership between our researchers and Whereis.com has opened the doors for a new generation of systems that provide mapping data and navigation instructions based on your location. As far as we know, nowhere else in the world is this kind of user experience available that delivers detailed landmark and geometry information to consumers”.
Mr Curtis concluded that, “being an Australian mapping company, it was important our whereis.com team worked with local experts to investigate the potential of incorporating the new landmark feature to our site. Melbourne University’s geomatics team certainly fit the bill.”