Map interface for bus routes

Ever found yourself struggling to figure out the bus routes when you are planning to get from A to B?

Obscure bus stop names are almost a de-facto standard, at least in Norway – and quite often they do not have a name (or any other identifier) at all. Even if you know the bus stop name from where you are going to take the bus and the destination, you don’t always know where these stops are.

In Trondheim a natural language system has been developed called BussTUC (Buss The Understanding Computer) or more commonly “Bus Oracle”. Here you can write, in natural language, a question about bus routes. I.e. “When is the next bus from busStopA to busStopB?” and similar. The answer is quite good, and is correct according to the current routes.

However, the problem occurs when you don’t know the bus stop name – but you know where you want to travel, or approximately where you want to travel.

To better fit this Atle and I developed a prototype of a map interface to BussTUC. In essence it is a map where you can click where you are and where you want to go. The system then finds the nearest bus stops to this and suggest the closest, all represented visually in the map. While using the map interface to input where you want to go, suggestions of relevant query to BussTUC are suggested – and a link to submit the query is provided.

The system currently knows about almost all bus stops provided by Team Trafikk and works quite well.

Extensions to the system are:

  • Enable for mobile devices – primarily location-enabled devices
  • Add the spatial route-data suggested by BussTUC in the map (i.e. draw the actual route)
  • Speed up BussTUC or develop own route suggestion system based solely on spatial information

Suggested improvements (numbered for identification purposes only):

  1. Display all nearest markers regardless of selected (emphasize the one selected) [Thanks to anders]
  2. Enable user to define “near” using circle (or similar + visual representation
  3. On the fly display of near markers when hovering mouse (i.e. indicate what to expect from query)
  4. Enable user to config how many markers to display near a point
  5. Clustering/star-shaping overlapping markers (ClusterMarker)
  6. Visual-magnifier over selected areas (i.e. similar to: Map Magnifier)
  7. Retain simplicity of system, regardless of functionality (i.e. enable configuration)
  8. Release Open Source (CC, Public Domain, limited license?) [Atle, Magnus]

The system is developed in PHP, JavaScript with a PostGIS enabled database. Source code is available by contacting me or Atle. Give it a try and give some feedback!

Screenshot of BussTUC map interface
Screenshot of BussTUC map interface

The system is (unfortunately) not affiliated with Team Trafikk and is a prototype not designed to scale very good.

XBox Natal – challenge to develop the first GIS app.

Microsoft recently launched their new controller for the XBox 360 called Natal. The idea is similar to the Wii’s eye and consists of movement tracking as interface to the XBox. The Natal looks pretty amazing, at least in the demo video. The software developer in my almost instantly thought of ideas to systems which could benefit from such interface, or at least be interesting to further examine. Map systems must be developed for this! Dragging, dropping, altering and jumping in Google Earth would be quite amazing. For more boring commercial application, the idea of a common (totally) virtual scribble board with the addition of a live video conference would be interesting to see.

I challenge thus, all developers which can, or have, got their hands on the XBox Natal and an application development kit to integrate (primarily) map systems and more advanced GIS’s – as well as making commercial applications for this! Are you up for the challenge? Is there even an SDK (or similar) for this?