When traveling, the most important things we're collecting are memories.
But most of us by now also carry around capable gadgets - GPS-enabled cameras, smartphones - that can be used to automatically collect location histories. These location histories contain all places we've been to in exact coordinates and timestamps. Apps such as Google Maps, OpenPaths or Moves make it easy to collect this type of data. Unfortunately, the raw from of these data doesn't have much to do with the way we as people remember trips:
lat,lon,alt,date,device,os,version 51.0800361633,-114.12828064,1130.85473633,2012-01-25 20:50:08,"iPhone4,1",5.0.1,1.0 51.0801048279,-114.128288269,1130.16845703,2012-01-25 20:52:16,"iPhone4,1",5.0.1,1.0 51.0799980164,-114.128456116,1132.09521484,2012-01-26 01:06:08,"iPhone4,1",5.0.1,1.0 51.0799064636,-114.122657776,1104,2012-01-26 03:56:48,"iPhone4,1",5.0.1,1.0 51.0733909607,-114.115867615,1103,2012-01-26 04:03:12,"iPhone4,1",5.0.1,1.0 51.0620574951,-114.093154907,1091.03027344,2012-01-26 04:20:16,"iPhone4,1",5.0.1,1.0 51.0560379028,-114.085029602,1050.43920898,2012-01-26 04:26:40,"iPhone4,1",5.0.1,1.0 51.075012207,-114.113967896,1049.22216797,2012-01-26 16:29:52,"iPhone4,1",5.0.1,1.0 ...
Visualizations can help making sense of location histories. Existing solutions usually follow the pins on a map approach:
The problem with pins is that they produce overlaps and are hard to read. Mostly, they just lump together in one place on the map. But even more gravely: they hide the second aspect of a location history - time. With pins on a map it's hard to say which pin came first and in which order places were visited or how long you stayed in one place.
This is where visits comes in. For visits, we've created an entirely new type of visualization that puts time and locations on equal footing: map-timelines, a combination of maps with a timeline.
The basic idea of map-timelines is to create a new map for every distinct stay at a place. This way, the temporal sequence is clear: the trip starts with the map on the left and continues towards the right. We also solve the problem of overlapping pins, as one map only shows its own location pins.
Another powerful aspect of map-timelines is that the size of a map shows the duration of the stay: the bigger a map, the longer the stay. This means that places that were more important for the trip also gain more visual weight.
visits takes location histories from various services (Google, OpenPaths, Flickr) and turns them into interactive map-timelines right in the browser:
The visualization is created automatically from the collected data. It supports both shorter location histories from, say, a two week trip as well as long-term lifelogging histories of multiple years.
Visits can also load a geo-tagged Flickr photo set and use the contained data to create a map-timeline. This way, visits becomes a convenient geo-centric photo browser:
Regular location pins are shown in yellow, while photo pins appear in red. By hovering over a photo pin, the corresponding photo is shown in the photo box at the bottom right. Vice versa, you can also hover over the photo box to flip through the available photos and see where they were taken.
visits is interactive, so you can adjust which part of the history you're looking at. The timeframe slider at the bottom left lets you zoom in or out to focus on a smaller set of maps.
The map-timelines concept needs a definition of what is considered a place. Each place is turned into its own map, so the location history first has to be split into places. Depending on the data, however, places can be very different: for a city trip, splitting the history into streets might work well, but for long-term journeys to foreign countries this could produce far too many single maps.
The goal is to end up with an expressive and useful number of single maps, not too many and not too few.
As this setting, the placeness, depends on your personal interpretation of the data it can be freely adjusted in visits. The place slider lets you adjust the granularity of your maps, reating lots of map circles on street-level and only a few on country-level.
As visits runs directly in the browser, no private location history is shared with us or anyone else. Everything happens directly on your computer and your privacy is secured. But for your most memorable trips, you might want to share them and visits has you covered here.
By clicking on the 'Share' button in the upper right corner you can turn your location history into an instant visit. Instant visits are unique URLs that you can send to your friends and family and that directly link to your location history. They look something like this: http://v.isits.in/stant_e40NrZOE8 to make them harder to guess.
Sometimes, you might not want to share the full details of your trip, but just the overall gist of it (say, the cities you've visited but not the exact locations of your hotels). You can use the place slider in the Share dialog to do just that:
Top and bottom handles can be adjusted to restrict the range of places that visitors can see. Only after you've clicked on Publish is your filtered location history uploaded to our servers. The resulting instant visit is available for you and whoever you share it with.
You can try visits with our demo history or upload your own from one of the supported services (if we're missing your favorite location history service please let us know). New updates and features will be released in the near future.
If you want to help us improve visits and support our research please take a few minutes to participate in our study after you have tried visits!
Visits is based on a research project from the University of Calgary. You can find the corresponding publication here: A. Thudt, D. Baur, S. Carpendale - Visits: A Spatiotemporal Visualization of Location Histories, EuroVis 2013.