Microsoft was issued a patent today on a computer system for “pedestrian route production” — better known as walking directions — that automatically adjusts the route for the unique conditions encountered by a person going from place to place on foot.
One of the features would help pedestrians avoid an “unsafe neighborhood,” taking into account violent crime data.
According to the patent, the system could “construct a direction set that allows the user to take paths that take him to his home in a quickest amount of time while keeping the user relatively safe (e.g., taking the user through neighborhoods with violent crime statistics below a certain threshold).”
As part of that feature, the system could also take into account user tolerance for unsafe neighborhoods based on past behavior, such as whether the person has “historically cared about safe neighborhoods.”
Other features could include the ability to avoiding open areas that can subject users to harsh temperatures.
Data feeding into the overall walking-directions system could also demographic information, although the patent doesn’t say what type of demographic information would be used, or how.
Microsoft applied for the patent in December 2007. Google Maps released its walking directions feature in July 2008, and Microsoft Bing Maps added walking directions in March 2010.
For the record, I haven’t been able to find any indication that Microsoft has implemented or plans to roll out the crime-avoidance feature.
Photo by npzo, via Flickr.