team: Artm Baguinski, Beatrice Gibson, Brigit Lichtenegger, Celine Condorelli, Marloes de Valk, Simon de Bakker

Screenshot of the City Browser in 'human/taxi mode'
CityBrowser Screenshot in 'human' or 'taxi' mode

taxi_onomy is an urban mapping project and mobile cartographic research endeavour that re-appropriates the black taxi as a live, cumulative, archiving device that enables a personal logging, classifying and ordering of the environment through the creation of networked and cognitive maps that are overlayed onto physical space.

Taxi_onomy is a project by media artist Bea Gibson and architect Celine Condorelli. During their 2 month residency at V2_, me and my collegues Artm and Simon worked together with them on a detailed development plan with accompanying software sketches to show how things can work.

The software consists of 3 parts. The Semantic Editor, for the dynamic and collaborative creation of an ontology, the City Editor, for the personal annotation of places in the city, and the City Browser, the visualization of the mapped city in real time.

My main focus during the residency was on the City Browser. The idea behind the City Browser is that the taxi passenger, can select a theme, after which all relevant annotations will be mapped onto the screen. The browser supports a GOD mode (3rd person view), a HUMAN mode (1st person view), and a TAXI mode (1st person view but navigation is handled automatically based on the current location of the taxi).

Screenshot of the City Browser in 'god mode'
CityBrowser Screenshot in 'god' mode

After working in previous projects on knowledge and mental maps, I now got the chance to look into geographical mapping. Though DataCloud 2.5 supports longitude and latitude data, it doesn't really deal with it in a geographical way. It did however provide me with a lot of gps data for the city of Rotterdam, so I had enough material for testing (thnX Stealth!). Perhaps the nicest thing for me was to work on a 'universal' scale. My previous 3D worlds have never been larger than 1000 meters, but the City Browser required to see things at distances varying from 1 meter to 5 times earth radius!

The sketch for the City Browser was done with Java/Java3D. As always there was way too little time to really work things out (8 days for my part in the project.. it's becoming a point of frustration), so I had to do some heavy copy paste programming. Besides copying from my own work I used some classes from OpenMap and from j3d.org (Justin Couch). Though I could easily spent a half year more working on really nice and smooth navigation, I'm quite happy with the result. Especially with Simons work (reading the data from the gps tracker) glued to mine the effect is pretty nice!