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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, 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, 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 Fred Curtis says the addition of this tool will help the 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 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 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 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 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.”


Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have had a tremendous effect on the reporting of Iranian elections, according to Associate Professor Ingrid Volkmer.

Associate Professor Volkmer says YouTube and Twitter have allowed a global audience access to footage and reports from Iranian citizens which would have been gagged by the Government, and says these first hand accounts have made the Iranian people less like ‘the other’ to a western audience.

“Basically ‘the other’ - which used to be the Iranian population - has become us. In this footage streets look the same as ours, people use mobile phones like we do, and they even look like we do,” she says.

“What Twitter does is give us immediate accounts of what people in Tehran are doing. It allows them to organise themselves and organise demonstrations. From Australia we can read the same message as if we are there, its more authentic and lively.”

“Personal interaction is having political impact and we haven’t had that before. We have only had media outlets covering global affairs such as CNN, NBC and SBS, but never this kind of personal interaction and this creates empathy.”

Associate Professor Volkmer says the impact of social media on the Iranian elections shows journalism is changing.

“In the old days we basically went overseas and delivered a message from the Australian perspective back to Australia, but this has dramatically changed because all of a sudden it seems we are one concerned community.”

Associate Professor Ingrid Volkmer is the Deputy Director of the Media and Communications Program at the University of Melbourne.

The internet came to Australia 20 year ago today, with a fragile link from Hawaii pinging across the seas to Robert Elz - now a fellow of the Melbourne School of Engineering in the Department of Computer Sciences and Software Engineering.

The subject line of what was probably the first message into Australia was straight to the point - ‘Link Up’, it said.  The message was sent by Torben Nielsen, who had been funded by NASA to set up internet links with countries throughout the pacific. Director of e-Research at the University, Professor Leon Sterling, says Melbourne University was chosen as the site for the nation’s first connection because they were leading Australia with UNIX technologies.

It was quite a rollicking journey for Australia’s first ping because there wasn’t a cable laid, the message traveled over a cable from Melbourne to Sydney, then via satellite to the west coast of the US and then back through another cable to Hawaii.

According to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures there are 7.1 million internet subscribers in Australia and Professor Sterling says the internet has had a huge impact on the world as it’s grown. 

 “It has changed the way we find things, through Google. It has changed the way we think about knowledge, through Wikipedia. It has changed the way we access and share music. It has changed the way we communicate, with email and Skype and it has changed the way we socialise, with Facebook,” he says.

“As witnessed during the past week, the internet has also changed the way revolutions can happen as witnessed in Iran.”

The first clinical test of an Australian bionic eye is likely to take place within two years and be commercialised within five according to University of Melbourne researchers, thanks to a $50 million funding boost from the Federal Government.

University of Melbourne researchers have leapt the lab to marketplace divide, by selling the world’s first Single Photon Source to Germany. Single Photon Sources are the key to advances in Quantum Communications which will provide unprecedented Ultra-high Security for information transfer.

Surfing the net at work for pleasure actually increases our concentration levels and helps make a more productive workforce, according to a new University of Melbourne study.

RESTORING human vision, reducing carbon emissions, fitter gamers and fire regeneration for grapevines will be addressed by four University of Melbourne researchers named as winners of this year’s Australian Fulbright Scholarship.