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Living maps

:: Abstract
Terrarium is a mobile geographic information system for creating and sharing personal maps. It is based on the user’s personal travel times, adapted only to his or her behavior and based on the information he or she personally has recorded.

The subjective map it generates represents the core of a system that offers several other functions such as the sharing and cooperative management of locations and maps with other users and the generation of routes based upon personal itineraries.

:: Concept
When we try to translate our own experiential geography on a flat surface we often get puzzled. Maps seem to us hostile, deliberately complex, sometimes cryptic.

With mobile maps, thanks to the GPS signal that tells us ‘you are here’, we find some relief. But we cannot communicate with them. They always look the same. They know everything, but they do not learn. They are fixed and identical for everyone. And as long as they get more complex, with layers upon layers of information constantly added to them, they become more and more confusing.

Terrarium is the solution to the maps’ ineptitude in making themselves understandable. It allows us to communicate with them. It makes them dynamic and responsive: a terrarium is a place for life, it is a miniaturized environment which reproduces a scaled portion of the world, like a map does, but unlike the map it is meant to be alive.

:: Design
Despite the complexity of the system, the Terrarium mobile app keeps a simple and minimalistic user interface, where all the functions are accessible from a single start screen. Intuitive icons, animated transitions and UI elements such as radial menus and context-aware backgrounds help to quickly focus on the maps and navigate inside the application without efforts.

:: Progress
The Terrarium project has been awarded by MIT Technology Review Italy and further developed into Mapnaut: a startup currently incubated in TechPeaks – the People Accelerator in Trento. Check the Mapnaut website and subscribe to the mailing list in order to keep up-to-date about the progress.