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Atlasify: Search Using Maps

This "thematic atlas" shows the regions most related to ice hockey.

A new search engine generates cartographic analyses of subjects of interest.

Credit: Northwestern University Newscenter

Northwestern University researchers led by professor Douglas Downey have launched a beta version of Atlasify, a search engine that invites users to explore new concepts by generating cartographic atlases about subjects of interest.

The project is a collaboration with University of Minnesota's Brent Hecht, who says, "Thematic cartography is very effective at helping people explore unfamiliar information landscapes. Atlasify takes this long-standing benefit of cartography and applies it to general search."

When a user clicks on a country, state, province, or place of interest in the interactive visualization, an explanation of the relatedness appears.

Downey credits the "richness of Wikipedia" for helping develop the project. Hecht and Downey say an explanatory semantic relatedness algorithm mines Wikipedia to determine the amount of relatedness between concepts.

The project is still under development, and the researchers are working to find additional textual explanations for relationships. They are soliciting user feedback to help evaluate and improve the system, which also features such visualization options as the periodic table of elements, the U.S. Senate seating chart, and a historic timeline.

Downey says users will soon be able to create their own reference systems for visualizations in Atlasify.

From Northwestern University Newscenter
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