App Promises Three-Word Navigation


A start-up company says it can give the location of anywhere in the world to the nearest three meters using just three words. How useful that proves to be may depend on how many people use it.

What Three Words is based around three ideas: that large parts of the world don’t have any form of address; that existing addresses can be ambiguous or imprecise; and that systems such as latitude and longtitude that use numbers can be difficult to remember.

The company’s solution was to divide up the entire world into a three meter square grid and give each of the resulting 57 trillion specific addresses an address composed of three words. Using three words for each square meant they could work from a list of 40,000 common words (the upper end of the range for an average adults vocabulary) and produce 64 trillion combinations.

To give an example, the space immediately in front of the Oval Office window at the White House is made up of two squares, “shot.soak.wonderfully” and “loud.goal.deeper”.

The words are largely based on lists of the most popular words, but with offensive terms removed. The lists have also been pared down to remove homophones that could cause confusion. They’ve been allocated so that shorter and more commonly-used words are used in more densely populated areas: a random spot in Antartica is known as “handrail.trestles.thermostats.”

The system is available in nine languages at the moment. Each uses different words to refer to the same grid point: the equivalent words in each language are not translations.

The allocation of words is deliberately configured to act as a form of error correction by having similar words refer to far apart places. For example, a location ending in “lamp” and a location ending in “lamps” are on different continents, making it immediately obvious if somebody has misheard a term. If you type an invalid phrase, for example with a typo, the service will suggest closely matching alternatives, taking into account how close they are to you.

In the long run the idea is to roll out the system for use by other companies. At the moment the main way to use the system is through the company’s website or a mobile app. In both cases, typing in a three word address will bring up the relevant latitude and longitude and a link to open up the relevant location in third-party apps such as Google Apps or Waze.

Despite the huge database involved, the app only requires 10MB for both the list of words and the algorithm to convert phrases into locations or vice versa. It can work in an offline mode (in English only), during which it can give your current location as words, or use an on-screen compass to direct you to any location via its three word phrase.

And no, unfortunately “” does not correspond to any location.

(Via: The Next Web)

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