Vancouver students create innovative, award-winning app using open data

Combining Vancouver City’s Open Data Catalogue and the forces of Microsoft’s Silverlight and the Bing Maps API, grad students at Great Northern Way Campus in Vancouver created TaxiCity, a entertaining game where players can navigate the city in a yellow cab.

But cab driving games have been done to death, so what is it that makes TaxiCity so innovative? 

The combined technologies mentioned above have allowed these talented students—who range from programmers to graphic designers, to producers and project managers—to create an ultra-realistic city map. When your cab is putting around the city, you’ll recognize all of Vancouver’s real streets and intersections. 

The gameplay itself is so-so. The controls are a little cumbersome, the terrain is very bland and the repeated-loop music will drive you mad after a couple of minutes. But none of that really matters. It’s about the fact the app has taken a real city’s grid and converted it flawlessly into a game app using open data and map technologies.

“When the City of Vancouver released a new version of its Open Data Catalogue, it was a natural next step for us to use the street center-lines, block outlines, building traces and park geometry available for TaxiCity,” says Dashan Yue, one of the students. “Our program combines different Open Data sets with Silverlight and Bing, which helped to drastically lower development time, while giving us the mapping data we needed to build a visually appealing, dynamic gaming environment.” Imagine how fun high-depth games like Grand Theft Auto or street-racing games would be on a true-to-life city grid, where you can recognize every street and building.

The students are working closely with Microsoft Canada, which will help advance their innovation and enhance the game in time to come, as well as embark on entirely new adventures that take advantage of these technologies. The students have also received help from the VanMaps team, and with guidance from open government activist David Eaves. All of which makes you realize just how big this project is, and just how much bigger it can get, with such tremendous support and connections.

Can’t wait to see what this group of talents will do next.