Messy desk

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Just How Messy Are You?
Soon you might be able to answer that question down to the decimal point. Researchers at MIT, led by cognitive scientist Ruth Rosenholtz, PhD, are working on a series of computer programs designed to quantify visual clutter by measuring color, contrast, "feature congestion," and visual complexity in maps and photographs of messy spaces. Rosenholtz's work could end debates over whether your teenager's room really is a pigsty (it is), help streamline Web sites and simplify maps, and maybe even lead to the creation of smart cars that can direct drivers to avoid overly cluttered—and therefore dangerous—streets.