IperMilano, the forerunner of Google Maps. Marcella and Marina: in 1989 our project at the Statale

from Luca Caglio

Logli and Bonomi so curious and innovative that they anticipated the invention of the international app as students of the University of Milan: “Dare, get out of the comfort zone, pursue the revolution”

The planet Earth seen from the computer, without going into orbit. The main road rediscovered thanks to the certainties of Google Maps, not a sense of flair and road traffic. Normality that was once a utopia, a future, but also the «forerunner» project of two students of the University of Milan enrolled in Computer Science, formerly Information Sciences. The only women, proud, of a newborn faculty. Little Steve Jobs. So curious and innovative as to anticipate the brains of Mountain View.

It was 1989 when Marcella Logli and Marina Bonomi presented the revolutionary thesis on virtual reality, at the time “artificial”, bringing to the committee table (the Internet was not yet used) a cd-rom with a wow effect content, because for the first time the Lombard capital became “IperMilano”, the city already in the metaverse, interactive and multimedia, with its streets and institutions. “The user, for example, could enter La Scala and listen to a concert” explains Logli, now manager and board member of Avio, the Italian aerospace company. The seed of the modern world, the partial mapping of reality, the “Expo” ante litteram. A discussion that remained academic, never became commercial with a product to sell. “We had tried to intrigue the Municipality – recall the inventors – but the digital culture was almost non-existentmoreover, startups and venture capital could not be found ».

However, the first attempt to simplify life for the Milanese, as Google Maps did later, with the possibility of accessing information on shops and monuments such as the Duomo. Remote explorations. Which they then led Marcella and Marina to success, to work for important companies such as Olivetti, Apple, Telecom, Vodafone, “Where the female population is still in the minority, perhaps because computer science is seen as a discipline for males, yet it is a guarantee of work, and in Milan there have always been brilliant minds”. Curiosity, first of all, the desire to be part of a change, inspiring others, beyond technical knowledge and languages.

Behind «IperMilano» there were hypertexts, the Hypercard program with links to texts, sounds and videos, the Macintosh ecosystem. “We had set up the project according to three points of view – explains Bonomi, CEO of Mimesi -, the first was the aerial one, from above, the second natural or on the ground and the third was conceptual, a sort of anticipation of metaverse and augmented reality, with the user searching for information on what he saw, using graphics that for the first time used icons ». More than thirty years later, technology marks the everyday, sometimes it governs it, “enters” museums for online tours, approaches and perhaps divides, supports art, touches on health care. “But with telemedicine we are still a little behind – underlines Logli -: only the pandemic has accelerated its spread”.

Marcella and Marina, M&M, former university friends driven by curiosity. Friends. Career women. The first digital photographers of Milan. And a legacy for future freshmen: “Dare, get out of the comfort zone, pursue the revolution“.

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July 6, 2022 (change July 6, 2022 | 14:48)

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IperMilano, the forerunner of Google Maps. Marcella and Marina: in 1989 our project at the Statale

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