Teleport yourself via image search
Skylin.es (left) and Teleportd (right).
There's no question that photos are an incredibly persuasive form of travel inspiration, but a basic internet search for your desired destination runs the risk of delivering images that are inaccurate, imprecise or woefully out-of-date – so it’s not much help in the planning department.
Teleportd (a iPhone app) and Skylin.es (a website and a mobile app) are two new photo search engines that operate in real-time, helping a traveller to – let’s say – get a sense of the vibe of a Paris arrondissement before booking a hotel there. Run a search on either Teleportd or Skylin.es using the names of each arrondissement, such as "Marais" or "Saint-Germain-des-Prés", and both will display photos that were recently taken at those locations, based on geo-location information from the device that took the image.
The two apps are similar in functionality.
Teleportd is a free, iPhone-only app that was launched by a Parisian company earlier this month. It searches within photos that have been recently uploaded to Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare and PicPlz, and are geo-tagged to major locations, like Tokyo and Toronto. While the upper half of your iPhone screen reveals recently uploaded photos, the lower half displays the location of each image on a Google Map. As you zoom in to a particular part of your map, the app reveals slightly older images of the destination, taken up to one month in the past. Changing locations is intuitive: just click on a different part of the map.
On the downside, Telportd is a data-intensive app. Unless you have an all-you-can-eat data plan with your cellular provider, you'll only want to use this tool when you have access to free wi-fi.
Skylin.es is a free app available for Android and iPhone that launched in May by a company in Amsterdam. The app allows you to search for someone, something or somewhere among images that have been uploaded in recent months to the photo services yFrog, Instagram, Twitpic and Mobypicture. It filters images based on location data and publicly available information, like captions, found with the photos on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter. Skylin.es' interface requires trial-and-error to figure out. Typing in "Marais" (without the quotation marks) doesn't fetch any photos; neither does "Marais France". But searching for "Marais Paris" finds many photos taken at spots in the Marais district in Paris. Like Telportd, the site is also a data hog; be sure you have free or affordable Internet access when you use it.
Sean O'Neill is the tech travel columnist for BBC Travel