Four apps encourage smarter detours
Common wisdom has it that technology disconnects us from the real world, hindering us from interacting with our environment and experiencing things first-hand. Case in point: the image of a tourist with his nose buried in a guidebook has been replaced with the picture of a tourist glued to his smartphone, oblivious to the wonders around him.
Some people are working to turn that image on its head, however, with four new apps harnessing technology to make travel more interactive. From scavenger hunts and detour suggestions to outdoor multi-player games, these free apps are encouraging tourists to get off the beaten track, stumble upon unique experiences and see the world with new eyes.
Serendipitor (iPhone): Consider this the wanderer’s answer to MapQuest, a popular online source for driving directions and maps. Tourists simply enter origin and destination points, and using a Google Maps interface, the global app creates a circuitous route, full of fun detours such as strolling through a nearby park or popping in to a new boutique. As its name suggests, the aim is to encourage spontaneous travel experiences.
Derive (iPhone, Android) : A travel-inspired, tech-driven scavenger hunt, this global web-based mobile app instructs tourists to head out in a general direction, then uses a set of cryptic hints to prompt them to discover hidden gems. For example, users might be instructed to turn right and look for a symbol of love, then march forward and find a sweet treat at the end of the street – forcing the user look at their surroundings in a new light.
EveryTrail (iPhone, Android): Perfect for hikers, this US-only app uses GPS to plot photos and videos taken during a hike directly onto the app’s trail map. Users can share their individualised routes – with photos, videos, tips, warnings and detours – with other app users, as well as check out others’ maps for inspiration (there are currently more than 400,000 available). The app encourages hikers to slow down and enjoy the experience, stopping to take photos and videos, or simply to pause at scenic points along the way.
Ingress (Android): Developed by NianticLabs, Google’s smartphone research arm, this app is an open-ended augmented reality game between two teams – the Enlightened and the Resistance – who are fighting to control a mysterious energy resource. Unlike most computer games that are usually played at home and indoors, Ingress can be played anywhere in the world and pulls its players outside to discover “portals” such as libraries, art installations, monuments, historical markers and more. Play in your hometown or city, effectively becoming tourists in your own backyard, or when you’re on the road, as a means to penetrate the “tourist bubble”.