The majority of location-based smartphone apps is obviously aimed at uncovering the city and its dynamics. Many of these services enable a first-time visitor to walk around like a local. Google Maps, Foursquare, Augmented Reality apps like Layar — they’re all very handy and useful, but they’re all there to let you not be guided by coincidence or intuition. And that can be a pity sometimes.
However, there is a segment of location-aware apps that brings different urban dimensions to the front, and enhance the urban experience with psychogeography-powered layers, freaky story-lines and augmented realities to what you already see and hear — all focused on inducing the unexpected. Here we present a top 5 of (free) apps that enable you to explore the city in totally new and refreshing ways. If we’ve missed something that should have been included in this list, you’re welcome to make suggestions!
Inspired by the Situationists, Serendipitor is a (free) app that makes use of Google Map’s API to “find something by looking for something else”. Users begin by entering a destination, from which the app suggests various routes, which are shorter or longer, depending on how much time they have. During navigating the chosen route, Serendipitor suggests actions and movements to generate interactive encounters. Actions vary from “enter the tallest building nearby and head straight to the top floor. Take a photo” to “follow a person for two minutes”, or “find the next one-way street and walk down it the wrong way”. Click here to download Serendipitor.
The official Inception app is not just a promo tool for the film — it’s an exciting dream machine that transforms the world around you into a dream world. The app uses augmented sound to induce dreams through the headset of the iPhone and iPod Touch, changing your perception of reality. The Inception app aims to introduces the atmosphere of the movie straight into your life. At the same time it’s a game in which users are encouraged to unlock new dreams, for example by walking, being in a quiet room, while traveling, or when the sun shines. Click here to download Inception.
Wanderlust doesn’t focus on you sending and telling people about your location or plans, but on a story which unfolds when you’re at different locations. Obviously, Wanderlust is a storytelling platform which makes use of the location database of Foursquare. As the location itself plays an important role in the story, this application intensifies the experience of the narrative. The story itself will tell you were to go next to enjoy the next episode of the story. The makers have invited a couple of known writers such as Naomi Alderman and Tom Chatfield to come up with the first stories. Others can also hand in their stories and share these on the Wanderlust platform. Click here to visit Wanderlust.
4. Shadow Cities
Shadow Cities is a location-based Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) that takes the urban environment as platform. Neighborhoods and familiar streets are part of the game world that is visible on the screen of the iPhone. The game enables its players to explore their surroundings with new eyes. It combines local, location aware gaming with global web gaming and aims to attach new meaning to once mundane places, “as you learn their magical properties. Your office building might just be the most important spot in the whole city”. Every city in the world transforms into a battle arena. Click here to download Shadow Cities.
How’s the aura of my neighborhood today? Glow attempts to give an answer to this question by mapping of feelings and sentiments in urban districts. Glow lets you easily share your feelings using a simple star-based rating system. Feelings are then geo-located and tagged to a map that shows how people around you feel, represented by glowing colored orbs that range from blue (“awesome”) to red (“not so awesome”). In addition, the app has an Augmented Reality component that shows layered ‘glows’ on top of reality. Click here to download Glow.