Lonely Planet has long been the de rigueur travel guide publisher for hip backpackers and budget tourists. With its knack for guiding its readers off the beaten path, it is now one of the world’s largest publishers of travel media.
Lonely Planet’s lowly beginning was a guide to what’s known as the Hippie Trail, which traces the routes taken by low-cost travellers in the sixties and seventies throughout Asia. This became popular with young backpackers from Europe and Australasia, who embraced the hippie modes of transport and philosophy of thrift.
Now Lonely Planet is leading the way in another avenue; “augmented reality” Compass Guides for Android users.
The application determines the user’s location via GPS and when the camera is used to scan the surroundings, information labels about points of interest pop up on the screen.
As a new paradigm in travel applications, Lonely Planet is testing the water with coverage of 25 popular US, Asian and European cities. It’s difficult to believe this innovative app won’t be wildly popular, however.
The cities are Amsterdam, Bangkok, Barcelona, Beijing, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London, Paris, Prague, Rome, Seoul, Singapore, Tokyo, Sydney, Vancouver, Boston, Chicago, LA, Las Vegas, Miami, New Orleans, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington DC.
“This is one of the most innovative things we’ve launched and we’re really excited to see how people use this application,” said Matthew Cashmore, the Innovation and Ecosystems Manager for Lonely Planet. “The application pinpoints your exact location so that when you find yourself in a new city and want to know what there is to see and do around you, just look through the camera and a wealth of Lonely Planet information on the best destinations, accommodation, sites, bars and restaurants appear stuck like posted notes to points of interest around you.”
The Android’s built in compass allows the user to learn the direction and distance to the listed destinations. The Google Android store is selling the application for $4.99 USD, and it is back-compatible with all Androids back to the G1.
While we haven’t been able to source vision for the product, the app technology was built in conjunction with Mobilizy, the company behind user generated content AR app Wikitude. To fully understands how it works, watch the video.