Google’s Field Trip: closing in on X-ray vision travel

Google Field Trip logo in Android Play Store

How many times have you thought while traveling, “If only I could see through walls, or have a bird’s eye view of all the cool things around me. I’m sure I’m missing stuff that’s right under my nose.”

For the last few weeks I’ve been playing with a brand-new phone app that gets fairly close to that bird’s eye view: Google’s Field Trip.

The idea is that once you download, install and activate it, the program will run in the background on your phone and ping you whenever there’s something of interest around you, based on its GPS estimation of your location.

Right now it’s only available for Android OS phones, but an iPhone version is planned, and from what I can tell it’s U.S.-only.

Google Field Trip screenshot of notification options

I’ve tested it in the Austin area, Fort Worth, some small towns in northern and southern Texas and a bit around Honolulu and the rest of Oahu; the app surprised me with landmark and history tidbits even in places that I know well, and it came up with plenty of good things in some very small towns. You can give each individual notification a thumbs up or down, which helps train the software to give you more of what you find interesting.

Information is supplied to the app from lots of different sources: Thrillist, Zagat for restaurants (Google owns the Zagat restaurant review database,) gobs of obscure-but-lovely historic photos from Arcadia Publishing, input from an historical marker database, a movie locations guide, Flavorpill, Cool Hunting and many others.

A few times I’ve gotten 5-7 historical marker notifications at once; this makes me quite happy since I’ll slam on the brakes and pull off the road in a cloud of dust to read markers in the offline world.

You can set the app to only report findings occasionally, or to tell you all the danged time what’s around you (warning – in a larger city this may drive you crazy after awhile with information overload.) If you’re driving, you can set the app to send notifications by voice.

I’m particularly fond of how the app uses maps; you can get a listing of “Nearby” items of interest, but when you click “Map” they’re all laid out really clearly in relation to your personal blue-dot location.

All of this wonderment uses up your phone battery, so have that charging cord handy.

If you’ve ever wanted the “walls to speak”….or to enjoy Historical Marker Overload….take a look at Field Trip. It’s given me a whole new way to learn about places when I don’t have lots of time but do have lots of curiosity.

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  1. Sara Saltzman October 18, 2012
  2. Sheila Scarborough October 20, 2012

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