Explore Your City with BlankWays
Tom Loois (a “translation designer”) of the Design Academy of Eindhoven came up with the concept for an app called BlankWays after being challenged to design his ”personal definition of silence.” The app tracks your movement through a city and presents you with a topographical map, highlighting the streets and paths that you’ve not yet followed. As a result, you’re encouraged to fill in the map by traversing the unexplored parts, and in doing so, gain appreciation for all that the city has to offer.
I recall a similar concept piece from Interactions that I read about a year ago (the name is escaping me), where a researcher proposed a GPS navigation app that used phone vibrations to subtly encourage detours when leading one to a destination. Rather than staring intently at the phone while navigating, the user was free to walk in the general direction of their destination, while haptic feedback encouraged them to snake through more indirect paths on the way.
Although BlankWays isn’t available for download yet, and the second piece was just a concept, I find both really intriguing as tools to make people more aware and attuned to their surroundings – beyond just recommending new restaurants and bars like so many other location-based services. In an age when we’re increasingly glued to our mobile devices and shirking our social selves back in meat-space, could these tools promote good social habits, much like a health app that encourages us to eat more veggies or burn more calories? Then again, who’s to say that we shouldn’t just accept that individual attention is no longer a given in everyday interactions, but is something to be doled out to the devices and tasks that most need them?