Let Google’s “Field Trip” App Be Your Guide

Discover Points of Interest with Field Trip

You know, it’s really a shame that throughout our daily lives we may find ourselves near some really interesting or historical spots, and never know they’re right in front of us. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could be alerted when we’re near something of interest, receive a bit of information about it, and choose to learn more about the world around us?

This is exactly what Google is trying to help us all accomplish with a little-known app called “Field Trip” from Google’s Niantic Labs, which is an odd offshoot of the search giant, to say the least. As odd as that might be, I appreciate Google/Niantic’s attempts to get people out and explore the physical world.

Read Business Insider’s feature on Niantic Labs

Here is a quick video that shows you what the app is all about. [embedvideo id=”zusjUjaiWJQ?rel=0″ website=”youtube”] Google Field Trip lets you select which types of interests you'd like to be notified about. Click for a larger preview. In a nutshell, Field Trip is an app you install on your Android or iPhone that contains a wide variety of Points of Interest, or POI’s.

When you are physically near a POI, you may receive a notification telling you about it, in case you’d like to learn more. I should point out that it’s practically necessary to enable the GPS on your phone, so your location isn’t estimated and you’re actually getting notifications about things next to you – not a half mile away!

You can configure the app to display notifications for most/all POI’s, set it to “I’m Feeling Lucky”, which will display only the best POI’s, or turn off notifications altogether if you’re the type of person who would rather do the searching yourself by opening up the app manually. I recommend setting the app to "I'm Feeling Lucky." This will provide you with occasional alerts about nearby POI's, but you won't be inundated like you would with the "Explore" option. Click to see a larger preview.

I have my app set to “I’m Feeling Lucky” because there really are a lot of POI’s out there, and I found that I was receiving way more notifications than I’d like when it was set to display all.

Make It a Game!

Google has also released an app that borrows what seems to be much of the same architecture that Field Trip was built on. It’s called Ingress, and makes the world around you into a game. Disclaimer: Ingress is currently available for Android, but it may be coming to iOS summer 2014.

The World Around You Is Not What It Seems

Ingress encourages players to get out and explore the physical world. It's not a game you can play from your couch, which can be great for people who love, or hate, to be active!In Ingress, you see portals opening to our world where “Exotic Matter” (XM) is popping up. The point of the game is to collect this XM and use it to hack portals, either to weaken one controlled by the other team, or capture/strengthen one for your own team. Capture two portals in an area to create a link. Capture three or more to create a field between them. The interesting part about Ingress is that all of these portals appear to be based on POIs from the same database Field Trip uses. That means most portals will be found around libraries, museums, post offices, statues and other locations with historical or cultural significance. I think Google has a plan here, but I’m not sure what. Although I have found Ingress to be too open-ended for me to play very often, Google has created an intriguing storyline that many people are compelled to follow. I encourage you to check out both Field Trip and Ingress; who knows, you may be playing Ingress and happen upon some really great places through Field Trip. While Ingress may be too complicated for younger students, and especially for people who don’t drive, it’s something fun worth pointing out. For more family-friendly outdoor activities, you may be interested in geocaching instead.

If you’re the adventurous type, you may have a lot of fun spending a day with your kids out and about using Field Trip and/or Ingress. I’d love for you to give these apps a try and let us know what you think in the comments!

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 Photo courtesy of Scott Holm

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