Latest assault on travel from Google: A virtual tour guide for mobiles
FieldTrip promises to be a friendly travel companion that will make discovering the world a more fun, engaging and digitally enhanced experience through social connections, information and discovery.
Using a bit of nostalgia and encouraging a more playful “never stop exploring” reminiscent of the endless adventures of childhood, FieldTrip is positioning itself as a tool to facilitate that great travel emotion: wonder.
Field Trip is your guide to the cool, hidden, and unique things in the world around you. It can help you learn about everything from local history to the latest and best places to shop, eat, and have fun. You select the local feeds you like and the information pops up on your phone automatically, as you walk next to those places.
The functionality involves taking all of the information from various sources across the web, and making it accessible on a mobile device according to a user’s location – and delivering it seamlessly, without the user even opening up the app. The user has granular control over what interests her, so relevant content can be pushed to her as she moves through physical space in real-time.
This seamless delivery of information is perhaps the most obvious indication of where Google is heading: a world in which ambient information is sifted and curated with no user input, and then tailored and delivered specifically to that user.
By partnering with reputable publishers, Google has a detailed destination database from the start – Arcadia, Atlas Obscura, and Daily Secret unveil local treasures; Thrillist, Food Network, Zagat and Eater dish up food-related tips; CoolHunting and Remodelista for notable products and places; Songkick and Flavorpill cue up the local music.
Categories available for discovery are: Architecture, Historic Places & Events, Lifestyle, Offers & Deals, Food Drinks & Fun, Movie Locations, Outdoor Art and Obscure Places of Interest.
Other interesting features include:
- full integration with Google Offers
- full voice support, so the app will talk to you as you drive and experience the places around you
- creation of local feeds that deliver location-specific content
- intelligent algorithm that will learn from your likes and dislikes
- social sharing of experiences that also includes Facebook and Twitter (not just Google+)
- optimized for mobile – rather than tablet (Google was explicit on this point…)
After acquiring Zagat last year and Frommers earlier this year, many travel startups are nervously considering Google’s intentions in the travel space. This continued push into the travel ecosystem is encroaching on some territory – such as TagWhat’s Publishing Tool - and certainly causing some consternation in startup-land.
Ultimately, Google’s goal is to create and solidify their position at the middle of the travel ecosystem – from research to booking to sharing, Google’s interest is having a piece of the pie at each one of the stages of travel where ads can be sold or a travel booked.
In spite of Google’s deep-pocketed dominance, startups have a key competitive advantage here: Google’s well-defined revenue model limits them from innovating too heavily in this space. Google is a public company, focused on increasing avenues to serve advertising.
By focusing obsessively on the user and solving key problems for passionate and engaged users, travel startups can build a defensible advantage that allows them to compete with the behemoths. Albeit small, this advantage will be essential in surviving the continued assault by the Google Travel team.
As usual, FieldTrip is initially available only on Android (download here), with an iPhone app promised at some undisclosed future date.
Nick Vivion is a reporter for Tnooz, based in New Orleans, USA.
His passion for travel technology led him to travel around the world shooting travel videos for Current TV and Lonely Planet TV in 2006 and 2007.
He shot on Mini-DV, edited on a white MacBook, uploaded and shared online as he traveled. His moxie for travel video has resulted in over two million views on his YouTube partner channel.
In addition to travel, Nick co-founded of one of the web’s most talked about LGBT media sites, Unicorn Booty, and has gone "blog-to-brick" with a bricks-and-mortar restaurant called Booty's in New Orleans – serving street food from around the world.