App for Hawaii visitors augments reality

My Explore HawaiiSmartphones are probably the best thing to happen to travel since the advent of jet airplanes.

Forget crumpled paper maps, outdated books, and snarky hotel staff. Now you need just one gadget to get around, and it can meanwhile also help document your trip, and keep you connected with friends and family.

The folks at rental car company Hertz already have “NeverLost” GPS service available in its cars, but it was a no-brainer to extend the technology into customers’ pockets. The “My Explore” app was launched last fall for iPhone, and is coming out for Android devices in the next couple of weeks.

While it will eventually help people get around several cities, its first stop is Hawaii.

The simply structured, very yellow app helps users learn more about Hawaii with write-ups, photos, and audio clips organized by category (Beaches, Historical Sites, Golf, and the like), island (Oahu, Kauai, Maui and the Big Island), and proximity.

You can mark listings as favorites, so you can use the app to plan your trip in advance.

There is also an event calendar — updated weekly — weather forecasts, and a gee-whiz augmented reality mode that lets you look “through” your smartphone and see locations, attractions, and even events hover and slide as you turn.

I’m not sure how useful it is in practice, but it’s certainly fun to show off.

Augmented Reality View

Lest you worry the listings are stale, or the awkward ramblings of an out-of-state freelancer, the company tells me that the featured content comes from Honolulu Publishing, once the publisher of Honolulu Magazine and today a visitor-focused company behind a series of drive guides.

That background allows the app to provide route information for driving, walking, and taking public transportation. With most GPS navigation apps priced at a premium, its 99-cent price seems more than reasonable.

Finally, there are sharing options to post trip updates to Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr. (The inclusion of Flickr is a nice touch, and it looks like there’s lots of room for additional services down the line.)

To be sure, there are dozens of travel apps out there, many dedicated to Hawaii. One local travel company, Hawaii Aloha Travel, launched an app on both iOS and Android platforms, built upon its own original content. And it’s free. I blogged about it in January at Hawaii Blog.

But if you’re curious about My Explore Hawaii, and its “augmented reality” view, you can find it on iTunes for iOS, and soon, in the Android Marketplace. For more information on the My Explore series, visit My Explore on Facebook.

Here’s a quick look at the app on the iPhone:


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Mahalo to Hertz NeverLost for providing a review copy of its app!