This article was originally posted on the Tech North website.
It’s been a long time coming, but it finally looks like augmented reality has a shot at mainstream success. Pokemon Go’s current popularity is one example of AR’s potential, and World Around Me is another.
Based out of Lancaster, World Around Me allows you to hold your phone up anywhere and get information about… well, the world around you. Hold your phone at eye level and you’ll be able to explore interactive ‘signposts’ to nearby bars, restaurants, parks, museums, hotels, shops and more.
This isn’t the first app to let you do this, but it’s an idea that’s time may be approaching at last. The app is designed to let you explore, find what you want and then move on as quickly as possible. It’s an approach that won the team behind World Around Me a Google Play award at this year’s Google I/O developer conference in Silicon Valley.
Once you find a place you’re interested in, it’s easy to call, visit its website or navigate there.
Available for both Android and iOS, the app works in 25 languages. Its potential as a tool for tourists is being explored in Italy, where Porto Antico Di Genova is encouraging visitors to use the app to make the most of their time there.
That’s just the start. Tarun Sainani, CEO of WT InfoTech, the firm behind World Around Me, says he’s been invited to Paris to look at how the app could improve the tourist experience in one of the world’s most-visited cities. Sainani is keen to work with UK cities too, as exploring the world via his app can be far more engaging and useful than simply looking at a map.
The Lancaster experience
So, what’s it like being a tech firm in Lancaster? “Lancashire is a great place for startups building a global business,” says Sainani. “The low cost of living helps in early days when cashflow is slow and one is bootstrapping. Lancashire County Council gives great support in form of marketing grants and startup grants through the Boost programme. We have benefitted from their services in our first year and third year of running, and are thankful to them.”
Indeed, while Lancaster doesn’t have a high profile as a ‘tech city,’ there’s a surprising amount of activity going on there. University spin-out Relative Insight is just one other example from the city.
Indeed, being in a university city can have real benefits. “Lancaster in particular gives you access to people from over 100 countries. Having rich diversity in a small city is a unique feature,” says Sainani.
Oh, and it’s certainly not an ugly place either, which takes the pain out of testing an app that requires a lot walking. “The ideas and early feasibility studies with World Around Me were done in Lancaster city, which is a beautiful walking city.”
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