Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Want to Use New York City’s Coolest App? Get a Google Phone.

Apple has some 140,000 apps for its iPhone users. People who use phones with Google’s (GOOG) Android operating system have much less choice.

But here’s a consolation prize: Android users do get to use the coolest app in New York City. At least, according to the NYC Big App competition, which awarded its Grand Prize last night to Wayfinder NYC, an Android-only app.

Wayfinder, created by Victor Sima and Steven Lao, uses jaw-dropping space-age “augmented reality” technology–which layers map info, tied to GPS data, over the camera view of a user’s phone–to help people find the nearest subway station.

I’ve seen a couple variants of these, at least in demo form, and they’re some of the coolest things I’ve seen that aren’t in “Minority Report” or some other movie.

This one looks pretty cool, too. There’s no sound in this demo, so don’t be alarmed:

I don’t know what’s nuttier about the technology that makes an app like this plausible–the fact that we can integrate this stuff into a consumer device or the fact that we don’t run around shouting about how amazing this stuff is because we already take it for granted.

Anyway, here’s hoping that New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority doesn’t put the hammer down on this one. The MTA  has been frustratingly slow to adapt to new technology but alarmingly quick to charge innovators with half-baked claims of copyright violation.

And it would be nice if the WayFinder team ports this thing to Apple’s (AAPL) platform so that New York City’s hordes of iPhone users can get their hands on it.


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus