What Was There | Mobile

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Measures of Success

  • Since early 2011, the overall number of uploaded photos has grown exponentially by over 300%.
  • Early adopters who become proficient in the application tend to return on a regular basis.
  • A bit of a learning curve can lead to greater user investment if the payoff is worth the effort.

How We Did It

WhatWasThere.com is a web-and mobile-based application that allows anyone to upload historical photos, place them precisely on a Google map, and then within Google Street View create a near seamless melding of past and present.

The full-on experiential core of the WhatWasThere concept is the mobile app. Not just a retooling of the full site, the mobile app takes full advantage of all the functionality packed into most advanced mobile devices: GPS, mapping, compass, orientation, and camera. In addition to developing for a variety of devices and operating systems, the mobile app needed to adapt a very memory intensive online application to the mobile realm—an achievement that could only be successfully accomplished by employing a rigorous, dynamic and highly complex approach to device memory management.

One particularly unique mobile-only feature allows users to discover and view posted historical photos near their current location using their on-board camera. As users stroll down a street populated with WhatWasThere images, the on-board smartphone camera shows the images in proper context within small, floating, circular images. As the user shifts their horizontal orientation, the app’s in-camera display elements track with them—all the time providing an intuitive representation of the location of all nearby images. By focusing in on any one of the floating image nodes, the user can access that image and view it quite literally in real time/space, taking the idea of immersive digital experience to the next level in extendable reality.

Insights for Success

  • Location-based apps carry with them a host of third-party integration challenges.
  • Memory intensive Web-based apps can be effectively ported to mobile, however, don’t underestimate the effort involved.
  • The mobile environment is a rich, rapidly evolving space that is constantly being redefined and extended through innovative third-party development
  • Shades of George Mallory: Why did you build it? Because we could. Not to mention we thought it would be really cool.