Ask someone on the street for directions, and they'll probably point to a landmark and tell you where to turn. But a typical smartphone map tells you to head north or south—something that isn't particularly helpful if you're already lost.
A navigation app called Walc, designed for pedestrians, was built on the idea that someone walking could use different directions than someone in a car.
"Time passes differently when you're walking—all of your senses are engaged and you gravitate toward visual cues to guide your way," says Walc founder Allison McGuire. "You measure distance with time, blocks, steps, and even calories burned. When you're driving, you look out for signs and measure distance in miles. These are very different experiences…we cater to the pedestrian experience."
The app finds something nearby—say, a Starbucks—asks if you can see it, and then gives you turn-by-turn directions based on physical landmarks along the way. If there's nothing of note nearby, it uses street names.
"You simply decide where you want to go, and confirm what you can see to start your journey," McGuire says. "The app does everything else. No more worrying which direction is north or trying to figure out where that blue dot is traveling as you move."
With a new hands-free "pocket" mode, you can leave your phone in a coat or bag and listen to directions as you look around, instead of staring at a screen.
It's designed to make finding a destination less annoying, but it's also meant to make people more likely to choose to walk and ditch their car. "We built the Walc app with the mission of creating a walkable world," she says. "By giving people directions as you would give a friend, walking becomes the easy choice."