Travel tech – apps, innovations, gadgets

Latin America and SE Asia... photos taken one second in Africa viewed moments later in Europe... innovation and technology have given travel a radical 21st century makeover, and the pace of change continues to quicken. From location-aware apps to social networking sites to the ever-expanding blogosphere – how we choose where to go, interact with destinations, and share our travel tales are all wildly different to just a decade ago. From time to time we’ll be picking out some of the gadgets and gizmos we think are worth your attention. Here’s several to kick things off.

And in case you’re wondering, we’ve just released our own app, with our great website content, trip info, booking engine and some special goodies, all wrapped up in a neat little package. It is available for ipads, iphones and ipod touch and will cost...nothing! Look out for it on itunes.

Google goggles

Another nail in the guidebook coffin? Google goggles may still be in its infancy, but the image recognition software is looking a pretty awesome and versatile travel tool. Here’s how it works: you’re strolling around a city, or a museum or gallery, you take a snap of something you want to know more about it, if google recognises the subject of the image it will bring up search results. Before you know it, you’re an expert on said piece of art or landmark. Use it discreetly and this piece of ‘augmented reality’ is perfect for wowing your date.

Goggles has got other smarts as well: take a snap of some foreign text and it gets to work translating it. Only a few languages are available at the moment, but any monoglot who has stared dumbfounded at menus or street signs should be adding this to their mobile before their next travels. Available for Android and iPhone.

Lonely Planet apps

Or the resurrection of guidebooks? From easy-to-use city guidebooks, armchair-traveller friendly photo e-books to the clever-clever Compass Guides for the Android, LP is one of several publishers who have grasped the app nettle and are coming up with innovative products that may point the way ahead for travel guidebooks. The Compass Guides are the most fun: these use GPS technology for augmented reality camera-views, populating your smartphone view with geo-located tips on accommodation, entertainment and places of interest. Great for up-to-the-minute, on-the-move info.

World Customs

We always give people who travel with us with plenty of tips and guidance about local cultures and etiquette in foreign countries, so this app is right up our street. Pick your country and then you’ll be presented with a load of helpful info on the destination – from law & order to religious etiquette to taboos. Great for sorting out your do’s from your don’ts.

iLingual

More language-barrier breaking, although this one’s primary function may be as a great icebreaker. This is a phrasebook like no other – download the iLingual app, take a photo of your mouth, the app then has over 400 useful phrases your mouth can ‘say’. Cue the odd sight of travellers holding their iphones in front of their actual mouths as the screen ‘talks’. You can even customise the pitch of ‘your’ voice. Watch a video for this app – a demo is better than any written explanation. Great fun, and one step closer to turning humans into Douglas Adams’ Babel Fish.

Walkin’ Bag

Okay, so hi-tech it ain’t. But in the era of increasingly overcrowded airports, there’s something appealing about any piece of luggage that comes with a built-in chair. If only there was a rucksack that came similarly equipped...

We’ll blog again soon with more about our app, and some other great tech and gadgets.

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