PSFK speaks with Raj Advani, Co-Founder and Chief Architect, of UpNext about 3D mapping and adding layers of real-time information.
Keeping stride with technology’s impact on the fan experience at live sporting events, at this year’s Super Bowl in Dallas, the NFL will provide attendees with a cutting-edge mobile application for Apple and Android platforms that combines 3D mapping technology with event and venue information and real-time updates. The official Super Bowl XLV Mobile Guide was designed and built by New York City-based company, UpNext, developers of the UpNext 3D Cities application that adds an additional dimension to the way users currently interface with digital maps.
Over the course of three months, the team has updated their existing platform with additional features to create a new way for Super Bowl attendees to navigate not only the Dallas/Fort Worth area, but the interior of the stadium as well, enabling visitors to locate their parking space, find their seat and identify nearby concessions. Expanding on this functionality, users will also be able to see which venues are experiencing the largest volume of visitors – a step towards real-time layers of information.
PSFK recently sat down with Raj Advani, Co-founder and Chief Architect of UpNext, to learn more about the technology and get his vision for the future of where mapping is headed.
Can you tell us about the technology behind UpNext?
UpNext is developing real-time 3D maps. Previously, maps consisted solely of static tiles, downloaded as little JPGs from a server somewhere and stitched together to cover the world. Google innovated on top of this by making those tiles draggable on a web browser. But recently, the advent of powerful 3D processors on mobile devices — driven by the iPhone — has enabled mapping technology to reach the next level: instead of using static photos, maps can be constructed in real-time from raw data, that can change every second in response to external events and user input. This is what UpNext has developed, and it enables all kinds of new user experiences.
How does this change the user experience?
The technology discussed above gives maps a hyper-interactive feel, much like a video game. First we can increase clarity: maps will no longer suffer from too much clutter, because the information displayed can change in real-time to the user’s needs. For example, if you map a route from your home to a nearby restaurant, we can highlight that specific route in full color and de-emphasize the surrounding areas, making them faded and grayscale. Second, we can create real-time morphing data. Public transportation can be displayed as buses literally rolling down the street; or current weather conditions can be accurate modeled into the map itself. And finally, we can add interactivity: objects can be tapped and manipulated, and you can seamlessly enter and exit buildings as we demonstrated with the Cowboys Stadium. None of these three user experience innovations are possible with older tile-based mapping technologies.
Where we do you see mapping headed?
Building on what I mentioned earlier, what I also want to emphasize is we see mapping breaking away from the one size fits all model. Companies are going to start using mapping as a way to differentiate themselves from competitors, instead of universally all relying on a singular mapping API. Right now maps basically serve as the endpoint for search: I find something, and I use the map to see how to get there. But as the technology becomes richer, and what people are able to do with maps expands, we’ll start seeing some very creative new use-cases that bring maps to the start of the search: the maps themselves will be dynamic, interesting, and ripe for exploration.
What’s the future vision of UpNext?
UpNext wants to be the primary provider of these new experiences for companies large and small. Numerous industries, like travel guides, resorts, and event planners, want to create richer experiences for their users around location. But it’s difficult to create interesting maps right now. Either you use an API provided by the likes of Google and Microsoft, or you develop everything from scratch in-house. But using the tools provided by the major players doesn’t allow much customization: every Google map looks exactly like every other Google map, just with different pushpins. And developing mapping technology in-house takes years. So what we’ve developed is a platform where companies can create highly customized and futuristic mapping experiences without all the effort.