Building up to our PSFK SEATTLE event on May 10th, we’re interviewing the creators and thought leaders who will be sharing their latest ideas with us. Scott Kendall is the creator of quadstreaker, a location-based iOS app that creates a colorful, easy to follow visual history of a user’s movement over time. The app divides the world into ‘Quads’ – small square units that fill in with colors as users explore new areas – encouraging users to get out of their comfort zones and traverse their unfamiliar surroundings.
How did you come up with the idea for quadstreaker?
quadstreaker grew out of a simple idea I wanted to see ever since I was a kid: a huge, comprehensive map of your lifetime exploration. I wanted a visually stunning map that would automatically grow in richness as I explored the world… and spur me to explore even more. For years I kept being pulled back to the idea but always the technology wasn’t there. In Oct 2011 that all changed when Apple released iOS5 with some key improvements to the iPhone’s location technology that finally made it possible to create this kind of comprehensive life map effortlessly in the background. I’ve been cranking on quadstreaker since then!
Given the abundance of geo-location apps on the market, what separates quadstreaker from other location tracking apps?
The biggest differentiator is the psychology behind it. quadstreaker doubles-down on giving you a sense of progress and a sense of completion as you move around, not on navigation, people discovery, or providing recommendations like the many location apps focused on those things. It breaks exploration into achievable goals that can start in your neighborhood and expand across the globe. The big enabler of this is the Quad — a square area that colors in on your map as you move around. It’s a simple, universal unit that quantifies your progress as you explore anywhere in the world. Seeing a new Quad color in on your map feels like you’re checking it off a list — and gives you a strong sense of completion.
Forced to put quadstreaker in a category in the App Store, I picked Travel. But this isn’t quite right since what we normally think of as travel is probably less than 5% of most people’s yearly movement… and quadstreaker aims to collect the full 100%. Your daily commute, your trip to the grocery store, all the other little trips around where you live: taken together they’re a big part of your life’s exploration that’s largely slipping through the cracks. quadstreaker is a different animal than other travel apps because it instills the spirit of exploration into the 95% of your life outside of vacations.
Ideally, what do you want people to get out of their time using quadstreaker?
If you use quadstreaker for a while, you’ll start to build up this amazing visualization of where you’ve been. You’ll also collect insightful stats about your explorations. And you’ll be able to see all of this for your friends too. The longer you use quadstreaker, the more these assets will grow in meaning and importance. They’ll help answer interesting questions like: how much of my city have I explored? when did I last go somewhere? which of my friends have been here too? where haven’t I been?
But more important than the endgame is the journey. Seeing your map color in over time as you explore new places is the little carrot of satisfaction that I want people to get out of quadstreaker every time they go somewhere. quadstreaker aims to turn every day of your life into a rewarding exploration experience, but outside of that if it can get you to go a step further, explore a bit more, and interact more with the real-world, that’s a success.
What has been the best part of the development process? What has been the biggest challenge?
I love maps, and quadstreaker’s DNA is maps. As I once heard, a map is the single thing on a piece of paper that can hold your attention the longest. Now imagine how long a 15th century explorer would have pored over Google Earth. That’s kind of like me, I can spend hours surfing around in it. The world is soooo huge and diverse. Working on quadstreaker has been an amazing opportunity to dig into and pore over maps of places all over the world. Strategizing how best to create a virtual gameboard of exploration out of something as big and complex as Earth has been exhilarating and ongoing challenge.
The biggest challenge we’ve faced so far has been creating a true always-on app experience that’s battery-friendly. Very few people have tried to create always-on apps so far; it’s a really different paradigm. Our first beta testers back in Feb 2012 made it clear that battery is sacred when they uninstalled our app after a few days. So back then we made a decision to start a deep dive into battery optimization that eventually consumed months of effort. We really peeled the onion on this one… we’re doing a lot of proprietary stuff optimized specifically for how people move. Finally we have quadstreaker running all day on a single charge in the vast majority of movement scenarios. Hardest thing we’ve done so far.
How do you see the quadstreaker experience evolving over time?
quadstreaker aims to be the steward of your life’s explorations. Some major enhancements are in development now that help advance toward this vision but at the same time we need to keep improving the basic functionality of the app. One of the major themes we’re focused on is making it a truly social experience, not just a bunch of silos of location data tied together by friend relationships. We see a ton of potential for innovation here.
Thanks Scott! Meet him May 10th at PSFK SEATTLE.
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