Opinion: Do me London – mobile travel guides come of age

September 20, 2007 at 10:04 am

inbabble-do-me-london.jpgMobile devices can be at their most useful when you find yourself in a strange place, or where the local language is one you don’t speak. In the past, we’ve looked at talking phrasebooks, a toilet finding tool, and a whole range of other location-centric services. We like them a lot – but the new interactive travel guide from Do Me London has the potential to trump them all.

Carrying around a large brick, albeit a useful one, in the form of a guidebook to your unfamiliar destination, is one of the less enjoyable aspects of international travel. It makes wearing a “Yes, I’m a tourist” rucksack virtually mandatory, gives you backache, and gets damaged easily, before you get so annoyed with having to heave it in and out of your bag that you leave it in the hotel for the rest of the trip. So a guidebook you can access on your mobile phone sounds like a good idea. But if all it does is replicate the printed guide on a tiny screen, then frankly, what’s the point?

Enter ‘Do Me London’, a unique (as claimed by its developers) interactive Web-based guidebook for the UK’s capital. It consists of a series of audio guides to the city published in downloadable chapters, complemented by a range of text and visual content, such as slideshows of particular attractions. The content delivery process is, it has to be said, slightly convoluted. Users send a text to a shortcode, and receive a text containing a link to the ‘Do Me London’ WAP site in return. They can then use the map or search function on the site to select an attraction they want to find out more about, and are able to view a relevant slideshow or information in text form. Alternatively they can purchase an audio guide ‘chapter’ for £1-£1.50 each (depending on length) which is delivered via a phonecall. The only other costs users have to worry about are operator data charges accrued by browsing the site.

We think this idea has a lot of potential. Instead of a decidedly non-interactive printed book, ‘Do Me London’ turns the city guide into an interactive, multimedia experience, thereby delivering what we think should be a fundamental attribute of all mobile content – the use of technology to add value to the user experience in ways that cannot be replicated via any other medium. And a carry anywhere, interactive, multimedia city guide can definitely only be delivered by a mobile device. Add video into the equation and the service could become even more compelling. Could this be the birth of the real ‘Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy‘? We certainly hope so.

Hamish M.
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Entry filed under: do me london, location based services, mobile applications, mobile content.

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