Google has just launched Field Trip, a new app that the company says is "your guide to the cool, hidden, and unique things in the world around you." It sounds like it works as a virtual tour guide — with the app running in the background, a "card" will pop up with information any time you're near a site of interest. In a lot of ways, this sounds like an extension of Google Now, with the app providing background information to you seamlessly based on your location. John Hanke from Google told The New York Times that "the idea behind the app was to build something that would help people connect with the real, physical world around them."
According to the description on Google Play, Field Trip pulls in information from a wide variety of sources, including publications and services like Thrillist, the Food Network, Zagat, Cool Hunting, Atlas Obscura, and Songkick. These services, as well as Google's own data, gets filtered into seven different categories: architecture, historic places and events, lifestyle, offers, food and drink, cool and unique, and outdoor art. Each is represented by a different color, and you can easily select which you are and aren't interested in being notified about.
Google's vision of the internet-connected guidebook
Field Trip certainly has some augmented reality aspects to it — while you're not literally looking through a lens and having information pop up, the app will notify you any time it finds something of interest. That should be pretty often in big cities; near my home on the outskirts of Boston, Field Trip had no trouble pulling up a whole list of nearby points of interest. Many of them won't be surprising if you're a local, but if you're traveling out of town, you could easily find a host of places you've never heard of. If you're not into looking at a simple list, there's also a map view that shows you exactly what is around worth checking out.
Visually, the app is very heavy on faux-textures — the whole UI appears to be on parchment. It's quite a departure from Android's standard design language as well as the typical visual style of most of Google's apps. Unsurprisingly, there is also some voice integration, with Field Trip actually notifying you by reading a title or description of the local landmark when it notifies you (something you can turn off in settings, of course). While the app is Android-only right now, the company plans to bring it to iOS as well — though it isn't clear yet when the app for Apple devices will be available. Unfortunately for those living (or traveling) abroad, the app is US-only right now — but one of its developers said that international expansion was in the works.