M1: Please tell us in your words, what is UpNext?
M1: How is it different from other LBS apps like FourSquare or Gowalla?
V:We differ from other LBS apps in the sense that our focus is on mapping while FourSquare and Gowalla focus on social. We believe down the line we can work together with other LBS services to bring out their data in unique ways. As they work on their APIs and expose more data we feel we can visualize their data in ways other mapping providers can't. Also, as other LBS services grow and look to differentiate themselves we feel they can use our maps to engage their users.
M1: How did you guys come up with the idea for UpNext?
V: My brother moved to New York and found tools to explore the city lacking so had the idea of creating very interactive maps. Then one day he came to me with a very rough mock up of 3D generated city and we took it from there. Three years and many iterations later the result is the current product in the iTunes store.
M1: Why 3D and not just 2D on the mobile version?
V: 3D gives you a better context for the location for the area you are looking at. Also, it allows maps to go beyond the static state they are in today. Currently, with 2D maps, users see a pushpin and the cross streets and that tends to be all they do. With 3D maps, every object can be clicked on, every subway station can be touched, every building can be tapped. It also allows us to bring out layers in visually compelling and informative ways like we do with our searches and subway lines. Think of it as 3D canvas where you can move, touch and color everything. We feel the potential is limitless.
M1: Who are your typical UpNext users?
V: Our users tend to be locals and tourists who explore an of a city they are going to be at or an area they are at currently. Our traffic peaks on the weekends of after work when people are looking to go out. Our engagement is high as the average session time is over 10 minutes and users typically view 20 or more businesses.
M1: What cities will we see added in the near future?
V: The next cities being released are going to be Philadelphia, Chicago, which are coming next week. Houston, Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles will be after that.
M1: Can users and business owners add or edit their own information?
V: Users can edit business information and add their own information currently. We then have a system on the back end where we approve these edits. We'd like to improve this system though so user data is added instantly and users can monitor and flag incorrect venues themselves.
M1: Does UpNext connect with other location based service APIs?
V: Yep, we do. Currently we integrate with Foursquare quite heavily. Users can see their checkins, their friends checkins and current trending venues. We hope to add more layers and data visualizations in the future. Also, as Twitter and Facebook expand their LBS offering we hope to have deeper integration with them as well.
M1: I know you have a 3D web version of UpNext at your website, which is super cool, any plans for an augmented reality component to your mobile app?
V: We do have plans for a unique street/augmented reality view on our map. It would involve going down to the street level and seeing data in a very visual and fun way much like a video game (think Grand Theft Auto). Our eventual goal is to make it so users can walk down any street and browse the storefronts like they are window shopping.
M1: What made you personally switch from the video game industry to location based services?
V: I was in the video game industry for several years and enjoyed making console titles. I always felt though that the technology in video gaming will eventually seep out into other industries. I've always had a desire to take what I learned in gaming and apply to something else. Mapping seemed like an obvious area where I could apply what I've learned. It helped that my brother started working on UpNext as well of course! A lot of industries, not just mapping could use techniques and technologies that are taken as a given in the video game industry.
M1: What are three things you would like to see for the future of UpNext?
V: The three things I'd like to see for the future of UpNext are 1)expansion to more cities 2)APIs, so others can integrate our technology and 3)our streetview/augmented reality view that we think will really engage users and take UpNext to the next level.