With summer approaching I spent some time the other day looking for architecture related travel apps. You may recall I did an article on an architectural travel app called “Buildings” back in June 2012. That app had access to a database of over 40,000 buildings, but alas, it appears to be gone. On the iOS platform it was probably a victim of the upgrade from 32 bit to 64 bit. I don’t know what happened to it on the Android platform. However, the 40,000+ building database is still accessible with your browser at http://openbuildings.com.
I did find several other architectural related travel apps, but most were related to a specific city or location. One app that did cover most of the world and was available on both iOS and Android was WRLD.
What Does It Do: WRLD is a mapping program that shows major buildings and structures in 3D superimposed on a 2D map.
System Requirements: Mobile devices using iOS or Android operating systems.
How Does it Work: The app interface is fairly simple. When zoomed out it looks a bit like Google Earth. There are five buttons. A magnifying glass will take you to predetermined locations (such as a major city) or allow you to search for a specific type of location (such as tourist info). The settings button allows you to set the season and time of day, and get info about the developer. The bottom left hand button allows you to flatten the 3D buildings or show them in full height. A compass button shows the orientation of your mobile device, and allows you to return to your current location. The fifth button allow you to place a marker pin so you can easily return to a specific location. To move the view, just swipe with one finger in any direction. To rotate the view, twist with two fingers. To zoom in or out, simply pinch or expand two fingers. A few buildings have a symbol of an open door. Tapping the symbol will take you to a graphic view of the building interior where you can move around, change levels, or exit.
Conclusion: This is a fun app to use with a fairly intuitive interface. Kids will find this app a great way to explore an unfamiliar city and will love the animated cars, trains and planes that show up in certain views. I could see using this app to scope out a visit to an unfamiliar urban area. However once you get outside of the major metropolitan areas there is not much to look at. For example I tried to find 3D views of the Mackinac Bridge and the Taj Mahal without any luck.