August 12, 2018


When I was in middle school, I went on Bill Speidel’s Underground Tour of the tunnels that were created following the Great Seattle Fire when, rather than raze it to the ground, the city rebuilt on top of itself. Listening to our tour guide tell stories under the light cast from purple glass sidewalk tiles, I fell in love with this idea of placing a narrative layer on top of the real world.

Detour on iPhone

Like the Underground Tour, Detour was also a walking tour that featured incredible stories from colorful guides. But as a mobile app, it gave people on-demand access to detours in top cities around the world.

Customizing detours based on mode of travel (for example, walking or taking public transportation), time of day, and weather made the prerecorded field trips feel more personalized. Branching paths added interactivity and agency. And linked audio to nearby friends through BTLE created shared experiences that were more social.

Airbnb Audio Walk

Detour was acquired by Bose AR in April. In an early interview with The Chicago Tribune, founder Andrew Mason explained:

“Most of the audio tours that exist today are about what’s popular inside museums. So what we are trying to do is turn the world into a museum.”

If VR is room-scale experiences, mobile AR is world-scale. Unlike AR games like Pokemon GO or Snapchat Snappables, my phone was tucked safely in my pocket so I could better appreciate my surroundings, yet Detour was still absolutely augmenting my reality.

2018 Brian Rose