Augmented reality is often discussed as one of the next big things in technology, but all too often it’s only thought of as a visual experience. But what many technologists, designers and thinkers are quick to point out is that the augmented reality experience can also include audio. And this is what Foursquare Labs used as a starting point when it created Marsbot for AirPods.
Evolved from the company’s Marsbot app, which is a virtual recommendation assistant that lives on your phone and offers increasingly personalized tips as it learns your interests. Whenever you have one or both AirPods in your ears, Marsbot can give you a location-based running audio commentary, which includes points of interest, tips and recommendations, and nearby friends from Marsbot and Foursquare. Meanwhile, users can contribute their own location-tagged audio snippets with whatever other random facts they choose to contribute points of interest, random facts and whatever else people choose to contribute.
While Marsbot is billed as an app for AirPods, the truth is that it’s an iPhone app that works with any pair of headphones with a microphone. (AirPods don’t have the ability to run apps on their own.) But Marsbot for Airpods is best experienced with its namesake because it’s meant to be a passive experience rather than an active one. And with that in mind, the team at Foursquare Labs envisions people walking around with one earbud in (or perhaps both earbuds in transparency mode) to let the app casually whisper things in the user’s ears as they walk through a city.
If that sounds like a scene out of the movie Her, well… those interactions between the characters played by Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johanssen were the inspiration. In fact, their exact words were “It’s our take on what happens when Foursquare merges with Clippy (yes, from Microsoft Word!) with a dash of Samantha from the movie Her (ScarJo’s character!).”
But to give that “tailor-made for AirPods” feel there is one neat feature: wherever you stick your AirPods in your ears, MarsBot will play a noise letting you know its running in the background.
The best part is that this is all one big free experience and the Foursquare team is mostly interested in seeing how people will use it. That means there are no ads, and new unexpected features could appear down the road if the devs notice a trend.
To get started, you simply have to download the app, sign up for an account (or sign in), and pull your AirPods out.
And if you don’t already have a pair of AirPods, you should consider not only getting a pair of those to use Marsbot with, but also because they’re simply the best wireless earbuds. They combine excellent audio quality, effective noise cancellation and a stylish look with premium features such as wireless charging, spatial audio and a custom EQ based on your ears.
All that’s left to do is step out into the world and start exploring. Happy adventures!