Here are a few of my favorite things: Nintendo, Penny Arcade, The Legend of Zelda, Mario, Pokemon, Harvest Moon, Fallout, Dungeons and Dragons, books, dice, Professor Layton, Shadow of the Colossus, Minecraft, and so much more. I'm going to talk a lot about video games, I sincerely hope you don't mind.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Turn Driving into a Game! Sort of.

While cruising around in your car, have you ever thought to yourself, "All of this driving business is great, but it would be evenbetter if it were a game!"? I'm going to go ahead and guess that yes, many of you have thought that, because we're all gamers and that's what we do. When you were little and in the back seat did you ever play visual games with mail boxes, tree tops, and power lines? I definitely did! But, now I'm a dull grown up who has to pay attention to the road so I don't, you know, hit anyone or anything.

I think I deviated from my point.

I'm here today to talk about Waze, the gamified map and driving app for iPhone and Android!

First up, it's free, so there's no excuse to not have it. And second, with Waze, the user gets far more than just a navigation app. They're also given real time traffic updates, stopped traffic warnings, heads up for police officers, and general tips and information about the road before them. Places where traffic is tremendously slowed down will show as yellowish or red, along with the current speed limit that other Wazers are reporting. This is all done through honest cooperation from other Waze users that are on the road. One look at your app's map and you'll see your streets and journey stretching out before you, all the while speckled with instantly recognizable symbols about what asphalt mysteries lie ahead.

The app stops you from typing anything if it senses the car moving (yay satellites and survelliance!), so it is of course the better and smarter idea to explore the ins and outs of Waze while you'renot driving. Either take time to learn it as a passenger, (there's an option to go 'wait I'm a passenger!' when it stops you from typing anything while in motion) or while you're just chilling outside of your car. I took mine for a spin while I was riding in the back seat on a family trip in Ohio a few weeks ago. It did pretty well even though reception was spotty (we were in the far, far wilderness of Western Ohio), and I was able to learn a lot about the surrounding cities and areas because of the detailed name feature within the app.

I legitimately had way too much fun reporting traffic slow downs, stopped cars, debris on the road, and cops up ahead. With just two taps I was able to report these things in real time and have them immediately apply to the map of all other Wazers in the area. Whenever a user reports things like this, points are added to their profile. As soon as you reach 100 points, or maybe it was 1000, you graduate from baby to, well, regular I guess. From there you're able to pick a special icon for how you'll be displayed to other drivers!

I picked the little geekette, of course.

This simple act of gamification, contributing information in exchange for a visible rank, has created a totally viable and smoothly functioning community where drivers can depend on other users to help them determine the best route options. My sister's husband was telling me that they used it while driving in the city a while back; they were able to see slow downs up ahead on one freeway, so they'd switch to a different freeway so as not to lose speed. He said it worked incredibly well.

Waze has a great and simple user interface: it's responsive, accurate, and fun! At this point I find myself using it even if I don't need it, simply to see what's happening in the surrounding area. Just tonight I learned that there are three cops in one spot a few miles away. So, I'll definitely be avoiding whatever intense situation is going down on that side of town.

Any other Wazers out there? Tell me what you love best about Waze!



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