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Get inspired with this virtual travel app
Size: 540 MB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Fancy a trip to Rome but short on cash? Ever wondered what the streets of Moscow looked like, or dreamed of admiring Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia from a helicopter? Well, as Apple’s old ad campaign would put it – there’s an app for that!
Following on from the excellent AirPano Travel Book, which featured aerial panoramas of famous locations like Niagara Falls and the Taj Mahal, City Book does the same job for bustling metropolises. In essence it’s a collection of birds-eye city photography compiled into an immersive, interactive virtual guidebook. The high resolution 360-degree photos can be explored easily either by swiping the screen or tilting the device, giving amazingly full snapshots of each city. Imagine Google Street View on steroids, a thousand feet in the air, and you’ve pretty much got it.
Currently the app covers ten locations around the globe, from New York to Paris to Shanghai. With thirty or so panoramas per city, that’s already a lot to explore, and the developers promise there’s more to come in future. We’d love to see compatibility with virtual reality headsets for a truly immersive experience, though we’d guess that might involve recapturing every scene in stereoscopic 3D, so don’t hold your breath on that front.
The closest free comparison on iOS is probably the Flyover Tour mode of Apple’s built-in Maps app, and though that’s a very cool animated landmark tour in its own right, it doesn’t utilize real photography and comes up way short when compared with AirPano. This app really sets the bar for quality panoramic photography.
Interface-wise, you can either tap a sequence of thumbnails to move through the photos one-by-one like pages in a book, or tap the little white dots floating in the sky to be transported magically to the location it represents. This became our preferred way to explore, as it gives a real sense of how these spaces connect to one another. It also means you can tap an interesting looking feature on the horizon to immediately take a closer look, which is very cool.
Every location is complete with a well-written City Guide, covering everything from cuisine to urban legends. These are fun introductions to the style of each city with tips and tricks for making the most of a real-life visit, but they’re short and compelling enough to be worth a read just to add a bit of contextual flavor to the birds-eye panoramas. It’s no replacement for Lonely Planet, but it’s not supposed to be – curious travelers might use AirPano as a kind of gateway guide to pique their interest before delving fully into a more serious guidebook.
It’s a shame more isn’t made of the frankly gorgeous “pop-up” illustrations of the cities, each of which slides effortlessly into existence like it’s auditioning for the Game of Thrones opening credits. They’re beautiful one-shot distillations of the city, with landmarks crammed together to fit a double page spread. Though functionally little more than a menu, it’s a nice way to get across the tactility of an actual book while really selling the key points of the city.
Whether or not you’ve got the travel bug, this is an amazingly compelling compendium of city-based wonder. It could help you choose your next city break or just transport you from your desk for ten minutes.
- Incredible 360-degree photos
- Plenty of scenes for each city
- Top interface and illustrations
- Just the ten cities so far
- No virtual reality support