Mapkin is a free GPS app that gives you directions like a local, tailoring your route with hints and suggestions submitted by drivers who have driven it before.
While on the road, drivers can record messages reporting obstacles or landmarks such as, “Take a left at the light onto Main Street, just past the gas station,” or “The road is really curvy up ahead, so take it slow,” as listed by the app’s website. All driver-submitted tips are then listened to, verified and utilized in the route directions by the Mapkin team.
“We use a variety of tools including map data, satellite data, and other visual based resources to ensure tips are helpful and accurate for drivers,” said Mapkin co-creator and chief executive, Marc Regan. “ We also depend on our active and passionate community to provide tips on directions that can be improved.”
The idea behind the product is supplying an experience that more closely resembles face-to-face directions, Reagan said.
“We believe this is the next big opportunity in navigation—creating a safer, less stressful, more natural driving experience,” wrote Regan on the app’s post on Product Hunt, a site for bringing attention to the new products and tech. “When you’re driving with Mapkin, you’re hearing a mix of high visibility landmarks, local tips, and street names that more closely resembles the way a person sitting next to you would give directions.”
Other features of the app include a copilot voice that checks in after long stretches of the road and will even call you by name, turn-on-turn voice guidance with visual cues so you can stay focused on the road, and optimized routes based on real-time traffic in the area.
“One of the trickier problems was designing what exactly the GPS should say along the route. What is the right thing to say at the right time? We spent tons of time in cars driving around with people recording how they give directions,” Regan said, adding, “We actually looked at a few video game dialog engines for inspiration on how to build our narration engine.”
Mapkin has maintained an average of 4.5 stars through over a hundred ratings on the App Store since its launch on Sept. 16, and was featured by Apple as one of the Best New Apps on the App Store.
You can download Mapkin for free on the the App Store.
Update 11/13/15: Quotes from Marc Regan were added to this piece after publication.