Google Invites Us On A Field Trip With New App

Google Field Trip for AndroidEarlier this week, tech giant Google released an interesting new Android app called Field Trip that cleverly combines Internet search and GPS services to deliver location specific information to users. The app, which runs in the background on compatible devices, uses alerts to suggest things to see and do in the immediate vicinity around the person using it. Those suggestions can include such things as places to eat or drink, where to catch a show or event, special deals and a whole lot more.

Field Trip taps into databases maintained by companies such as Thrillist, Zagat, Curbed and Yesterland to help make suggestions that may be of interest to the user. Those suggestions can come as frequently or as seldom as you’d like and appear on the screen in the form of a card that presents relevant information about the location or event.

The potential for this app while wandering around our home cities is great of course, as it is always fun to discover new locations and hidden gems that aren’t far from home. But Field Trip sounds like it could be a fantastic option for travelers who enjoy strolling around a new destination while organically discovering unique venues and other points of interest. While the early version of this app is a bit rough around the edges, it does hold a lot of potential for becoming a virtual tour guide in the future.

Field Trip is absolutely free and available now on Google Play store. An iPhone version is in the works and should be available soon.


An Inside Look Into The Smithsonian’s Museum Of Natural History

My favorite travel writers share a sense of curiosity about their surroundings, regardless of where they are. You can squish a dozen or so of them into an elevator, take them into an attic and they’ll find something of interest. If that attic happens to be just below the grand upper rotunda of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and those writers happen to be a subset of the Gadling crew, well, let’s just say it’s unlikely you’ve seen a group of people more excited about a dusty hallway lined with cardboard boxes and file cabinets.

I’m still thinking about the box that had “Porcupine, Old, Not Cute” scrawled on the outside in sharpie. And about the fact that there’s stardust down there in the mineral hall. And how when I leaned on that door to the lab while I was taking pictures, it swung open because it was unlocked. I’m thinking about looking down onto the marine hallway, over the top of a giant jellyfish, through a sort of peephole slot from above while kids looked at the same jellyfish from below.

While our guides, Education Specialist Margery Gordon and Director of Public Outreach Randall Kremer told us a bit about the history of the building and the collection, our archeology and history nerd Sean McLachlan called me over. “Stand there,” he said, and had me peek inside a box that contained Zip-lock bags full of bones. Don George pointed all the way across the open space under the rotunda. “What kind of bird is that?” he asked our guides. “What’s the story with all these boxes marked ‘Reburial only?'” I asked.”Oh my god, I want that!” said Laurel Miller of a tiny, spiky-haired critter that shared case space with a rhinoceros shot by Teddy Roosevelt. We were back on the main floor, away from risky unlocked doors. “It looks like a piece of sushi,” Grant Martin said of the tiny fairy armadillo. Kyle Ellison looked up at the life-sized replica of Phoenix, the Wright whale, and said, “Let’s just have a conversation underneath this whale, shall we?” “Man, that is one ugly fish,” said nearly everyone of a fist-sized yellowish lump of deep sea dweller.

“I’ll take you to see the giant snake – Titanoboa – and the Hope Diamond,” said Ms. Gordon. We followed her like a class of somewhat obedient fourth graders. “But first, you have to see these replicas of early humans. The heads are at the height they’d have been and you can look them right in the eye.”

“What does working in a place like this do to your sense of time?” “How do you deal with creationists?” “Where did the elephant come from?” “Can you imagine, you’re walking through the jungle and you see THAT?” “She’s tiny. Who knew she’d be so tiny?” “Oh. My. God… Space.” All that arch irony that travel writers at their worst can be guilty of was wrong. We were 12 years old again, our brains firing on the magic of science and history and the miracles you can find by taking a good look at the natural history of our planet.

We had about two hours at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. It was too short by about a week. The museum is at 10th and Constitution in Washington, D.C. It’s open every day of the year except Christmas Day. And get this: it’s FREE.