Modern mass tourism mostly is mass processing. Using conventional sources of information to plan a trip leads to millions of people visiting the same sights where they take the same pictures, have the same experience and the same trip in general. But the people aren’t the same and their interests aren’t the same. The feeling that you have to visit sights just because everyone does and not because you are personally interested in them leads to stressful travel situations. But travel should be a pleasant experience that helps develop your personality and interests.
Unfold is a personal travel guide which leads the user to interesting yet less well known places beyond the tourist track. The tips provided can’t be found in a printed book, so unlike the places described in an ordinary travel guide, they are real insider tips. It combines a personalised guide that the user prints themselves, a wearable that accompanies and navigates for the traveller and an app which is used to plan trips.
The app focuses on what happens before the trip so you don’t need to use your phone abroad in order to take advantage of all of Unfold’s features. It helps you plan your trips. You can save and collect places from different sources such as social media and use them to create individual trips. The intelligent suggestion algorithm of the app adds sights to the schedule based on your interests.
Unfold then generates a personal printed guide so you can access the information without the need for battery or mobile data. You get one page per travel day which can be folded to a handy pocket format. This makes the Unfold guide the central travel companion of your trip as it shows all the important information in a bitesized format, negating the need for heavy travel books.
Depending on your trip and destination the type of information blocks can change. The core of the guide is the schedule which contains all the sights and places planned for the respective day in the right order. Along with the places the schedule provides information on how to get there with public transport, an estimation how much time you will spend there and if applicable the best time of day to visit. Closely linked to the schedule is the map. It contains the places described in the schedule and the surrounding area. It also shows bus stops and underground stations. Additionally, areas that might be especially interesting for you are marked in another colour. This is meant to encourage taking more time in these areas exploring, walking around and maybe even making a detour.
All the information in the guide is also saved on the wearable or compass which helps you find your way to the sights. In order to keep the independence from your phone the wearable contains all the parts it needs to give you directions which is a GPS module and an electronic compass. It gives you directions using auditory cues: a high note signifies that you have to turn left, a low note means turn right. Another jingle notifies you that you have reached your destination.
By turning the two halves of the compass against each other you can adjust the volume of the cues. By turning it all the way down the compass switches into a mute mode in which it gives directions with different vibration patterns. This is helpful especially when your environment is very noisy or if you simply don’t like auditory cues. If you get lost despite the directions or you simply want to check if you are still on track, you can take a look at the top of the compass. A ring of LEDs shows the direction of the next sight and the respective LED glows up.
The name Unfold plays with different layers of meaning: Not only the destination unfolds it's special characteristics to the traveller but Unfold also helps the traveller to unfold their personality and interests. In addition, the name puts the focus on the printed guide as central, non-digital element of the system. This is underlined by the logo, which shows a stylised unfolded plan.
With the fear of filter bubbles and the belief that algorithms are omniscient and always make the right decisions, there’s a threat of Unfold simply becoming a surrogate for the pressure mass tourism creates. To avoid the feeling of the system being a dictator and to make the user feel they are in control of their own trip there are some control functions that can override the decisions of the system and update them. For example, you can pause the guidance by pushing the two halves of the compass against each other so you get no more cues. Or you can press the compass twice to skip the current sight and jump to the next one.
Unfold encourages to go your own way while travelling and follow your interests. By doing so it helps to develop a healthier, less stressful way of travelling and offers relief from the pains of mass-tourism.
The more you use the app the better it will get at making suggestions as it learns about you and your interests. The app not only runs through a learning process, but also most users will have to learn this more independent way of travelling, how to rely on their own interests and grow the confidence to not visit sights simply because the mainstream tells them to. If they succeed at this they will be rewarded with better travel experiences.