Have you ever wanted to go to your favorite lunch place, but wish you knew how busy it was before you left the office? Or have you longed to hit up a cool sample sale, if only you knew how long the line was outside so you could plan? And doesn't it always seem like this technology should exist by now? Well, a new app called Visor is hoping to make real-time location information available to all with just a few taps on a smartphone.
This is what Visor hopes to make a reality: download the app, and when you have the desire to know something about a location, such as how long a line is — at a store, movie theater, concert, or airport, or how busy your favorite bar is on a Saturday night — just type in your question, and other users in that location will reward you with a real-time photo in minutes.
Unlike other social apps like Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, Visor doesn't require you to be connected with other users to request information from them. While you do log in with Facebook or Twitter, you can choose a unique username for the app. Anyone with the app can ask about any location, and anyone can respond. Users can even pro-actively help out other users by noticing lines, sales and busy places and posting a photo and description, which will be geotagged and time-stamped for the use of the entire community.
"This sort of ‘decentralized’ data collection is becoming more and more popular," says Jordan Duffy, an innovation and IT strategist. "It’s a powerful social engineering tool that, at a psychological level, is making people more open, more available and more integrated with technology."
A glance at the Visor map, which shows active users in major cities around the world, shows popular locations such as bars, restaurants, and stores labeled for easy tapping — many with photos that have been posted by users. And Visor creator Jason White envisions a future where any location can be surveyed instantly through this combo of crowdsourcing and geolocation, telling TechCrunch last spring that "Visor lets you tap into the [2 billion] people worldwide with camera phones to give you eyesight in real time, by request."
How Visor will make money isn't clear yet, but reportedly it could become a player in the sharing economy through the ability to pay other users through the app. For example: say you desperately need the hottest toy of the holiday season. Ask Visor if it's in stock at your local toy store, and if the photo answer confirms that it is, you can ask the person who took it to buy it for you and pay them for it and their work through the app itself. This feature isn't yet functional, but it could be on the way.
Visor isn't the only company working in the "How long is the line?" space. Another new app called Density takes a different, less human-dependent route. It measures foot traffic in stores, gyms, bars and other locations through sensors located in their doorways. While Visor's challenge is signing up enough active, engaged users to make it truly comprehensive as a crowdsourcing tool, Density's will be getting enough locations to allow their sensors in the door. Either way, technology is moving in a direction that addresses one of our most pressing modern mini-frustrations: having to wait in line.