The most interesting development in digital maps may not in fact be the forthcoming introduction of Apple maps in iOS 6. It may instead be the recent launch of mapping app Recce (pronounced “rekki,” which is short for reconnaissance). The company was previously called Mapply, but a trademark conflict motivated the company to change its name.
Recce creates 3D maps through automated rendering. It layers in data from multiple sources. However it’s only available for iOS right now.
The difference between what Recce is doing and Google Maps/Earth or Apple’s new 3D mapping is that the maps have a different, more playful or “cartoon-like” appearance. They don’t strive to be totally photo-realistic. This may sound strange or inferior but if you actually see and play with the Recce app, which only depicts London for now, you’ll see that it’s both engaging and a very fresh UI. Indeed, both the UI and the smooth performance of the app (no blank, gray or mesh areas) are impressive.
Here are some screens from London, which don’t entirely do justice to the app:
Another fun element in the app, there are animations that simulate traffic and public transit. The London Eye also revolves for example. It’s “realistic” without attempting to be an exact duplication of reality. The company plans to increasingly layer real-time data into the app (including traffic and weather).
CEO/founder Rian Liebenberg (a former Googler) told me that most of the 3D imagery is rendered automatically but there are hand touch-ups to selected landmarks and buildings to make sure things look right. Right now it takes the company about four weeks to do a major city such as London or New York. Smaller cities take half the time. New York and other cities have already been completed or are nearing completion but the next city to launch will be San Francisco.
Recce is pulling in lots of data from different sources, including Twitter (users can also tweet from the app). People can search Recce by keyword or category. However there’s also a “discovery” capability with “around me now,” as illustrated above and left below.
Liebenberg said the motivation to launch with London first, beyond the fact that the company is based in the UK, was the Olympics. The company also plans to launch a “real world” game in tandem with later city launches. Eventually Liebenberg sees Recce becoming a “platform” with third party development on top of the UI and data the company has aggregated.
Liebenberg told me the company has no ambition to map the entire world. Rather it wants to cover popular cities. Beyond San Francisco and New York, Liebenberg previously said the company already has data from 400 cities.
The app is imperfect; there are no reviews and no filters right now. But those issues will probably be solved over time. At launch I’m struck by how polished the app is already. Download it yourself and see if you agree.
Below is a short interview with Rian Liebenberg explaining Recce and its ambitions.