UpNext, an angel funded New York start-up, makes beautiful maps. Using a number of clever views, the team has built a wildly unique way to navigate your city and, more important, see buildings, points of interest, and even public transit in real time.
The company, Raj Advani, Vik Advani, Robin Har, and Danny Moon, have been working in mapping for four years and recently released an iPad version of the app.
“UpNext is dynamic, Google Maps is static,” said Moon. “Google Maps is a navigation-centric map. Its cartography geared toward navigating road networks, relegating other map details to the background.”
“We put special emphasis on making our maps fast, highly stylized, and highly interactive. You can tap on buildings to see the businesses inside; better, you can tap on subway stations to see actual trains moving along the map with estimated arrival times (where the data is available). Making every part of the map interactive is important to us,” he said.
The team has a background in video games, which gave them the impetus to rethink the way maps are rendered and displayed. “Maps historically were about more than finding your way around: they were immersive and evocative; emotional, even. Our eventual goal is to bring this sense of wonder back to maps.”
There are three ways to explore the maps. “Immerse” gives you vector based, textured cities with roadways and tappable buildings while “Explore” focuses on venues and POIs. “Navigate” helps you navigate a vehicle through the city without distraction. They also include real-time train information and multi-model routing so you can plan your own routes through a city.
The app currently covers 22 enhanced 3D cities and over 60 cities in total. While it’s no Google Maps beater (yet), it definitely offers a brisk and compelling alternative to Google’s staid yellow and blue.