What’s the competition at the World Summit Award – Redux

Five years after Dérive app was nominated for the World Summit Award, which we eventually wonrepresenting Uganda in Abu Dhabi in early 2013, work of mine was nominated once more for the UN-backed World Summit Award
Now, The Museum of Yesterday, a mobile app for exploring the hidden history of the old port of Rio de Janeiro, which I developed together with Agencia Publica, was selected to represent Brazil. 
As Dérive app, The Museum of Yesterday is nominated in the Culture & Tourism category.

In each of the eight categories, five winners will be selected in November, with winners going to Vienna in March for the ‘grand finale’. Now, with 13 other submissions, The Museum of Yesterday was put on the shortlist for the grand jury to deliberate over. 
Here’s my take of the competitive field.

Cultural Infusion’s digital learning suite (Australia): Mobile apps for kids to build a bridge between their own and foreign cultures. Cultural Infusion makes a bunch of apps, with only trial versions available for free. I tried out one, Joko’s Pocket Planet (Lite), which is cute, has a few small bugs, and seems to be a reasonable educational environment for younger kids.

HEARonymous (Austria): A mobile app providing (mostly paid) audioguides for museums. Not very original.

The Museum of Yesterday (Brazil): That’s us! A compendium of the hidden history of the port of Rio de Janeiro, with a particular focus on it’s less savoury past (slavery) and present (corruption), which requires the user to physically explore the port, with his mobile device indicating where to find the individual stories embedded in the app, as well as in reality.

Related:  Two weddings and a broken leg

Cardboard Stage (Canada): The platform’s name references Google’s Cardboard, a simple tool that turns a mobile device into a stereoscopic viewer. The site itself wants to be a platform for ‘young artists’ to reach a global audience, essentially by hosting 360 (panoramic) videos that can be immersively experienced with Google Cardboard.
Sounds nice, except that their blog hasn’t been updated in over two years, when they ‘officially launched’, while they only host the videos of eight artists. 
It seems to me their ship has sailed, while also not offering anything quite unique; 360 videos can, after all, be hosted pretty much anywhere.

Luabooks (Colombia): Physical and interactive mobile ‘books’ for kids, in Spanish. I tried their app CatTron, which is essentially a series of cute kids-book illustrations, allowing for some basic interactions, like swiping and tapping, to generate simple changes to the illustrations themselves.

Virtual Tour inside El Muizz street (Egypt): Apparently designed for Oculus, it’s as the name implies, a virtual tour of a historic street in Cairo. The app is only available for Android, but downloading it failed, the app store crashing every time I tried.

Confirmtkt (India): A (decent looking) train and bus ticket booking engine for India.

Forgotten Vilnius (Lithuania): A quite large online collection of old photos and maps of Vilnius. Somewhat interactive, the content seems to have received more attention than the presentation, which feels like it’s more representative of web aesthetics from a decade ago. Only in Lithuanian.

Travel Compute (Malaysia): ‘Big Data’ analysis for the travel industry. The creators need to be contacted if you’re interested in a demo.

SnapCity (Portugal): A social network focused around physical locations where users can ask questions about their current city and (hopefully) have them answered by other users, who can be tipped, in real money, for their participation. SnapCity only covers half a dozen cities on the Iberian peninsula, which shows the biggest challenge apps like these have to overcome: traction. The interface is functional, but I don’t see this taking off. It’s just too difficult to compete with the likes of TripAdvisor or Google Local, also meaning that SnapCity is not conceptually groundbreaking.

Related:  Civilization will die because in the future everyone will have a personal humanoid robot

Inland Sea (Qatar): An iPhone application that’s essentially a basic guidebook of the ‘inland sea’, that is, desert, of Qatar.
The app seems to be made with an off-the-shelf guidebook maker and looks more comprehensive than it is; for the many mapped locations, there isn’t actually any detailed information available, except for a location and a name. 

Ayubo.lk (Sri Lanka): A (decent looking) accommodation booking engine for Sri Lanka.

The Next Rembrandt (The Netherlands): A super slick and heavily funded project to generate a unique ‘Rembrandt’ based on analysing existing work and letting the analysis, AI, and (human) analysts do the actual job.
This project is stunning, as it should be, with funding and support from ING, Microsoft, TU Delft (my university) and Mauritshuis. 

Gone West (UK): A booking platform that ‘removes your carbon footprint as you travel’. This, by planting trees to balance your CO2 output. They finished a successful Kickstarter campaign, collecting a bit over 15000 pounds.
The details seem a bit fuzzy, as they claim that a long haul flight booked through them will see them, ‘with their own hands’ plant ‘up to’ 15 trees in your name. Less practical, according to their booking engine, a flight I tested their system with supposedly was available for 525 pounds, but ended up being 711 pounds after they forwarded me to the actual booking agent.
So, conceptually clever, but needs work, as it doesn’t appear to actually operate as a price comparison engine.

Short-short list?

It seems to me we stand a good chance to make it to Vienna, but, who knows who the actual jury will favour. Of the above list, LuaBooks seems a bit more comprehensive and enjoyable than Cultural Infusion (though that might just be my sense of beauty). The Virtual Tour of El Muizz street and Travel Compute are bit of a dark horse, while Confirmtkt, Cardboard Stage, SnapCity and Ayubo lack innovation or content. 
If anything, our app, The Museum of Yesterday, is somewhat similar to Forgotten Vilnius, but is more accessible, for being in both English and Portuguese, while also adding the unique aspect that the user is required to physically explore the subject area, which itself is a unique proposition.
Gone West is clever, but can only survive if it actually also works as a good price comparison engine. The Next Rembrandt is a sure-fire finalist.

Related:  Another Zimbabwean trashing

So, here’s what I think will be the list of winners: 

+ The Next Rembrandt
+ Gone West
+ Luabooks (or maybe Cultural Infusion)
+ The Museum of Yesterday

That leaves one spot to be filled to make five. I think contenders are The Virtual Tour of El Muizz street, Forgotten Vilnius and Travel Compute.

Update (November 2017): We’ve won! Together with The Next Rembrandt, Luabooks, TravelCompute and SnapCity. Onwards to Vienna!