SAN FRANCISCO -- Web 2.0 Expo -- Taking a breather from the halls and walls of the Expo, I joined some media folk and Nokia representatives yesterday afternoon on a scavenger hunt around San Francisco using Nokia's Maps 3.0 technology.
Armed with one N85 each, four groups of lost people tested the location-based technologies on Nokia phones, using its Maps 3.0 pedestrian navigation to attempt to walk to three locations. Upon arriving at each point, we were to take a photo of the point of interest -- each of which was a San Francisco cinematic landmark; upload that photo to Ovi Share, Nokia's social sharing site, where they appeared on a map, documenting our whereabouts; and use Ovi Contacts, Nokia's instant messaging feature, to request the address for our next POI from someone off-site. Rinse. Repeat.
(Here's a slideshow of the photos taken with the N85's 8-megapixel camera during the scavenger hunt.)
Beginning at the Dewey Monument in Union Square, we attempted to walk to the first destination provided by the guides from Nokia. We punched in the address (including country and city), told the phone to "Walk To," and set out on our way.
Some glitches in the technology were apparent at the onset. For starters, the surrounding buildings made the GPS imprecise. At one point, after traveling a bit on Market Street, the map still showed us on Stockton. Further, when we reached our first destination, the phone said we were still 75 yards away.
My group also had trouble receiving its second destination address over IM and had to instead call someone to have it read to us.
Thereafter, though, things went well, and we made it to all three locations without having to call a taxi (despite my silent prayer).
Overlooking the glitches in GPS technology, and the somewhat uninspiring graphics on the Nokia Maps, we were able to navigate easily by following a red dot ("You are here!") and white arrow around on the map.
Being particularly bad with directions, I appreciated things like the phone's vibrating feature, which instructs you when to turn, and was surprised that the Nokia phone even accurately led us up a flight of stairs.
A Nokia representative said they are also working on indoor GPS to help people navigate around places like shopping malls.
Of course, to get on board with Nokia and its pedestrian navigation, you'll have to overlook its steep price. The N85 goes for a whopping $429.
At the last location -- a bar -- we met up with Dr. Quinn Jacobson, research leader at the Nokia Research Center in Palo Alto, Calif., with whom I spoke briefly about the dangers of location-based technologies.
Admitting that security is a huge issue when it comes to location-based technologies, Jacobson said privacy has been the system's leading design goal. But he anticipates the day when something tragic happens as a result of the new technology.
"Inevitably it's going to hit the front page of the newspaper that somebody's service made them vulnerable. It's going to be interesting. One of the challenges we have is how do we educate users to understand what services are giving what level of privacy?"
While this is something Nokia believes it does well, says Johnson, "one of the challenges is users may not understand that."
By the end of the journey, a little sad to return my N85, I did claim some new blisters -- but that was less Nokia's fault and more a result of my poor choice in footwear.
— Nicole Ferraro, Site Editor, Internet Evolution