I was longing to review HotStepper for quite some time but had many other apps in the queue. Today I’ve decided that it’s time to check it out.
What is HotStepper?
In its core, HotStepper is a very basic yet entertaining walking street navigation app. The app uses cellular data to navigate the world and is powered by MapBox, which is an open source mapping platform for custom design maps. This allows HotStepper to integrate location into its mobile app and use it for navigation.
The app is described on the App Store as: “Your AR sidekick”. Well, I didn’t know what’s “sidekick” is, so I first refer to Wikipedia to help me out on this:
“A sidekick is a slang expression for a close companion or colleague (not necessarily in fiction) who is, or generally regarded as, subordinate to the one he or she accompanies.”.
In this app, you will be accompanied by a cool dude wearing underwear that will walk you towards your desired destination.
To be honest, for me it felt like driving in a cab but without the car, both I and the driver walked towards the destination.
Check out this video I made using HotStepper in the streets of Seoul, South Korea.
Once you finish the initial surface scan, you will need to select a destination on the map.
This is where I encountered an issue. The Mapbox map is inferior to Google Maps, It doesn’t recognize tapping on key locations on the map like a park, it doesn’t show you information and the searching functionality is very limited.
I am using Google Maps every day in Seoul, to find my way around. This is actually an essential app for me, one that I just can’t live without. It helps me get anywhere I want with ease, and make me feel like I am in my own neighborhood.
With such a limited map navigation functionality, it definitely signals that this app was designed more as a showoff of how fun AR is when combined with standard navigation functionality.
This leads me to think that future navigation apps can be really fun and entertaining, alongside being useful. Of course, this is a very limited demonstration, but it definitely made me understand the fun factor that AR can bring to future navigation apps. A bit of humor can always help, but clearly, this is a very gimmicky app.
Gimmicky Navigation App
Just pointing my iPad towards people on the street make them feel uncomfortable and make me looks kind of stupid. It also requires that you hold the device up front if you want to enjoy seeing this dude, and my hands got tired pretty fast.
If I had to choose a navigation app, I obviously won’t use this app to help me get to my destination, it actually rendered itself almost useless for most things other than its basic functionality.
I think it would be cool though if an Augmented Reality (AR) navigation app can have a dude lead you to buildings and climbing up stairs and reaching the exact destination indoors, this would be really cool. Alongside that, why not turn this dude into a tour guide, explaining you about important key locations as you pass them while you walk.
Oh well, I can fantasize about many great ideas, but this app is far from being that app that I am dreaming about.
When I finally reached my destination, this cool dude starts dancing, showing me that this is the place I ask him to navigate to.
There was actually a funny moment (you can see it in the video), which I tried to walk faster than him (he always leads the way) and I thought he would speed up. After a few meters, I stopped because I didn’t see him. I looked back and there he was, a few meters back, showing me where the destination was (I actually missed it).
HotStepper ins definitely an interesting Augmented Reality (AR) app on the explanatory level and it might be a better fit for AR glasses rather than a phone app.
I had fun using it for the short moment that I tried it, but I don’t see myself using it ever again.
HotStepper uses geolocation and mapping technology, alongside your phone’s compass and vector in real-world space using the accelerometer with mapping data in order to calculate your location and render HotStepper as your virtual wayfinding buddy. The movement of the character was indeed accurate (at most times). On time he actually walks on the road near the pavement, and I obviously didn’t follow him when he did it.
I did read the presskit that Nexus Studios released. According to Nexus Studios, HotStepper is part of a series of research projects that the company is doing into storytelling using real-world data. That in mind, I need to praise Nexus Studios for innovating and trying to bring something interesting and new to the AR market, not every company does that.
I think that this app could give them some valuable information that will help them design better AR apps in the future. The app is available for both Android and iOS.
Overall, it’s definitely an app that I recommend trying, but as a navigation app, at least for me, it is kind of useless, still, download, I’m sure you are going to have some fun moments with it.
You can download HotStepper for iOS at the App Store here.