Waterloo grad’s hiking app: It’s like Google street view for trails
Engineering alum develops app that uses photos taken by hikers to build trail maps
Engineering alum develops app that uses photos taken by hikers to build trail mapsBy Heather Bean Marketing and Strategic Communications
Michael Weingert is in California right now on a summer internship at Facebook. In his spare time, Weingert is developing an app he created for hikers while still an engineering student at the University of Waterloo.
The recent grad of Waterloo’s mechatronics engineering program is hoping hikers will upload photos of scenery to Trailview so he can create composite maps of hiking trails with users’ own photos. Weingert says the target users are outdoor enthusiasts looking to plan their next hike or casual users looking to browse some beautiful trails.
Trailview functions “like Google street view for hiking trails,” says Weingert.
“Google had trucks driving along the street, but you can’t do that for a hiking trail,” says Weingert.
To boost user motivation, he “gamified” his app: hikers earn rewards for contributing pictures and there are bonuses for completing a trail or snapping significant features, such as waterfalls or poison ivy patches.
Weingert, who developed his app with Computer Science Professor Kate Larson, hopes users will feel inspired to venture where other users haven’t been before: “People may feel incentivized to take a different route, because they can see, Hey, nobody has explored this spot yet.”
Weingert began his internship at Facebook after graduating from Waterloo in June. He hopes his fellow interns help him put his app to the test in the Santa Cruz Mountains west of Silicon Valley. An internship at Facebook doesn’t mean unpaid photocopying: Weingert will be helping to develop their ad customization, while the company covers his food, accommodation, benefits and a salary to boot.
Come September, he’ll be making the fifteen-minute trip down the road to start a Master’s degree in Artificial Intelligence at Stanford University. Weingert became interested in AI through video games and developing chess and Sudoku programs for his own use. His London, Ontario parents are “overjoyed,” he says. “They are excited to see where I will go next.”