Local mother and son, Delphine du Toit and Nik Edmiidz, have created an app called AutoWIKI, a travelling tour guide that uses your GPS location to tell you stories about the places around you. The app is set to be published out of open Beta state by the end of the month, but it is open to download on Android and iOS devices now.
Inspiration for the app came from the family’s own experiences. “We’ve always been road trippers, and my kids love discovering new places,” du Toit said to the Cooperator. “We’d often see things on the road we wondered about, but by the time arrived at our destination, we’d forgotten our questions. When we couldn’t find an app that did this for us, we excitedly took the idea into our own hands. Our app answers these questions while you drive through safe text-to-speech technology.”
Du Toit says she saw potential for the app during 2020. “Because of the reduction in tourism, staycations became common. This was the ideal time for us to develop the app as people explored the areas around their homes instead of abroad. This app makes the experience of discovering your province so much richer, as with the unique location-based technology, the app can reveal stories you never expected.”
As an example, du Toit shared her own first experience with this. “I was just on my way to Sobeys one day with the app open, and it told me about the Battle of Winnepang in the 18th century that happened in Jeddore, between the New Englanders and the Miꞌkmaq. I would never have known that story without the app. These hidden vignettes are my favourite part!”
“When checking for stories, the app can be adjusted to search between a 1-10km radius, expanding if it doesn’t find anything of interest,” du Toit said. “It goes through our database of stories first, then to Wikipedia and other sources. Most of my team’s work is refining the base information sites like Wikipedia provide and making the stories more enjoyable to listen to.”
Functionally, AutoWIKI can work anywhere in the world, and du Toit said her team (of around seven people) has testers around the globe, from Australia, Ireland, the US, Greece, Nigeria, and more, but that they are focusing on developing Nova Scotia’s stories as resources allow. “We are mapping out the best main tourist routes for Atlantic Canada by looking at where people drive the most. We research and compile stories along those routes. By next spring, hopefully when people travel more, we will be able to entertain and educate people with local stories.”
Du Toit believes AutoWIKI has huge potential to grow. “Currently we have plans to make profile settings so that the app can stream content that matches your interests,” she said. “We are also looking at specific routes people take along Nova Scotia to curate specialized tours. It is tough because we have so many ideas to add to the app before publication, but we have to stay on track!”
One of the main appeals of the app is the accessibility, designed by du Toit’s son Nik Edmiidz, who works at No-Hands Apps Solutions. Users are able to open and control the app entirely with voice. “Most apps are very well visually designed, but many often forget the accessibility angle,” said du Toit. “For me it appeals enormously, as I need reading glasses for small print. In the middle of nowhere, I can rely on this app to tell me things a conventional travel app couldn’t do. I don’t need my glasses.
AutoWIKI has a Facebook page du Toit encourages users to share their stories at. With a growing local and global audience, everyone is learning something new about the world around them.