Waze has just launched in the iTunes App Store and on the Android Market Place with the Symbian and Windows Mobile versions available on the Waze website. In this updated version, the company has added even more features to their already popular "munching" game which sends a Pac-Man like character loose on the roads to help build the company's mapping database and validate the roads already in place.The latest edition of mobile navigation app
Unlike other mobile navigation apps, Waze "crowdsources" its map-making process, reliant on its users to switch the app on when driving around town. Then, using the phone's built-in GPS capabilities, Waze uses the information sent back to create base maps and determine traffic patterns in order to warn other users of traffic jams ahead.
Although Waze is an application dependent on critical mass to become successful, they've already had good results since their original launch in Israel. In less than a year's time, Waze was able to map 91% of the country thanks to user involvement. The company believes they will have similar results here in the U.S. with highly populated urban areas being mapped first with the rest of the country following over the coming months.
Making Maps is Just a Game
To encourage users to contribute to the map-building process, the company came up with an idea to make it more of a game. Originally, the Waze character would appear and munch dots on the screen when you ventured onto a road that didn't previously exist in the company's database.
Now, with Waze 2.0, the gaming elements have been enhanced even further. Users will now munch on other goodies like cherries, hammers, and small gift packages which generate bonus points. The extra goodies will be placed on locations where the map has issues with the higher-point items on maps with the most issues.
To kick off this new release, the company is also hosting a contest dubbed the "Holiday High Points Challenge" which runs from November 25th through December 9th. During this time, which includes the busy traveling period of the Thanksgiving holidays, Waze hopes to tap into the high number of drivers who will be trekking around town and across the country to visit relatives. The top three users who earn the most points during this period will win Amazon gift cards in the amounts of $500, $300 and $200, for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd places respectively.
Crowdsourcing: Better Maps, Faster
The Waze application was one of the more innovative companies to appear at the most recent DEMO conference where they launched their turn-by-turn directions feature. Because they're not using map data from Tele Atlas or Navteq - the two big names that license map data to other companies for use in applications - Waze saves money while also being able to sell their own data to other companies at reduced rates. The company also claims that their crowdsourced method has dramatically shortened the months-long update cycle for maps.
While Waze may not be ready to replace your in-dash GPS just yet, it gets closer every day as more roads are mapped and more users join the service. Early adopters who want to contribute to the project can download the mobile application from the company's homepage here.