This App Will Change the Way You Explore L.A.

“Detour” is an audio guide to the city, and it’s controlled by your <em>actual location</em>

In a way, Pokémon Go reminded us of the insane potential of our phones. Real adults ran around hunting for rare Pokémon in part because the idea of layering imagined reality over physical space was so compelling. Now, there’s an app that’s applying a similar concept to the act of exploring L.A.

Detour provides audio guides to cities around the world, but unlike most audio guides, these match the narration to your specific location in a city. Like Pokémon Go, Detour uses your phone’s GPS to track your location and guide you from POI to POI. Along the way, audio cues prompt you to pause and listen to narration.

The L.A. package includes four separate audio tours of tourist-friendly destinations—one for downtown, one for Santa Monica, and two for Venice. A reporter, an author, a photographer, and a pro skater narrate, touching on subjects like the utopian vision of Venice’s founder Abbot Kinney and the role of immigrants in the shaping of DTLA. When you arrive at your first stop, the narrator explains its significance—maybe rounding it out with an anecdote or interview—and then directs you on your way to additional landmarks, vistas, museums, and restaurants.

The app is another step towards embracing the unique storytelling potential of GPS-enabled devices (the potential that compelled author Eli Horowitz to write The Silent History, an eBook of sorts with a narrative that is unlocked as you explore actual locations). And as much as Detour can feel like an app for tourists, it’s also a fresh way of re-infusing the physical space of L.A. with historical details that might otherwise be overlooked.