Perhaps because the likes of CityMapper already have a monopoly on getting-you-places-quickly, the developers of new navigation apps seem to feel they need a quirky USP. First, there was this paper, released last month, proposing an app for “pleasant” routes through cities, even if that meant a longer walk.
And now there’s Sketch Factor, which, according to the app’s website, “empowers you to report sketch, vote on sketchy stories, and get walking directions”. What that means is that you can leave a testimonial about the horrible things that have happened to you in a particular area, and thus warn other users that they may prefer to stay the hell away.
On the face of it, the two ideas have a lot in common. Both rely on the idea that, when we’re walking somewhere, we care about more than just speed and distance: we want the walk to be pleasant; we want the walk to feel safe.
But Sketch Factor, which went on sale on Friday, has already attracted criticism from commentators who think it could end up as little more than a forum for people to air racist views. Valleywag, for example, covered it under the headline “Smiling Young White People Make App for Avoiding Black Neighborhoods”, and claimed that sketchy