Making a turn-by-turn voice navigation app is hard. First you’ve gotta figure out how to get all those maps — which, unless you plan on wrangling up some cartographers and sending them around the world on your dime, means licensing fees. Then you’ve gotta record audio for a few hundred thousand street names, figure out how to determine and draw all of the routes, and then cross your fingers and hope you don’t send anyone on a long drive off a short pier.
Atlas CT is trying to take some of that painful wheel-reinvention out of the process with Atlas Mobile, a drop-in solution for third party developers looking to bring turn-by-turn navigation right into their application.
As you might’ve figured, Atlas Mobile is big ol’ prepackaged API with much of the functionality you might expect from a turn-by-turn app: voice guided directions, satellite imagery support, multi-touch map control, custom content layers on the map.. it seems pretty exhaustive.
Developers tie the aforementioned API into their own application, and bam: users are navigating away, all without ever leaving the original application in favor of something like Google Maps. Their mind stays on your app, while their eyes stay on the road. The user gets from point a to point b, and you get a user that didn’t crash into a wall while using your app. Win-win.
It’s not free, but the scaling pricing structure seems fair enough: $79 bucks a month nets developers 30,000 API calls, which ought to be more than enough for the testing phase. $379 and $1,979 come with 150,000 and 1,000,000 API calls respectively. If you’ve got a million API calls going out through a feature which probably isn’t the main focus of your app, you’ve hopefully figured out your model enough to be able to afford $2k a month. Any more than that, and they’ll work out a deal for a dedicated server.
The API is currently compatible with iOS (including iOS 4) and any J2ME-friendly platform, with plans for Android support in the pipes.
I spent a bit of time checking out a demo application built with the Atlas Mobile API — and while surprisingly smooth, it wasn’t perfect. Maps loaded quickly and directions were clear, but the search seemed a bit spotty (a search for “Coffee” rocketed me off to somewhere in Georgia, rather than showing coffee shops in my surrounding area). The app also didn’t demonstrate a pretty big bunch of the items boasted on the feature list. These issues, however, are presumably in the demo app’s implementation of the API — not in the API itself.