Groupon founder and former CEO Andrew Mason wants to help tourists and locals in San Francisco to wander around and discover parts of the city they’ve never fully explored. After about six months of testing, his new app Detour is going live and is available for download in the Apple App Store.
Detour was built to make automated, location-aware walking tours available to users. But unlike most walking tours, which shepherd travelers through typically mundane tourist traps, those included in Mason’s app are more like moving stories that lead listeners through off-the-beaten track shops and alleys.
That includes a walk around North Beach venues the Beat writers used to hang out at, a jaunt around the Tenderloin as narrated by John Perry Barlow, and a tour of Marina sweet shops as narrated by a fictional German philosopher. It’s more like listening to an episode of This American Life or Radiolab than your usual walking tour.
In addition to some more interesting tours, Detour also features some technology under the hood that should make it a bit more usable than other apps. Detour is location-aware based on GPS and also iBeacons, enabling users to wander about at their own pace. Groups of users can also tour together, as the app keeps their sessions synced.
The app is available now, but currently only features six tours in the San Francisco Bay Area. New tours will be made available on the first Thursday of every month. The app is free to download, but tours can be purchased for $5 apiece, or $20 for an annual subscription.
In a phone conversation, Mason said finding the right price was a tricky thing: “On the one hand, we think tourists will pay a lot more for a walking tour,” he said. “But locals have a lot of options, and we want price to get out of the way… We don’t want to give people a reason to not try Detour.”
He said the pricing model may evolve over time, and future versions of the app might offer previews of tours before asking consumers to pay. However, the company wanted to get the app out the door before adding that feature. (The first 150 TechCrunch readers who want to get a free Detour can do so by entering the code TECHCRUNCH at this link.)
Mason says new tours and cities will be coming soon, including one that will be added in Austin right before SXSW. In the meantime, those interested in learning more about San Francisco’s rough edges will have a new way to do so.