Whether you’re a history buff or not, WhatWasThere will amaze you with its offerings of historical views of the world around you. And with its augmented-reality feature, it’s like you’re stepping back in time rather than simply launching an app.
The Recapp Rating
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The WhatWasThere project (of which the app is a natural and well-executed extension) is sort of like the world’s largest crowd-sourced history project (unless you count Wikipedia). Using Google Maps, WhatWasThere pegs photos at specific geographical locations—landmarks, streets, parks, etc.—with specific dates. Using old photo archives, users can literally see what was there and get a sense of how a particular building, neighborhood or city has changed over the years.
The Street View integration is particularly stellar, with old photos laid over the current landscape. A slider bar allows users to fade the images in and out for simple, intriguing comparison.
Using the online application, and now the iPhone app, users can add their own photos—simply with a location and a date—and help to build up the history over time. The archive photos are neat, if not a bit sparse, but imagining what was there 30, 50 or even 100 years ago, with a full library of user-generated photos, is where the concept of the app leaps into the very cool.
The Google Maps integration is seamless, and it’s fun to use Street View to essentially time travel as you walk or drive, whether you’re vacationing or in your own town. You can add new photos on the go and bring up old photos to try and line up the exact location they were taken from.
The cherry on top is WhatWasThere’s augmented-reality feature. Using your phone’s camera and pointing it toward a location, old photos show up on screen, showing the place back in time and as though they weren’t photos at all: a porthole view into the past. If you’re a history buff, you won’t be able to help yourself from contributing to the project. Even if you’re not, you’re sure to have a good time without even realizing that you’re in danger of learning something.
Reviewed: Jul 10, 2012 | Nick Hurwitch
This app is included in a scenario called 6 Must-Have Apps for City Slickers