Despite the popularity of Snapchat’s vanishing photos, most of the time we take pictures to preserve images. The only problem – we still need our memories to help us here, and our ability to recall details correctly is often for the birds.
Enter UrbanBird, a web application that helps us connect our pictures to the real world. Those 1,000 words a picture is supposedly worth – they usually amount to squat:
“Now, where did I take that?”
“When was that trip?”
“Man, I’d love to eat at a restaurant like, like – what was that place called again?”
UrbanBird restores value to pictures by displaying uploaded photos on engaging maps based on where the photos were taken. Using data stored onto the photos (snapped with either modern camera or smartphone), it’s possible to filter images according to location, date, type of activity captured, and more. Like a Twitter for photos, UrbanBird also makes it easy to organize and search photos by using hashtags.
Not only does UrbanBird offer a great way to hold onto the significance that usually stays trapped in an image or fades with time, but the app serves as a great sharing and discovery tool as well. Public photos can be searched by hashtag. Simply click on a box at the bottom of photos and receive suggestions for similar places (restaurants, parks, museums, etc.) near where the photo was taken and near wherever the viewer might be in the world. Founder Toni Peinoit tells us more:
Would you please explain what UrbanBird is all about?
Definitely. UrbanBird is an innovative application that’s going to allow tourists to be connected to the real world. With UrbanBird you can get your photos connected automatically with dates, location, titles, and descriptions. The photos are also displayed on a map, and users can get suggestions of places to visit based on where they’ve been or where their friends have been.
So, this is a new way to share pictures that’s going to save a tremendous amount of time for a lot of people. I’m pretty excited about it.
Where did you find your inspiration behind the concept?
It was last year. I did a 10-day road trip in Eastern Europe. That was a great adventure. I started in Prague, Czech Republic, and I went to Austria, Hungary, and Slovakia. That was great, you know, a 10-day road trip with a friend of mine. But then, a few weeks later, when I had to share my experience, my travel, with my friends, I had forgotten half of my trip. I mean, I was not about to record all the names, places, locations… I was just not about to remember all that information.
Toni Peinoit, Founder of UrbanBird
So I started studying. I wanted a better display than the boring old picture wall on a regular website. I decided I needed to find a way to explore the photos. I did some investigating and I discovered that the location and date taken of pictures using the modern camera or smartphones are stored within the photo as metadata. And it took me over a year to develop a strong concept that works for everyone’s pictures – names, location, date taken, and directions.
So, it’s fair to say that the app extracts data that’s already stored in the picture?
Correct, and it let’s you explore this information.
Is the focus more on the personal side of storing photos or the social aspect of sharing…”
Both. For personal pictures when you want a better display and want to explore your photos – sometimes, even with pictures of your past weekend, you don’t necessarily remember where they were taken. And there’s the social aspect, because then you can share them with your friends. This is a great way to share your pictures on social sites, less boring than your average picture wall – you’re able to share them on Facebook. And you can decide whether or not you want the maps to be public or private.
You’ve worked and studied tech for a long time. Is founding your own company something you’ve always wanted to do or did you happen into it because you had this idea?
I’ve been in the Internet world since I was 10. I developed my first website when I was 10. That was fifteen years ago. I have a master’s degree in computer science. I studied five years of IT at university. Before that, I had already developed my own websites. Then I did my accreditation internship here in the U.S., a six month internship. I got hired, and I am still in the tech world. This is not the first concept that I am developing, and I will continue developing new concepts, until I find the one that you know [laughs] works!
I’m pretty confident about UrbanBird. I strongly believe in this concept. This is not my first idea that I am releasing. I really believe in this one more than any other in the past.
What would you say are some of your toughest challenges working on UrbanBird so far?
One of the most challenging things is that I want UrbanBird to work not only for the treks, for example, but I want it to work for a range of different things – for people who visited a city, for people who did a road trip or a cruise or even… some young students. They did a pub crawl. I don’t know, maybe they’re a little bit hungover, and they’re not about to remember where they went that night. So the thing to do is upload the pictures, and then everything is going to come up, and they’re going to be able to retrace where they went that night.
So, I want UrbanBird to work for a range of things, and to do that I had to write the best algorithms, the different APIs that UrbanBird relies on – to put pictures on walls, for pictures taken during a trek but also while visiting a city or during a pub crawl or during a road trip or a cruise. This is not the same for pictures taken in a park in the middle of nowhere or in the city where there are different businesses all around where the picture was taken. That was challenging, to make it work for a range of things.
When people return to access their photos, they’re stored on maps or do they also go into personal collections?
Right now, the initial concept is to be able to display photos on a map and then connect them automatically with titles, descriptions, location, and dates taken. They are displayed on a map, but below the map there is also a slideshow of pictures.
Are there any storage limits or fees associated with having an account?
I’ve limited the initial upload to 50 pictures. But then they can add other pictures, other sets of 50 pictures.
Do you have a vision of where you’d like UrbanBird to be in 5 years?
5 years? This is a good question… If I continue to get really good feedback and more and more traffic, the idea would be for this site, this project, to be a company and to be able to have a team working with me, collaborators. This is how I see UrbanBird. I strongly believe in this concept. If I was in need of a photo search web app, I’m sure that other people will also need UrbanBird.
Have you been doing everything on your own so far?
Everything on my own so far.
What do you find most satisfying about working on UrbanBird?
To see in action all the things that I’ve missed previously. There was always something missing, a feature missing in the existing photo-sharing apps. So it was satisfying to build something in the way that I wanted, exactly what I wanted, and to be able to always add more features. It’s challenging. It’s really challenging. Then when I see that people are uploading their pictures and it works well in the same way that it worked with my pictures, ah… I mean, this is great.
Do you have any tips or advice for other entrepreneurs trying to realize their projects?
I would say “just do it” if you have an idea. I had other ideas in the past. It took me some time before I started to work on those projects, and then unfortunately, a year later, someone else had the same idea and they started first.
So, if you have an idea and you are the first one, then just do it. And if you live in San Francisco, that’s even better.
Is there anything about UrbanBird or your history that we haven’t touched on so far that you’d like to mention?
Yes, I recently realized a new feature that allows people to easily search their photos by hashtags. I’m pretty excited about it, because you know, right now, pictures are hostage on different servers all around the world. We don’t really know what the pictures are about, etc. etc. And the idea here, just like for Twitter with texts, is to add value, to find and to search pictures by hashtags.
For example, Robert is going to upload his photos on UrbanBird, so his pictures will be accessible at urbanbird.io/bob#boat for example or urbanbird.io./demo#restaurant. I am going to be able to access pictures of boats and restaurants – and it works for the titles, the descriptions, the locations, and the categories. So, I’m really excited about this because it’s a brand new way to search information for pictures and the information of pictures of a specific user. It makes it really easy to search pictures and to find the information.
The second thing is the suggestion feature. Let’s say for example that a friend of yours was on vacation last week. He went to a French restaurant. He took a picture with his girlfriend. You’re looking at his pictures. You in San Francisco, California, by clicking on his pictures, can get suggestions of similar French restaurants around where you are right now or around where the picture was taken.
And I think that’s great, because this person is your friend. You’re looking at the pictures, meaning that you’re interested in what he did or where it was, and simply by clicking on the pictures, you’re going to be able to get suggestions of similar places around where you are right now as well the distance and the description of the business. This is a great way to find new places to visit or to go.
I uploaded some of my pictures taken at Yosemite, and looking at my pictures from my apartment in San Francisco, I was able to find new parks to go to like Pinnacles etc. etc. Once again, it worked for my pictures and it worked for the pictures of other people. I’m very excited about this suggestion feature as well.
Are the hashtags automatically generated by the application?
So there are two different kinds of hashtags: for the maps and for the photos. For the maps, if you go to urbanbird.io/demo, you have access to the maps of the user called demo, and then, you know, there is a search bar at the top of this page. You start typing any word and then there is an autocompletion. Let’s say for example that you type “Pa.” It’s going to say that there are 28 suggestions for parks. So you’re going to click on “Parks” and then automatically the URL is going to get updated to say urbanbird.io/demo#Parks. And you can share this on your Facebook wall for example, and you’re able to reach this page again where you only get maps with photos taken in a park.
The second one is for pictures. Same thing as when you’re on a map. There is a search bar at the top of the page. You start typing anything, then with auto-completion, let’s say you type “Be” for beach and then only the pictures taken at a beach by this user are going to be displayed on the map.
So, say you’re going to take a road trip. There are like 200 pictures. Right now, you’ve decided to upload these pictures on a boring picture wall – and it’s going to be boring for everyone, because as a visitor you have to, what, to scroll down on this infinite scroll until you get bored. No, you want to see only what you like. So, with UrbanBird, you’re going to type in “beach” or “restaurant” and only the pictures that you want are going to be displayed. So you can really see what you want.
Sounds great. The best of luck to you.