The web is full of location-based startups at the moment, struggling to stand out in an increasingly crowded marketplace. WorkSnug seems to be one of them, pitching itself as a way for the modern “urban nomad” to find places to work. I have been in this situation myself a few times – time to kill in an unfamiliar location and looking for somewhere to plop down with a laptop and a decent coffee (and ideally a network connection) so I guess the basic idea has value.
However, the approach taken by WorkSnug seems odd, and somewhat flawed. They make a big deal of the Augmented Reality nature of their service – the ability to “look through” an iPhone screen and see labels on nearby buildings indicating the location of likely workplaces. This is just a crazy way to approach the problem. Think about it. To successfully find this sort of location using this sort of interface will only work when all of the following things are true:
- the mobile device knows the current location
- the mobile device knows the current direction (in 3D space, it seems!) of view
- workplaces in the local area are registered with the system
- the user is looking in a direction where there are registered workplaces
- the user is near enough to registered workplaces that they can be projected on nearby architecture
Arguably the hardware and infrastructure may be able to provide the first two of those conditions, and in the (unlikely?) case that the service takes off then we might achieve the third point. But the last two are the killers. Are the WorkSnug folks really imagining streets filled with laptop-carrying execs twirling like dancers while holding their iPhones aloft just on the off-chance that they might catch a glimpse of an office with a spare desk?
Fundamentally it’s a problem with data density. In areas so densely packed with eligible workspaces that they might be visible using such an AR approach, finding one is not really a problem and the solution is not very valuable. It’s in the areas where working space is harder to find (suburbs, small towns, rural areas, industral areas, …) that this kind of service has value, but these situations are exactly the ones where Augmented Reality makes no sense.
By all means run a registry of workplaces, and show them on a map with details of how to get there, but give up on the AR, please.
Oh, and also give up on the pretending that the service is busy by scrolling a bunch of pregenerated activity messages on the home page. It’s been many times before and just makes the creators of the service look like liars and charlatans.