Travel’s facelift for the 21st century has been radical and far-reaching. Skype and wifi have replaced the ritual of calling home by feeding endless foreign coins into a phone box, updating your Facebook status is the new postcard, and travellers are increasingly likely to use ‘augmented reality’ rather than have a guidebook tucked under their arm.
If anything, the pace of change continues to quicken – exciting, sometimes mind-boggling innovations are appearing all the time, meaning how we interact with places and people keeps on evolving. Below are some of our favourite gizmos and gadgets.
A phrasebook like no other – download the iLingual app, take a photo of your mouth, the app then has over 400 phrases your mouth can ‘say’. Cue the odd sight of travellers holding their iphones in front of their actual mouths as the screen ‘talks’. Watch a video for this app – a demo is better than any written explanation. Only a few languages on offer at the moment, but it can’t be long until iPhone-bearded travellers are pow-wowing in Swahili on the Serengeti savannah.
Very Star Trek this one, another app for those struggling with mastering a foreign language. Word Lens only currently translates English-Spanish, but it’s a neat idea and could be genuinely useful. All you need to do is aim your iPhone camera at some printed text and Word Lens translates it in realtime. You need never struggle over a foreign language newspaper again (or at least not a Spanish language one).
Google goggles may just be the biggest game-changer of all. It’s still in its infancy, but the image recognition software is looking a pretty awesome and versatile travel tool. Here’s how it works: you’re strolling around a city, or a museum or gallery, you take a snap of something you want to know more about it, if Google recognises the subject of the image it will bring up search results. Cue instant expertise and a handy tool for appearing knowledgeable about, well, everything – from sourcing well-reviewed restaurants to enabling you to wax expertly on, say, pre-Incan Peruvian art. In other words, this may be the ultimate dating tool.
We always give people who travel with us with plenty of tips and guidance about local cultures and etiquette in foreign countries, so this app is right up our street. Pick your country and then you’ll be presented with a load of helpful info on the destination – from law & order to religious etiquette to taboos. Great for sorting out your do’s from your don’ts.
And a couple of lower-tech gadgets we like…
Solar-powered LED light and water bottle cap
This one looks genuinely good doesn’t it? Mixing water and electricity perhaps isn’t intuitively clever, but the sealing means you’ve got nothing to worry about, and the light is supposed to be decent enough for a tent lantern. The idea of a solar-powered torch may lead cynics to snipe about artificial light being a little redundant if the sun is beating down, but ignore them – this has a good charge, is cheap, light and saves space, and is environmentally intelligent.
The daddy of all Swiss Army Knives
A supercharged multi-tool that looks like it’s on steroids. 87 tools on offer, including – at last! – a golf shoe spike wrench. All that’s missing is a flux capacitor. This one kilo treat fits snugly into your pocket, providing your pocket is 30cm long. A snip at nearly $1000AUD, plus postage, which presumably bumps the final price tag up a bit, not least because the instruction manual must run to a couple hundred pages.