An idea inspired by a childhood love of the illustrated book ‘Wainright’s Pictorial Guide to the Lake District’ has evolved into a global company. Craig Wareham, co-founder of ViewRanger, has brought trail guides into the digital and virtual world. A version of the best-selling outdoor adventure app has also become the first of its kind to appear on the recently launched Apple Watch Series 2.
Developed in complete secrecy by a design team from Cambridge-based ViewRanger, the off-road navigation app was unveiled at this year’s Apple Keynote event in San Francisco. It transforms the way people interact with the outdoors by providing trail guides and directions accessed with the swipe of a finger.
ViewRanger is a real Cambridge success story; it was awarded the Top Developer Badge on Google Play and is used by millions of people worldwide, including mountain rescue teams. It even provides navigational support for The One Show’s Rickshaw Challenge for BBC Children in Need.
ViewRanger provides a selection of recommended routes and support for navigation.
Craig (pictured left) explains: “ViewRanger has been designed to enhance the outdoor experience by providing local information, images and comprehensive routes. It is equally useful for extreme mountain bikers or those who want to good walk at the weekend.”
“The new Apple Watch app provides much of the functionality of the smartphone app and it uses the new GPS feature to offer turn-by-turn directions and live stats such as distance and elevation.”
Before establishing ViewRanger in 2006, Craig was a studio consultant for a Cambridge-based visual computing tech company that revolutionised the way that big Hollywood film studios produced animated feature films. Based in Los Angeles, Craig advised animation giants such as Warner Bros, Hanna-Barbera and Dreamworks.
Craig says: “I then wanted a new challenge, and knew that my passion was for the outdoors. I teamed up with co-founder Mike Brocklehurst back in Cambridge to set up ViewRanger.”
The duo had the concept of merging futuristic digital maps and illustrations with the real landscape. However the mobile phones available at the time were not advanced enough to support this.
Their original vision only came to fruition this month with the launch of the augmented reality feature, Skyline.
Augmented reality has seen a huge surge in popularity, buoyed by the widespread acclaim of Pokemon Go!
Now ViewRanger is able to overlay map information with the real landscape seen through the phone camera, so when reaching the top of a hill or a mountain the user can see the panorama with all the peaks, lakes, villages and even glaciers up to 20 miles away accurately labelled.
At the Apple keynote conference in September 2016, Apple Chief Operating Officer Jeff Williams invited Hannah Catmur, ViewRanger's head of design, on stage to demonstrate the new Apple Watch app.
The ViewRanger app boasts access to over 9,000 detailed trail guides, having partnered with 24 national mapping agencies and international cartographic publishers.
The company has grown organically and with the support of business angels from the UK and USA.
“As it is a free app, we use a freemium business model,” explains Craig. “It is possible to download additional specialised maps with a small in-app purchase. We track our digital funnel of app downloads through to in-app purchase closely, and see very good conversion rates.”
“The company is growing very quickly, and as our community rapidly expands we continue to invest in creating an amazing outdoor experience for consumers and serve as a useful platform for our content publishers and partners to reach this vibrant community.”
ViewRanger for Apple Watch is available as a free update to the ViewRanger app in the Apple App Store. To learn more visit www.viewranger.com/applewatch
Read more stories about ViewRanger here.