Tech

Foursquare's Marsbot for AirPods is a tour guide that whispers in your ear

The new app will behave like a friend constantly pointing out things in the city around you.

Noam Galai/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Foursquare has created a new app called Marsbot for AirPods that acts as an audio guide for the places around you. With Marsbot, you can put your AirPods (or other headphones) in your ears and hear interesting audio comments about places as you walk past them.

With Marsbot, you don't need friends — The idea behind Marsbot for AirPods is to act like your friend "who knows everything about the city and is constantly pointing out the most interesting things to you." Foursquare thinks its audio notifications are good enough that they'll be able to help you notice interesting new things about the places around you, even if you've walked past them a million times. The app allows you to adjust how often it feeds you notifications.

Foursquare

The king of local — If you aren't familar, Foursquare has for years invested in its technology that pinpoints your exact location to provide tips on the places in your area. Besides its namesake local guides app, the company also makes the popular Swarm check-in product, which functions as a sort of "lifelog" of all the places you've been. So long as you have GPS permissions enabled, Swarm will automatically keep a log of all the places it thinks you've been. I use the app and can attest it's very accurate at recognizing all the shops and other businesses I've visited throughout my day.

The audio recommendations Foursquare is using in Marsbot come from its local guides app, but the company has also created a feature in Marsbot that allows users to share their own audio messages about a location. That means you can share advice with other users in a more personal and intimate way that may be hard to convey in writing. When you visit somewhere and feel compelled to add your own voice tip, just open the app and a button at the bottom will allow you to record.

Foursquare's Swarm allows users to create a journal of all the places they've been.

Foursquare's business — Foursquare's business started out in social networking, but today the consumer apps feed its real business, which is selling location data to businesses. It uses all the tips and location data it collects from its millions of users to power a database of places that it sells as an API. Every time you type a business name into your Uber app, for instance, it's calling the Foursquare API to find the exact address. It's smart because Foursquare is effectively using its users to crowdsource all of its data — each time a new business opens in a city, it's typically a user who's adding that business to Foursquare's database.

The company also sells your data as anonymous foot traffic information so that businesses can gauge the success of marketing campaigns. But if you're worried about the privacy of your location information you probably aren't using an app like Swarm.

Marsbot for AirPods is available only in the U.S. for now, and Foursquare says you can expect the best experience in major cities like New York or San Francisco that likely have more suggestions.