Business

This app lets you see real-time crowds & trains on an old-school subway map

Above: Tunnel Vision in action

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There’s a plethora of apps that give New York City’s subway riders route information. These apps help commuters with many aspects of using the MTA, from route planning to nearby stops.

Tunnel Vision goes beyond this scope through data visualization and augmented reality. When users point their smartphone cameras at images of the transit map, the app overlays information about the city via data pulled from the MTA and the U.S. Census.

Much like other apps, Tunnel Vision provides much information about the subway itself, including the official schedule, turnstile activity at each stop, and an estimate of how many people are currently using the metro. It’s a real life version of the Marauders’ Map, as dots representing the cars move along the lines.

What’s vastly unique to Tunnel Vision is that displays data about New York City’s populations and neighborhoods. Datasets in the app include median income, rent prices, and population density across all of the city’s neighborhoods.

Developer William Lindmeier created the app for a thesis project at New York University’s ITP program. Lindmeier, who wanted to paint a portrait of New York through data, told VentureBeat that data visualization is important because it can surface “stories” that wouldn’t otherwise be obvious.

“I’ve found that the more ways you visualize a dataset,” Lindmeier said, “the more you’re able to ask relevant, specific questions of it, and that can lead to understanding.”

People can use the app in “flat mode,” that is, using a more traditional style of navigation, but Lindmeier prefers using the camera because it’s more “engaging and exciting.” The subway map is iconic in New York City, and Lindmeier wanted to inject new information into the image.

Lindmeier wants to bring Tunnel Vision to other transit lines, pending data availability. He also wants to display more qualitative data on the app, allowing people to see sentiment in each neighborhood through data from Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Tunnel Vision is both practical and informational, allowing commuters to learn about the city while planning their routes. The app is currently available on iPhone.


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