Smart Phone App Helps You Find Nature in the City

central park

Ah, there’s nothing like getting out into nature with nothing else but…your iPhone…

Welcome to the Modern World where to be smart phone-less is to be, well…unmodern. We use our devices for everything: maps, weather and traffic checks, finding great food, entertainment, and even, a little bit of the way the world was before we dug it all up and covered it with concrete.

Yes, the iPhone is good for more than just connecting you with a bunch of Angry Birds…how about letting it connect you with just plain old actual birds?

Meet Indeterminate Hikes+ a smart phone app created by professors at the University of Rochester in New York. The goal is to help us change our views of urban nature while helping users to better understand the way cities have evolved.

Cary Peppermint and Leila Nadir co-founded EcoArtTech, which focuses on bridging technology and environmentalism. The duo work with other artists and organizations, reports Utne, and Indeterminate Hikes+ is the latest offering from the collaboration.

IH+ works with Google Maps creating hiking paths in urban areas. Once downloaded to your smart phone, you enter in your target start and end locations. The app then generates “random” path routes that include a variety of activities focused on honing the user into nature along the way. “The prompts increase awareness of the environment where you live and also cause social interactions—you’re using the technology to reconnect with space instead of people,” according to Peppermint.

Wilderness is all around you and the app encourages users to give the same attention to inner city parks and rain gutters that we do to landscapes like canyons and gorges,” said Nadir. The hikes are designed for groups of two or more (although you can certainly do one alone) and there are prompts from the app as well, encouraging users to take pictures at key spots (of environmental or historical significance). You may be asked to write a field note and perform other “socially interactive” tasks to enrich the walk and better observe nature.

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Image: D’La Crux




Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.