In the past, Roamz has been called a “reverse Foursquare.” As far as two-word explanations go, I’d say that fits it pretty well. Rather than telling Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram where you are, Roamz scrapes all of those services for nearby events and happenings to tell you where to go.
This morning Roamz is launching version 2.0 of their product, which they tell me has essentially been “rebuilt from the ground up.” They’ve overhauled the entire app with a considerably cleaner user interface and have completely retooled the algorithms to find nearby activities and events.
Note that they’ve ditched the cheesy background and rounded rectangles, moving towards something much more in line with recent trends in app design. They didn’t reinvent the wheel. They just made their wheel a whole lot prettier.
As a bit of background, Roamz is a 12-man team out of Sydney, Australia. They’ve raised $3.5 million, and have had about 60,000 downloads since launching at the Web 2.0 Summit back in October.
But does it work?
Yes and no. I live in a little nook of the East Bay of California, a few towns south of Oakland. Relative to San Francisco, Palo Alto, or any of the other cities just across the water, my neighborhood is something of a tech wasteland. To set the bar for what I mean: I actually get excited when someone else has checked in recently wherever I am. I didn’t expect Roamz to find much here.
And yet, it pulled it off to some degree. By digging into the Facebook profiles of some local businesses, Roamz found a post about a live music event at a nearby venue that I didn’t even know existed. Sure, it was surrounded by week old pictures of food that people took at nearby restaurants. But hey, the app managed to teach me something about my own neighborhood right off the bat.
I told the app to ignore my current location and search around Mission St. in San Francisco instead, assuming that area would be a bit more jumpin’. It, too, was mostly pictures of people’s meals. Still, there was a gem or two in there: a nearby Pilates studio had a new instructor! A grilled cheese restaurant (oh, San Francisco) had a Meat Lovers special today! I later found that you could jump into the settings and disable the “Restaurants and Food” category, which helps reduce the food photo count considerably. Still, it was a lot of pictures of things at places, not things to do.
Roamz is an interesting idea, and their new app is really quite pretty. How useful it is to you, however, will vary greatly based on what those around you are posting. In my case, that meant a lot of pictures of food. But when the stars align just right and the signal breaks through the noise, the app actually can find some rather neat stuff. Give version 2.0 of Roamz a spin, and see how it works for you.