An app developed by recent Cal Poly graduates that lets Hearst Castle visitors carry a virtual tour guide in their pocket tops the iTunes “best new app” list in the travel category, is number 12 among best new apps overall and in the top 10 in paid travel apps.
That means the Hearst Castle app is right up there with apps for “all the big airline, travel companies, hotel reservations” and other major attractions and museums such as the Louvre and Getty, said Hoyt Fields, Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument museum director.
“I’m convinced this is the best museum app in the world,” Fields said.
The location-aware GuideKick app, which launched Nov. 7, is the brainchild of Mark Paddon, Aaron Rivera and Joshua Holland, all 24-year-old 2012 Poly grads, and Garrett Lauringson, 26, who graduated in 2009.
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In October 2012, Paddon, Rivera and Holland went on a graduation-celebration trip to Machu Picchu. They became frustrated by the lack of information available about what they were seeing each day. That led to the GuideKick concept and a late spring meeting with Fields to present the idea of an app for the Castle.
The app blends historical artifacts with GPS technology, and has brought touring Castle grounds firmly into the 21st century.
The app has two modes: Library and the GPS-enabled Explore. The first allows subscribers to learn at their leisure, and the second tracks the user’s iPhone and alerts the user when a significant artifact or item is nearby. The user can then hear and see more about that treasure while being right beside it — a big help to visitors who take the option at the conclusion of every guided tour of the Castle to revisit its pools or explore its gardens on their own.
Castle historian Victoria Kastner wrote the app’s text and did the narration; Castle photographer Victoria Garagliano took the app’s pictures.
GuideKick developers say they are working fulltime on “the ultimate app for historical attractions.”
Paddon says the team continues to draw strength and inspiration from their “amazing mentors” at HotHouse, “who help shape and motivate us, help us create what we’ve done together,” and from Hearst Castle members of the development team.
HotHouse is a startup incubator project started by the Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, San Luis Obispo city representatives and local business leaders.
Fields said the $1.99 app cost goes to Friends of Hearst Castle, which provides funding for Castle restoration, interpretation and educational programs.
For details, go to www.guidekick.co or the iTunes App Store. The Castle app is currently available for iPhones, models 4s and above. It’s expected to be available for iPads sometime next month and for Android devices early next year.