Social media often disconnects people from the real world, keeping people inside scrolling feeds on their phones. New social app Voiijer wants to do the opposite by connecting nature enthusiasts to the world’s wonders, where they can create community, share their adventures, document their discoveries and collaborate with others on expeditions.
Somewhat reminiscent of a cross between a nature-filled Instagram and a timeline-based social app like Twitter/X, Voiijer lets users browse its home page to discover the content shared by others who have documented their journeys into the natural world.
As you scroll through someone’s feed, you may come across content like photos, videos, audio, text notes and even 3D scans for augmented reality (AR) viewing. Each observation can also contain additional data, including accreditation.
For example, some popular feeds on the app’s home page today include journeys like “Can tech help discover dinosaurs?”, which includes photos and videos from a fossil site; “Why is Iceland one of the best Mars analog environments?,” which includes text explanations and multimedia documenting an Icelandic expedition; and “Can we find blue vipers in Komodo?” where a user explores Komodo National Park in Indonesia in search of the blue-hued snakes.
Launched this summer into public beta, Voiijer was dreamed up by CEO Michael Barth, a member of the field research professional society, The Explorers Club and a fellow of the U.K.-based geographers’ society, the Royal Geographical Society. The idea came to him during an expedition in the Gobi Desert, where his team was able to make groundbreaking discoveries thanks to substantial funding and advanced technology, but struggled to share their findings with a wider audience.
It occurred to Barth that smartphones could be a useful tool to develop communities where users could engage in storytelling and more effectively share their data. To get the app off the ground, the startup has raised nearly $1 million in angel funding from friends and family.
In addition to Barth, Voiijer’s co-founders include CPO Michelle Excell, whose background includes multiplatform interactive projects involving augmented reality, virtual reality, AI and spatial technology; and CMO Greg McConnell, formerly of WPP & J. Walter Thompson, where he developed brand strategies and created successful partnerships across global luxury, heritage, tech and lifestyle categories.
Like other social apps, Voiijer lets you browse content created by others or share your own. A search feature allows you to seek out specific topics, observations, projects and other people on the app who share your interests.
You also can invite other users to collaborate with you on projects (nicknamed Voiijs), plan expeditions together with a team and upload your data, content and files as you document your travels and fieldwork both in real-time and when the expedition wraps. This storytelling capability helps others learn more about your discoveries in ways that go deeper than a post or a short video could, the company believes.
“Our blend of technology is unique,” McConnell told TechCrunch. “Exploration fieldwork is inherently multimedia, and stories from expeditions need to be told in new ways. We have packed the power of an Explorer’s toolkit into an app: the GPS, the cameras, the notebook, microphones and sampling bags — powerful tools for data collection that create experiential stories,” he continued.
“In addition to photos and videos, Voiijer supports audio recordings, short and long-form note writing and scans that come to life using Apple’s AR Quick Look. No other app supports this range of media, with collaboration features and a storytelling lens,” McConnell added.
The New York and Hong Kong-based startup plans to eventually monetize through a combination of ads and a subscription model for additional services. However, the app is currently ad-free as it’s only a public beta.
The test version has been trialed by some 100 users, including Kenton Cool, a seasoned mountaineer with 17 Everest summits under his belt. On September 30, the iOS app will “officially” launch and open to more early adopters, with the goal of scaling to 10,000 people within three months.
“We’re thrilled to invite people into the Voiijer community during this crucial phase,” Excell said. “Their feedback will be vital in refining our platform and ensuring we deliver an experience that truly resonates with our audience,” she noted.
Voiijer (pronounced “Voyager”) is currently a free download on the App Store. Even if you’re not an explorer yourself, you can browse the app’s content to learn more about the world and the fieldwork being done by the app’s users.