Arts & CultureCultural Affairs

Dat App: what3words

Android, iOS

When someone says, “I’ll see you at SUB,” where do they mean?

Do they mean by the Daily Grind? Do they mean in the bookstore? Are they actually trying to meet you inside the SUB parkade and not inside SUB itself? Unless you’re Sherlock Holmes, you’ll ditch the investigation in favour of something more direct, like texting or calling them and asking them where they actually are.

This could have been solved, though, if this communication was conducted using what3words.

What3words is part of an initiative to better “address the world” (pun intended). An address is convenient-ish for people to remember, but way too broad to specifically give a location useful for anything other than basic delivery. On the other hand, while latitude and longitude give computers the number-crunching specifics they crave, most people don’t memorize GPS coordinates unless they’re a cyborg.

This app takes a map of the entire world and divides it into three metre by three-metre squares. Each of these squares is uniquely defined by three separate words. For example, if you’re meeting someone in front of the Daily Grind, your location would be “roaring.slippery.spider.” However, if you’re meeting someone next to the bookstore, it’ll be “mindset.urge.chatting.”

Both of these are objectively easier to memorize than some string of 20 or more numbers. The applications where this tool could be useful are endless.

Drone delivery is one way it could be used. Just input the three words where you want a package delivered, and that’s where it’ll go. For rural or underdeveloped locations, what3words solves an oft-overlooked logistics problem. No one has to invent anything; the addresses already exist.

Language is a powerful tool we all use to express our ideas. Now, we can easily use it to express a universal location, too.

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