Strut Walking App Turns Exploration Into a Game

Imagine exploring New York City well before Giovanni da Verrazzano put up the first suspension bridge, or whatever he was doing on Staten Island in the 16th century. You’d be surrounded by acres of unchecked natural growth; pure, drinkable water; roving bands of hunter­gatherers… and only a few 7­Elevens.

It sounds nice, right? We all have an urge to explore the unknown, even if some people would rather stay indoors and play out that urge over a map of Vice City. (Christopher Columbus was the original Tommy Vercetti, after all.)

Created by Thick Policy AKA Mike and Dave Chau, Strut is an app that pairs digital adventure with IRL exploration. Users start with their world covered in tiles. The underlying map is exposed as they move about the neighborhood, city, country, continent, planet. Personal travel is tracked, and “Strutters” compete to see who can unlock the most tiles.

Each tile in Strut represents roughly 0.1 square mile by 0.1 square mile. Users are rewarded with “medals” for unlocking a certain number of tiles, or Strutting in a certain place (within a few struts I was awarded DON’T SLEEP = Strutted in New York).

As Mike puts it, “Strut encourages traveling, it encourages exploration, it encourages getting out and going places you wouldn’t have gone before.”

Currently, there are around 15,000 registered Strutters;  Mike held the title of first­place Strutter for a week, “and then it blew up crazy,” he says. “A few people just got carried away with it.”

The number­one strutter in the world right now is the editor for Travel Weekly. [Strut handle: aweissmann] “He loves it. He’s up to 1.9 million tiles.” That’s roughly 200,000 square miles explored; having explored 21 tiles put me at a rank of #9,358.

Mike’s crossed paths with other mighty migrants via Strut, including the Internet’s favorite dancing dad, Where The Hell Is Matt? “He’s super into Strut,” says Mike. “He actually lives in Seattle now. I was out there for a trip, and I thought I’d meet him and get a cup of coffee. He came and picked me up, and we went driving through Seattle, getting tiles.”

All in all, the app appears to have good functionality (full disclosure: I’m working with a coal­powered iPhone 4S). Still, Strutters have found reasons to take issue. “One of the points of contention is that it works on flights,” says Mike. “People who don’t travel that often are a little upset by that. One of the things we’d love to do is to somehow count local tiles more than flight tiles.”

And I was curious about the claim that users have strutted in “208 countries” (as I’m sure everyone knows, there are 197 official countries on the globe, give or take a few disputed territories). As Mike explains, “All we’re doing is querying Apple Maps through the iOS API. So whatever they give us back, that’s what we’re counting the tile against. I think some of the smaller ones are counted as island nations. In the database there are 270 countries or something like that.” Fair enough.

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