Attempting to answer the age-old question of “what should we do today?” comes a new entrant: iOS app Foresee. The app will suggest activities — preselected by the user — that are possible based on weather conditions and time of day.
The app bills itself as an “activity forecast.” It’s basically a weather app that pushes the weather to the background and focuses on scheduling. Like Google Now, like Donna, like Sunrise and plenty of other apps, Foresee combines multiple sources of data and turns your iPhone into a device that anticipates what you want and helps you accomplish things.
Nate Dicken, a designer/developer who’d made an iPhone game, said he decided to get to work on the app concept earlier this year when he and his wife found themselves “asking each other things like ‘When’s a good time to go running today?’ or ‘Am I gonna be able to walk the dog later today?’ or the dreaded ‘When is it going to stop raining so I can mow the grass?'” He figured there should be an app for that.
First, you have to tell Foresee what kinds of things you’re interested in, like kayaking, running, hiking or gardening (or dozens of others) and then what weather conditions are acceptable to you for each. For this you have very fine-grain controls: you can specify to the exact degree what temperatures you’re willing to go running in, or how much cloud cover or precipitation you’re OK with for gardening. The weather data is sourced from WeatherUnderground.
After those are set, when you fire up the app you can swipe through your activities and it’ll tell you, based on forecast, what activities you can plan on doing. (There are no notifications yet, but those are coming, Dicken told me.)
There’s a social twist too — you can let friends know you’ll be playing volleyball at 2 p.m. by sharing on Facebook or Twitter. Dicken said he would like to include a location-based element that lets people doing particular activities connect.
Designing away complexity
Dicken’s been working as an interactive designer for 15 years and his design chops are on display in Foresee. The app is quite pleasing to use, and that’s because the design enforces simplicity. The colors are bright, but the overall look is quite clean. The app is also very responsive between all the bars and buttons and switching between screens. And most importantly, you’re not presented with an overwhelming amount of information on the screen at any time.
Like many of the best and most useful apps we’ve written about lately, design is the key to gathering and connecting a ton of information and presenting data to the user in a way that makes it usable and helpful — and not overwhelming.
In fact, Dicken said that was the toughest challenge in his career. “There is a lot that we’re not even showing,” he said. “So much UX reductions to make the experience clean and simple for the user to start.”
The main downside of the app to me is the setup. There are a lot of activities to choose from, and within each activity you can customize the weather and times you prefer. After setting up three activities, I became exhausted at the prospect of adding any more — at least in one sitting. Over time, adding one here and there wouldn’t be a big-time investment.
But overall, I appreciate the concept. Foresee is fairly basic now — intentionally — but there’s much more to come. Dicken really wants to integrate the app with a calendar. But first, he’s working on other platforms: Foresee should be on Android and on the Nook and Kindle in a few weeks.