Some ideas are so brilliant, yet so simple, that it’s almost frustrating to learn about them. “Why didn’t I think of that?” is usually the first thought.
The new app Timebound, estimated to be available for iOS and Android as soon as May 2017, has that effect because of its very simple, but smart use of push-notification technology on mobile devices. It leverages that simple technology for all it’s worth, then combines it with superb research and writing to make something special.
It will be an especially desirable app for history buffs who love reliving and immersing themselves in historical events.
Of course, there’s the education angle too: once the word gets around about this new app, tech-savvy history teachers around the world will likely make it a mandatory download for their students.
History Brought to Life: What Timebound Does (Besides Almost Achieving Time Travel)
Timebound essentially places you in the real-time flow of history as it happened by notifying you of every twist and turn of an event through push-notifications. It uses the exact times and sequences of important developments as they happened.
You suddenly find yourself standing in the shoes of those who lived through it.
And it does it in an engaging, exciting way using good writing and storytelling–at least, that is the goal of the Timebound team. They also have made immersive maps and other bonus resources that give it a feature-rich experience.
In the company’s own words:
“Timebound is an app for learning about the past in an easy and exciting way. It allows you to follow important historical events hour-by-hour and minute-by-minute. You can join the Titanic on her maiden voyage, witness the hunt for Jack the Ripper, see the first landing on the Moon, experience the first Woodstock festival, and dozens of other thrilling stories.”
What is really exciting about this new app is its dedication to detail and its courage to take on some of the biggest events ever, such as WWII.
This has huge implications that aren’t immediately obvious: if you sign on to re-live a large historical event, say, WWII, for example, it will be a six year experience (six years and one day–the real length of WWII, as Timebound correctly points out) as the app walks you, turn by turn, through every gripping twist and turn of WWII in real-time as events unfolded.
In other words, you’ll watch the slow unfolding of history at the pace it really happened.
Certainly, an immersion experience like that will stick with you for the rest of your life. You’ll see history at ground zero, on a more personal level, and you’ll experience a bond with the people of the past who lived through it at the same pace you did.
Example of a Timebound Timeline
The idea, of course, is brilliant, but how is it executed? What is the UX (User Experience) like?
When you sign up for an event, brief notifications begin to appear as events unfold. If for example, the beginning of an event happened at 11:54 AM, you won’t get your first notification until your clock hits 11:54 AM.
You can simply enjoy the notifications as they come or tap them to open the app and explore the event in greater depth with images, maps and other resources.
If you sign up for the JFK Assassination, here’s an example, provided by Timebound, of the notifications that would appear on your device. Once you decide to follow an event, a countdown begins on the app that shows how long it is until the event begins.
Here’s an example of the notifications. Each separate bullet point below is one notification received at the time of day shown:
- 11:54 AM | The presidential motorcade leaves Dallas airport. They are 25 minutes behind schedule. In the presidential limousine, Governor John Connally and his wife Nellie sit in the middle, John and Jacqueline Kennedy take the rear. The motorcade is headed for the Dallas Trade Mart. Thousands of people gather in the streets to greet it.
- 12:21 PM | The presidential motorcade passes through Main Street in downtown Dallas. The majority of spectators are gathered here. A total of over 150 thousand people line the streets to greet the president.
- 12:22 PM | Pipefitter Howard Brennan walks to the Texas School Book Depository building. Along with many others, he wants to witness the presidential motorcade. He notices a man looking out the sixth floor window of the depository. The man appears and disappears several times, but Brennan makes little of it.
If you click on the app, it has a smooth scrolling experience as you view the events and images of that historical event as they have happened up to that point in time. You can also easily side-swipe to access the main menu, which is beautiful and minimalistic, as you explore other features or events.
What’s especially impressive is the team they’ve brought together to create a carefully vetted, accurate journey through history. This is not some half-hearted, lazy Wikipedia entry. This is a fascinating, well-researched angle on history that is refreshing because of the surprising details it digs up.
As the Timebound team explains:
“We’ve assembled a team of writers, designers, and developers with experience in leading international media like Esquire and Forbes. We also have experience in academic history. That means the app isn’t just beautiful and entertaining. Each event is carefully researched from different points of view; only facts from reliable sources make it into Timebound.“
A Great Example of How Mobile Devices Enhance Daily Life
Much can be said, and has been said, about the downsides of mobile technology and the Internet, but Timebound is one of those shining moments that shows why it’s all worthwhile.
This new app’s potential for enhancing education is especially significant. In fact, Timebound is offering teachers free access to its technology. Their site instructs educators to contact them: “If you are teaching history and want to collaborate with Timebound, drop us a line! We’d love to give you and your students free access to the app: firstname.lastname@example.org.”
What really knocks it out of the park and makes it unique, however, is its long-form immersion–the chance to live through epic, multi-year historical events (i.e. WWII) in real-time.