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crowdIn “Super Sad True Love Story,” Gary Shteyngart’s fictional novel set in the near future, bar patrons use advanced smartphone-like devices to detect the best-looking person in an establishment and rate all patrons on a numeric scale of attractiveness. Such an app, thank everything that is holy, does not exist. Yet. But a similar kind of app is rolling out across the U.S., and it could, surprisingly, offer some advantages for travelers.

11 Essential Travel Apps

SceneTap, a free app for iPhone, Android and the Web, uses facial detection cameras to determine the male-to-female ratio of people in select bars, as well as calculate the average age of everyone inside. It’s kind of like Big Brother — that is, if Big Brother were a sleazy rake seeking gender-specific bar patrons of a certain age.

The app, which launched last month, presently functions just at bars in Chicago. But the folks at SceneTap are working hard to bring their app to a drinking hole near you. SceneTap spokesperson Andrew Cross told me in an e-mail that more than 250 bars and nightclubs around the U.S. have signed up to join SceneTap. And the company is in the process of researching international markets.

Now, here’s why I might actually use SceneTap. In addition to serving up the creepy age and gender stats, the app shows how many people are in a bar, and lists relevant food and drink specials. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve showed up at a historic pub listed in my guidebook, only to encounter a sweaty pack of patrons pushing out the door, half of whom were likely led there by the same mass-produced guidebook. Crowds spook me. So when this happens, I usually turn around and go someplace less interesting. I think it’d be useful to know how packed a place is before taking two tubes and a bus to get there.

What’s your take on SceneTap? Is it a useful travel tool … or an app for tools?

— written by Caroline Costello

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One Response to “Find a Date (and Some Deals)”

  1. jc says:

    Using it as a travel tool is a fantastic idea. I would think a lot of people have the same problem, because I don’t think there are many places worth crowds like that, just to be able to say I’d been there. As far as the age/gender indication, I can see (optimistically) why the designers would think it’s a good idea. If you’re a 20-something woman, you could easily avoid a bar full of 50-something men. Unfortunately, it does have a pretty major creepability factor as well. Though I guess it could be said that creepers will be creepers, and they’ll find a way with or without an app for that.

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