Two friends have just released iPhone apps in time for Christmas:
- Jenga, by Natural Motion. This is the official Jenga iPhone app – there’s a fiendishly realistic physics model of the world behind the scenes, and it’s a thing of beauty.
- Storyville by Fatty Apps – I love the idea of receiving a short story each week, beamed straight to my outboard brain.
P.S. I’d be happy to put you in touch with Torsten or Atul if you have any direct feedback you’d like to give them.
Have you ever had a conversation with smart friends that got hung up on some disputed point of fact, or tip of the tongue memory failure? Don’t you just wish someone would step in with the answer to unclog the free flow of ideas and happy banter? Disputes about facts and tip-of-the-tongue feelings *should* be a relic of the 20th century. So there are two things that are remarkable here:
- Through smartphones and search engines, we can marshal thousands of machines to produce the answer in the blink of your mind’s eye.
- But we have to perform that instantaneous incantation with pudgy fingers and a 0.3G internet connection. I challenge anyone to find the name of an actor in under 2 minutes with an iPhone with crappy reception. While those 120 seconds creep past, you’re coldly ignoring your friends, and the conversation is gasping on the table like a naked baby on a spacewalk.
Here’s one technological solution to this social problem:
- At the beginning of the conversation, we all put our iPhones on the table, and fire up the Inforager app.
- Inforager is listening to us, uploading the audio of our conversation to voice-recognizing clouds.
- It runs dozens of google searches continually in the background, displaying result-snippet-bubbles that float past, driven by the whorls and eddies of our conversation. While we’re talking about the beardy guy with the Greek name in The Hangover, a bubble for ‘Zach Galifianakis – IMDb’ looms large, only to be nudged offscreen as we move to debating whether the ‘candied sunchokes’ on the restaurant menu are likely to taste more like sunflowers or artichokes, while the other half of the table engages in a dialog on the nature of catnip.
In other words, the answers to questions we have are being provided in real time in response to our conversation. This frees us up to talk about what matters.
- If multiple people at the same table were calling Inforager, it would use the multiple sound sources to do a better job of distinguishing voices and improving audio quality.
- Is it possible to use the phone (rather than the 3G connection) to upload the audio data? That would drain the battery much less.
- I made up the name Inforager.
I have stubby, knobbly hands that look neanderthal to me as I prod sweatily at the smooth, cleanness of my iPhone.
Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a thimble you could place on your thumbs/index fingers that would give you a restricted surface area with which to press on small buttons on your iPhone?
Then, I could genuinely use the device as a 21st century post-it note – I wish I could scratch and scribble on it with a horsehair finger-biro, rather than doodling and poodling all over it with my pudgy digits.
Alarm clocks are temporal. They tell you when some time criterion has been reached. They’re very useful.
But often, I really want an alarm with a spatial criterion – a location alarm. Let’s consider some possible uses:
- Beep shrilly if anyone tries to steal this device from its current location. [I think there are accelerometer-based programs for laptops that do this]
- I’m snoozing on the train – wake me up when we get near Penn Station. [This is where I first came up with the idea].
- Give me a kick if I’m still in my office when I’m supposed to have left for that meeting. After all, I don’t need the alarm to go off if I’m already on my way to the meeting. [though that's a combination space + time criterion]
This would make for an obvious and delightful iPhone app. I haven’t found one yet, but I haven’t looked hard either.
UPDATE: there are some really superb suggestions in the comments, and in Hacker News that take this idea much further. I particularly liked these:
- R.J.: Google Maps needs this so when I’m walking down the street I don’t have to pay attention to street address numbers/keep my eyes glued to the screen.
- Frankus: Maybe something like that could tell me when I’m close to the grocery store that I need to buy milk.
- Frankus: A game where you try and assassinate your friends by setting imaginary time bombs to go off at a particular location when you think your friend will be there.
You’re drunk, you’re horny and you’re wandering around Atlantic City at 3am. It’s time to put your money to even better use than gambling – clearly, you need a strip joint, stat.
Given your urgency, and your boozy clumsiness, you don’t want to have to go far, but being a discerning consumer, you’re willing to go a little bit if it’s going to really improve things. You need a guide that’s right at hand, quick to consult, and knows what they’re talking about. Ideally, you want a randy and helpful local, but an iPhone app with very big buttons would be next up. If it had reviews from other discerning consumers, that would be an excellent way to decide between the various possibilities.
If I were to ever write such an app, I would be torn between calling it The Very Lonely Planet, Vagat’s or The Muff Guide.