New iPhone app 'reads' people's thoughts
Echoer is a groundbreaking app that makes it easy to see what other people are thinking and experiencing in the places around you. It solves the problem of working out which thoughts are worth hearing; elevating the most recent and popular content above the noise. And it has been designed to allow you to easily make an impact, either by adding your own voice or amplifying others.
Echoer is available on iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. App designer Daniel Cowen talks to Japan Today about this latest product, which aims to fuse Twitter and Facebook’s benefits.
What inspired you to create Echoer?
It was New Year’s Day 2011 when my co-founder Davin called me up and said “Dan, I had this crazy idea! What if you could see what the people around you were thinking!?” He had just come off an awful journey from Montreal to Hong Kong, which got him thinking about the idea of sharing experiences with others around him. It struck us as ironic, no matter how many friends you had on Facebook, or people you followed on Twitter, that you had no idea what people in the same place or watching the same event as you were thinking and experiencing. In other words: “location + realtime” remained untouched.
How does Echoer work, then?
You get a map of your location, and by pressing the big “+” button on screen, you can add your own “Echoes” to any space around you. You can choose whether to add a thought, an event or a discovery. Other people will be doing this too so you can see the thoughts of those in the same space as you at that moment. You can choose how loudly you want to “Echo” your thoughts with our “Amp” icon, and the most amped-up echoes of people nearby will show up first, so that you have some idea of what’s hot and what’s not. You can also link your Echoes to Facebook and Twitter.
What makes you think Echoer will succeed in Japan?
Firstly, Japan was one of the early adopters of Foursquare, so the population embraced the idea of location-based services and information very early on. Echoer is a progression of this, taking information and local experiences into realtime. Secondly, the design. My team is passionate about this and we have tried to maintain a clean, minimalistic and fun user interface throughout the app. Given Japan’s own flare for design and expertise in creating fun-but-simple interfaces (which hide a lot of complex and advanced technology), we think this will appeal. Finally, you can Echo in Japanese!
What is your background in designing applications?
My team and I collectively have a deep background in app and product design. Our last product, Last Night Never Happened (lastnightapp.com), was unique in both its design and function. In addition, Davin has worked in the tech industry, from toy robots through to apps for over seven years now, producing some well-known hits such as Robosapian and PaperJamz. We also have two very talented designers who have vast experience in web and app design.
What next for Echoer? Any future variants planned?
Absolutely! This is just the start. We have an aggressive product development plan which we hope will see major updates every few months. In about two months, we will be releasing Android, and we are also planning to upgrade the iOS version at the same time. We have plenty of features we would like to build into Echoer, but we first want to see how people are using it and what their demands are. That has helped us prioritize for the next version. By the next version, we intend to allow commenting and conversations behind each individual Echo, bringing depth to your Echoer experience; and we also plan to include a far more advanced search which will go beyond location and allow you to search for words within echoes and see what is trending (for example if you want to find the best coffee or jazz bar that people are echoing about). There are some other cool features which we are keeping under wraps for now, but which we will gladly give you a preview of before release.
What do you admire about Japanese technology?
We love the fun and simplicity that is often created around very complex and advanced products. Japanese technology is not only cutting-edge, it is also incredibly user-friendly and there are so many products which have inspired worldwide design and user interface. I personally am also a fan of the way that Japan experiments with technologies, even if the commercial application is not clear at first. This shows a true innovative streak, always pushing the boundaries of what is available.
A demonstration of Echoer can be accessed at the official site.