Thursday, January 25, 2007

Imity: through a looking glass darkly

Are you the same person online as you are in real life? I'm not talking about the 43 year old geek guy pretending to be a 15 year old girl, but the more subtle question about whether you use the web to support or substititute for real life. This post won't be relevant for the latter category. And in fact, it might give you pause for thought: soon, everyone will know you're a dog.

Nokia's Sensor app is/was a rather cute bluetooth-only social networking solution. People liked it but commented how much better it would be with an online component too. Well, thanks to a chat with Nikolaj at DLD, it seems that the team at imity (as in proximity) have done pretty much that: take the sensor concept to the next level, and allow you to interact with people whether they are in the real world, or your online world.

So, what does it do? It combines blueetooth scanning with online social networking, so it can tell you if there's someone in the same room as you who reads your blog or other online site. Or you can see if there's someone visiting your blog who you were with in that bar last night. Here's a deck from last year's Reboot when they were still closed beta. The new site's only be open to registrations for a week or two.

It's interesting that the digital traces we leave as we meander around the web (e.g. MyBlogLog) are becoming real world. So, think twice before you write that rude blog comment; you might find yourself on the sharp end of a non-virtual fist.

I imagine before long they will extend the model to the other dimension: to allow you to trace the shadows of your Second Life pesona and their respective interactions with others. In fact, they ask for a SL name on sign up, so this is probably already underway if it's not out yet. I hope they allow you to automate the meta-matching, so that as you / your avatar / your online surfer passes others, you can tell whether they share your taste in music / movies / books / locations etc. with federated output data of lastFM / Netflix / Amazon / Plazes etc.

As a rather boring 'supplementer' I find the collision of these worlds very exciting. In its current format, it probably won't be that attractive to those who want to maintain the shroud of alternate reality. I'm looking forward to a S60 3.0 version, a critical mass of local users to make the bluetooth scanning work, and the surfacing of many really interesting questions and services that we've not even begun to think of yet.

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