When Color launched its mobile app, it was a red carpet event, lined with high profile investors and an all-star management team. The premise behind this promising app, which started out with more funding than Google, is to share photos on a local level. I balked at the app when I first tested it, noting its lack of features. But the simplistic concept behind this photo-sharing app has big implications in data collection, analysis and future marketing. I immediately recognized that the Color app doesn’t necessarily need a lot of features, it merely needs active users to tag and share photos in this hyper-local manner.
It boils down to photos being used as a new pivot point for user-generated contributions, which adds a great deal of context to anything media related. Now that smartphones have quality cameras that are better than the devices most of us spent hundreds of dollars for just a few years ago, it’s a lot easier to take and share images in a very broad manner. Share them on social networks, associate them to local events, tag others and add some visual context to your text. The power of photo-sharing is still in its infancy, and Color’s launch initiated a new trend in leveraging photo-sharing for innovative purposes.
Another app looking to use photos in a new way is Pupil, which recently made an official launch on iOS and Android. It combines the popularity of photo-sharing with the rising interest in Q&A services, making for a visual research tool. Take a photo of a flower or a circuit board, send it with a question to Pupil, and await an answer. The beauty in Pupil’s app is that it’s crowd-sourced, and enables specific questions to be asked and answered. Even its name is twofold, meaning the part of your eye used to see, as well as a student hungry to learn.
The specificity in Pupil’s crowd-sourcing method is a major point of differentiation for Pupil, transcending search engine scouring to find a “most likely” response to an image search. You may know what type of flower you’re looking at, but perhaps you’d like to know its optimal growing conditions. To ensure answers are quality responses, Pupil gleans experts from its user base, looking at their indicated areas of interest. It’s a self-improving process, with game-like incentives for users to provide relevant responses, in turn increasing their status as a knowledgeable user (the equivalent of a Foursquare mayor).
Of course, this specificity can also be a downside for Pupil, as it requires a great deal of user participation for search results. Big data helps Pupil address this issue, as routing images correctly and subsequently sourcing answers properly were early concerns. Pupil’s system is kept simple so users don’t feel overwhelmed when using the app, keeping categories to a minimum and making the app’s use and navigation as streamlined as possible.
Pupil’s looking to build a presence on the web, beyond mobile apps, perhaps indexing images from web pages and incorporating them into its Q&A service. In many ways, Pupil’s already prepping for this, as its massive and growing photo database are indexed for optimal searchability.
One very interesting use case Pupil is considering is the medical filed. Noting that many users were taking images of bruises or red spots on their arm, Pupil realized just how big its service can become. Vertical integration can take on many forms for an app like Pupil, and enabling a system for initial feedback regarding medical questions is also a way Pupil can give back to its user communities. Healthcare integration is a touchy subject, but it certainly highlights the versatility of what, where and how an app like Pupil can be utilized.