Often, we find ourselves in situations when we need to react quickly, but fail to find the right words. Later on, when we share details with our friends, they give us immediate insights we could have come up with on our own, had we stayed calm and rational. “I should have said this at the right moment,” you think, but it’s too late – the right moment is long gone.
A blind date, an argument with the boss, or a family reunion – virtually, the number of situations when people would like to have that invisible support from their friends or family are endless; and Crowdpilot solves that problem.
It is an experimental app, and I fear privacy advocates might put a lid on it, so grab it while it’s available. It is free and available for iOS devices only, so far.
Essentially, Crowdpilot allows you to invite your Facebook friends, 99-cent assistants or strangers to listen in on your real-time conversations using your iPhone’s microphone, and send you advice. You will receive their advice and suggestions in real time, with a slight delay as you usually receive text messages.
Truth be told, it is either a serious privacy invasion, or an app that can save the day for many of us. The developers behind Crowdpilot, the non-profit arts-and-tech Rhizmore, Perceptor, Lauren McCarthy, said they were looking to explore the “networked humanity” and “collective wisdom” of highly dominant social networking apps.
Here is a brief walk-through for the Crowdpilot:
- First, you need to download, install the app and create your login details. You will need to allow it access your Facebook account and enable push notifications for it. Then, you can tap Start Session.
- You will see three options as to whom you can invite to assist you and send you advice:
a) Facebook Contacts. Like it or not, your Facebook contact list is the most personal choice you can get with Crowdpilot. If you should choose it, the app will require you post about Crowdpilot on your wall and/or send out invitations to your entire social circle to listen in on your conversation. So, here arises a question – do you really want your entire Facebook contact list participate in that, or not? Alternatively, you could create a separate Facebook account just for friends you would like to invite to Crowdpilot sessions. That would solve the privacy problem, but I wonder if Facebook gets hold of those audio recordings…
b) Public. This means anyone who happens to be on Crowdpilot’s website at the moment you request advice, which can end up in a variety of outcomes. You can get some refreshing and objective insight, get flooded with prank and spam, or have your voice recognized by someone, but given the nature of Internet anonymity, it is highly improbable.
c) Five 99-Cent Assistants, hired through Amazon Mechanical Turk. The system weeds out assistants who give poor advice, so chances are you might get lucky with this one, and it is impersonal. The app itself does not charge you, but you will have to pay 99 cents to compensate the assistants’ work. It seems incredibly cheap, anyway.
- Once you have made up your mind on whom you want to invite (you can choose more than one option, by the way), you will be prompted with a “Select a Situation” field. You will see a selection of seven possible situations, ranging from a date to a family reunion. In case your particular situation does not match any of the listed, you can choose the “Unsure” option.
- The next step requires you confirm that everyone participating in the conversation is aware you are recording it, and there are people listening. That is a necessary precaution taken by Crowdpilot team to protect their app from possible legal complications. Either way, if you want to continue with the app, you will have to tap “Of Course!”
- Next, you will need to enter a brief introduction into your situation and describe what kind of assistance you need, such as “Help me charm this girl I have liked for years!” or “How to tell if he is lying?” Basically, the number of situations is endless, and you can use this app for any situation you would like to be reviewed by someone other than yourself. If you are ready, tap Start.
Here are some observations as to Crowdpilot’s efficiency.
- First of all, if your friends have poor Internet connection, they are likely to receive audio recordings with a 2 to 5 minutes delay, which may be quite annoying and confusing, especially if you really are on a date.
- Every time you receive advice, your phone will utter a subtle murmur to alert you. Then, you have two options –“like” the advice, or flag is as “unhelpful.”
- You will not be able to see who sent which advice, unless you work out a signature with your friends.
- People sending you advice will not be able to see other people’s advice. They will only see their own comments.
- If you exit the application, the audio streaming will be terminated.
- If you perform some other action on your iPhone, the app will continue streaming in the background, and new messages will appear as push notifications. It is rather difficult to exit the application or stop audio streaming once you have sent it to the background, which needs to be addresses by developers as soon as possible.
- There is something extremely satisfying about being an anonymous counselor for people you do not know in their personal and sometimes intimate dealings, so I anticipate the website is going to be very popular.
- The app is useful and functional in environments with a low level of background noise, which makes it useless for things like blind dates that usually take place in crowded bars and restaurants.
- Another point worth mentioning is the distraction it can become if you really are on a date and the very energy of the conversation is so subtle and fragile, you can ruin it by constantly checking on your messages.
Overall, the idea and performance behind Crowdpilot is very powerful and appeals to people’s basic instincts – curiosity, in case of advisers, and need to be heard and supported, or not to be ignored, in case of those who seek advice. As is the case of everything ingenious, it can be used for good and for bad, so consider privacy concerns before you use it.