I recently came across an interesting smart phone app, Zombie Run. It's hard to describe exactly what Zombie Run is so check it out. This app gives you the experience of being in a zombie apocalypse. It also encourages you to run which is nice. I love the concept because it's not quite a game app and it's definitely not a utility app. Zombie Run has a story and provides an experience. Smart phone apps have become a creative medium. It's possible to create apps that are closer to a work of art like a painting, film, or novel than to a compass-- a strongly opinionated piece without options where the experience of the app is exactly what the author intended. What's most interesting about this new medium is instead of describing places it can take you places. Taking this perspective has helped me to generate a lot of interesting smart phone app ideas. Here are a few:
- A running app that tells you where to go. You open the app, give it some details like how far you want to go, and then you start running. The app will give you navigation direction through your headphones while you run. For example, "turn left on Winding Wood Rd in 100 feet." When I go running I always choose the same route this app might help get me out of that habit.
- Strongly opinionated tours of cities. This is different than the regular city tour guide app because it doesn't have options. Once you choose the tour you want to take you're on that tour; you either go where the app tells you or stop using the app. It would be as if a person were leading you through a city and showing you the places they liked and telling you about them.
- The idea I'm most interested in is this: telling a story through the smart phone. The most illuminating example I've come up with of what's possible here is an app where you're the detective in a murder mystery. The story might begin by taking you to the spot of the first murder; once you're there, it might have another detective give you a rundown of what happened. The smart phone opens up a lot of possibilities: the rundown could be a description of the victim and pictures of the victim murdered or a video of the victim being discovered. The story could be interactive requiring you to solve problems and do tasks to continue, or it could just unfold a story for you.
Thank you Zombie Run for showing me that the smart phone isn't just a utilitarian device that makes my days better. It's also a blank canvas on which you can create an experience to share with the world.