Sonar, Highlight and Banjo are a new wave of social apps that were all the buzz at SXSW
Sonar shows who is chilling at hot spots near you and who you might be interested to meet
Highlight alerts you when people who share your interests are nearby
Banjo lets you see whatever content -- tweets, photos, etc. -- nearby users are sharing
Do you suffer from FOMO (otherwise known as “fear of missing out”)? Does the idea that some infinitely intriguing person/place/thing is currently flitting through your general sphere of being – WITHOUT YOUR KNOWLEDGE – cause your heart to constrict with terror?
Well, friends, we hear you. Having just returned from the liquor- (and other liquid-) soaked climes of Austin and SXSW, we’re pretty sure we only experienced about 1.3% of all “Cool Things” present at that havoc-wrecked fest.
Basically, all we gathered was that people really like Skrillex, and, mysteriously, Train (thanks Monstro!) and that the most-flogged apps at SXSW Interactive were undoubtedly those who aim to kill FOMO dead.
Enter: Sonar, Highlight and Banjo, a new wave of social apps designed to keep you abreast of all the interesting people around you – without requiring that you look up from your smartphone (my Precious…)! These apps were, by far, among the most buzzed-about at SXSW, with Highlight taking the coveted top spot (according to Mashable).
Charts and graphs aside, it remains to be seen whether Highlight will be able to assume the many-storied role of “The Next Twitter” or “The Next Foursquare,” both of which gained traction at Nerd Spring Break.
That’s partly because it and these other apps run in the background on your phone, with always-on GPS that drain your battery. But it’s mostly because the word “creepy” keeps coming up in the same sentence when people talk about this new cadre of mobile apps.
Still, don’t let that silly little adjective scare you off! Because if you don’t download these apps, you’ll be missing out! And you don’t want that, do you? Do you?! We didn’t think so.
That’s why we’ve provided a handy scale for you below, which should be instrumental in finding the level of “Creepy” you FOMO-sufferers are comfortable with.
Kind of creepy: Sonar
So you’re chilling at your apartment, staring – moleperson-like – into the glowing half light of your computer screen. All your Sims have finally drowned in the swimming pool, and you’re getting tired of thumbs-downing dubstep tracks on Turntable.fm, so you fire up Sonar.
Sonar is a pretty simple app for Android (in beta) and iOS that shows you two things: Who is chilling at hot spots near you, and who – in general – in your vicinity you might be interested in meeting.
When you launch the app, you’ll be asked to connect to your social networks (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn), which lets the app deduce who might be interesting to you.
Click on the “Places” tab and you’ll see a list of locations in your area. Clicking on a location will surface a list of people at that spot (generated via Foursquare check-ins, etc. – one doesn’t have to be using Sonar to show up in the app), and what level of connection you have to them – how many Facebook friends, Twitter friends, etc.
If you see someone you might want to stalk – I mean, TALK to, you can tweet at them from within the app. You can also check into that location if you manage to leave your cave and become an object of stalkage – I mean, talkage – as well.
The app also features a “People” tab, listing which friends (pulled from your social networks) have currently checked in near you, as well as other people of interest. Use that to hook up with your pals next time they “forget to tell you” about karaoke. It’s not your fault the only lyrics you know are “Wub wub wub wubwubwubwub wub Pzzzzzzz.”
You’re just your average tech-savvy businessman, all pimped out in front-pleated khakis, your startup-emblazoned T-shirt of choice, and, of course, your ubiquitous SXSW Interactive Platinum Badge swingin’ around your neck.
Reclining there on your barstool, sweating Mojito in hand, you cruise the room with your eyes. With whom should you birth your future children – uh, I mean your latest business venture? Suddenly, your cell vibrates in your holster. You whip it out with delight to see … a shiny new notification from Highlight. Could it be? Is your dreamboat partner in this very room?!
SXSW fave Highlight is what is known as an “ambient location-sharing app,” which means that it is always on (unless you “pause” it), alerting others using the service to your whereabouts.
When you first install the app, you’ll be asked to connect via Facebook, thus porting all your friends and interests into Highlight.
From there on out, you’ll be alerted via push notifications every time someone of interest is nearby – you know, folks with a lot of mutual friends, hobbies, taste in TV, etc.
These interactions will also be stored in a kind of in-app log. From there, you have the option to check out their profiles and send them a message if you feel keen on meeting.
You can also “Highlight” people for future reference, which is kind of the equivalent of a “wink” on an online dating site (IE a complete wuss move). That’s right, tech-savvy businessman, now you can meet all kinds of interesting people – mere feet from your nervous self – without the hassle of the initial awkward introduction.
Highlight now, message one Mojito later. Meet IRL if they deign to answer you.
Super creepy: Banjo
Your doll collection just isn’t cutting it anymore. Seriously, how much can one stretch one’s imagination when it comes to weaving background stories for inanimate objects? And QVC’s wares aren’t getting any cheaper.
If only you could discover some brand new friends – complete with dossiers (like the books that come with those American Girl dolls) – with whom to maybe, possibly, someday but not likely hang out with. Well, you’ve got a friend in Banjo!
Banjo serves two purposes: It alerts you when a friend is in your vicinity, and it gives you a glimpse into the lives of those around you – and around the world. Upon downloading the iOS/Android app, you can connect to Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram and Google+ to keep track of all your friends.
When a friend posts content or checks in using any of those services near you (you can change the distance from one-fourth mile to 10), you’ll get an alert.
If they’re using Banjo, you can send them a message in-app, and if they’re not, you can post a message to whatever content or check-in they shared, asking them to join the service. (We don’t recommend doing this unless you’re OK with someone putting cheesy words in your mouth like: “How cool! Banjo tells me we’re close by, so let’s connect!)
If the whereabouts of your friends are less than thrilling (“Jesus Christ, who the F cares that you went to the bodega and bought dish soap?!”), you can toggle over to the “Explore” map or the “People” box to check out a graphical representation of people in your area.
That info is collected via check-ins/content as well, so users don’t have to be Banjo members to show up on your map. From there, you can click through whatever content they’re sharing – tweets, Instagram photos, etc – and live vicariously to your heart’s content.
You can even message folks if they’re Banjo members (or spam them – like your friends – if they’re not). Bonus: Banjo also shows who has looked at you, so there’s plenty of opps for potential couples to awkwardly check out each other’s profiles until one of them breaks.
The app even lets you creep internationally, virtually zooming around cities like Paris and London and anywhere else your heart desires. And you thought that Canadian Maple Leaf doll from the Babies A Bloom collection you bought last week was an international adventure!