The wildest mobile apps

15 Oct 2006

There's more to mobile apps than ringtones, text messages and casual games

Ever since the wireless sector realized that non-voice services were a ticket to incremental revenues (regardless of whenever 3G actually arrived), operators, apps developers and even governments have been trying to find new ways to get cellphone customers to use their handsets for stuff besides making phone calls.

Ringtones, wallpaper downloads and Java games are the most celebrated, and at the moment, music tracks and mobile TV are the most hyped. Very cool, but zoom in and you'll find some fairly wild ideas out there about what mobile phones can be used for.

And there are plenty to choose from. One of the nice things about the mobile ecosystem is that there are thousands of firms and organizations of all sizes that are coming up with these things. Ten years ago, who would have thought that a mobile phone could be used as a breathalyzer‾ Or a love detector‾ Or a ghost detector, even‾ Who would have thought up something like a ringtone that can only be heard by teenagers‾ Or a phone that literally screams when it's stolen‾ Or helps with the laundry‾

Such apps are arguably niche or special-interest, but they're also textbook illustrations of the concept of the handset as a personal communications device. And judging from some of the apps Wireless Asia has come across in recent years, the possibilities for new services are only limited by the scope of our imagination.

And so it's with all that in mind that Wireless Asia has compiled some of the most interesting mobile apps we've come across in the last couple of years. We can't vouch for how much money these apps are pulling in - indeed, at least one is a gimmicky built-in handset feature - and this is far from being a comprehensive list. But so what‾ Our mission here is to showcase some of the more imaginative mobile apps spotted 'in the wild' (so to speak), and to provide a sneak peek at what various R&D boffins think will define apps development in the future.

1. Lie/Love detector
Want to know if the person you're calling loves you‾ Or, if he/she says 'I love you', whether they're telling the truth‾ South Korean cellco KTF has the app for you.

The 'Truthful Calls' service uses a voice analysis system by Israeli company Nemesysco that functions as an emotion detector, assessing the level of honesty of the person you're calling. Throughout the conversation, the analysis system plays different sounds to flag statements worthy of further inspection and to mark different emotional states. When you hang up, you get a message with a bar graph depicting truthfulness, along with stress levels, inaccurate answers and attempts to divert the topic.

The Nemesysco technology also powers KTF's 'Love Detector' service, which works the same way but reports to you at the end of the conversation the 'love level' of the person you've called - overall level of affection, plus graphs that measure various attributes such as level of interest, attention, expectation and embarrassment.

Interestingly, this isn't that new. Apart from the fact that KTF launched a similar service two years ago, apps developer Agile Mobile announced a lie-detector app for Nokia handsets in 2003.

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