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8/27/2012
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Ready For This? GlassMap Maps Social Network Streams

Glassmap puts your social streams on a map, hinting at a future when news won't live on a single scrolling page but will come alive on a map as you walk around in the real world.

I think about the future of media a lot. Now that we are inundated with photos of our friends' kids and weddings and dinner plates, what's next? Glassmap hints at the future--by taking social media streams and putting them on a map. We live in an age when mobile computing allows us to unchain from our desks, letting us consume information on the go as well. That means the information we consume should be more fit for our phones than our laptops, right?

That's exactly the problem Glassmap co-founder Geoffrey Woo says he is solving. Glassmap takes your Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram streams and displays them on a map, so when you're out and about, you can see where your friends are and what they are up to. Not quite digital stalking, but close--and it's getting more detailed. Though it started with just a tool that put your social network friends on a map, Glassmap recently added photos and events to the map as well.

When Woo stopped by BYTE's office, he snapped a photo of our lobby and it showed up in a stream as well as on a map, showing his friends where he was. Woo seemed to be surprised by how close the Instagram office was, too.

During our interview, Woo said he built Glassmap tool to help people find their friends and things to do in real life rather than try to get people to spend more time in front of their computer screens.

"Consumer tech companies today are expending the talent and energy of some of the smartest people in the world on making people stare longer at their computer screens and click more stuff on their phones. That's pretty lame," Woo said.

"All the narcissism, commentaries, and personal branding that's now a big part of a social network experience is really detracting from what I think is the crux: the natural human desire to find and do cool activities with people you care about," he added.

Here's Woo's demo of Glassmap:

Woo described two pieces of technology that make Glassmap a tech company and not just another social network. The first helps reduce the battery drain problem other location services such as Highlight have taken heat for. The first tech is called Relay, and according to Woo, it enables for the first time down-to-the-minute high-accuracy location resolution of users over extended periods of time without killing battery. The second piece of tech driving the app is the Cerberus engine, which brings up relevant social information.

For those who are worried about revealing too much location information, Woo assured me that there's a way to make the location information less specific. But I'm still not completely sold.

"I think there's a lot of fatigue especially amongst millenial demographics where social media is more of an addictive burden than actually making people happy and satisfied. I think that's evidenced by the macro trend of Facebook activity stagnating and falling and shifting towards mobile applications," Woo said, who still couldn't seem to get over how nearby Instagram was.

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