The basic idea for Meep actually came from a conversation I was having with my girlfriend. I was complaining that even when the iPhone is a great innovation in many fields of technology, I still felt like checking my voicemail was a hassle, as me and my father had been playing phone tag earlier that day. “Why isn’t there a quick and easy way to just send an audio message to someone?” I remember one of us saying.
It’s questions like this that seem to drive the entrepreneurial world that I’ve been a part of, and so far I’ve noticed that the richer questions have much more interesting solutions.
Since I’m actually working as an independent contractor for small start-ups this summer writing iOS Apps (http://www.appsinhouse.com) of course my solution would be an iPhone application. It started as a side project and quickly turned into an obsession, one that other programmers and developers I’m sure are familiar with.
I believe that a significant amount of the communication we take part in is forced to be made in a medium that doesn’t lend itself to that particular communiqué. That is the complicated abstract. Examples are much better for explaining in this case. Say you and a friend commonly text back and forth (presumably using Apple’s iMessage App) and one day you hear a song on the radio that you two had just been discussing. Instead of texting “Hey, that song just came on the radio!”, wouldn’t it be cool to have a way to just hold a button and send an audio clip (when the song is playing) to your friend instead? Circumventing any ambiguity that texting too often carries, this audio message would appear right in the thread that you and your friend had been conversing in previously. With one tap he could instantly listen to what you had just listened to.
Now, of course, most messaging applications these days allow you to send text, pictures, or video (in media messages). Texts leave little to be innovated with, but media messages seem to have some implicitly bad reputation. How amazing is it that we can send a video we take to a friend of ours? But have you ever sent one? I haven’t, and I don’t think the reason is that I don’t have the motivation to record something to send to a friend. I’ve tried my best to make sending any Meep message as simple as sending a text, with as few taps as possible.
Along those lines, a neat little last minute feature that I’ve implemented is the location Meep. This requires no text input at all, and is hoping to replace all of those texts reading, “I’m here.” “I’m outside in my car”, and give an easy way to respond to any iteration of, “Where are you?” With one tap, you can send your current location to the other user. They get a location Meep (again in the same thread) which they can tap on and see a map with a pin marking where the other user is. Instead of trying to describe your surrounds via text, or even sending a picture from your vantage point, why not just send your actual location.
Creating an appropriate pricing scheme is an interesting dilemma in this project. It can’t be subscription based because it must avoid being like a telephone contract, but in order to be scalable it might have to avoid the one time payment system. I have a lot more research/math to do before I can make a final decision. But one thing is for sure, the App will be free to download and install, and every free user will get a large monthly quota of meeps before they would need to pay.
Lastly, I am hoping the name raises a few eyebrows, but if you’re curious the inspiration came from the Muppet named Beaker. The only word he ever says is “meep.” All he can do is change his pitch and tone to facilitate communication with the other muppets. In a ways, this is how I feel sometimes when communicating with the tools currently at my disposal. I hope the Meep App will raise people out of their routine of communicating in difficult ways, especially when they may not realize it. This may be an unrealistic expectation, but I think it’s something worth pursuing.