MIT students build mobile applications in 13 weeks

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MIT professor Hal Abelson started today’s final presentation for the school’s “Building Mobile Applications” class by saying, “A course like this couldn’t have existed ten years ago… maybe not even a year ago. Courses like this right now are unique, but in two years they’ll be completely ordinary.”

What’s extraordinary is that on top of a full college course-load at one of the most challenging schools in the country, these groups of students built fully working mobile applications for Windows Mobile, Android, and Symbian devices while mentors from the likes of Google, Nokia, Bank of America, and Microsoft oversaw their progress.

Here are the ten applications that were presented today. Some of them might remain as small-scale projects, while others are full-blown, robust applications that have already undergone serious development and are poised to enter the marketplace.

Marauder (Windows Mobile)

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Marauder measures crowd density by detecting nearby Bluetooth-enabled phones. So say you’re looking for a restaurant nearby — the idea is that you’ll be able to see how crowded it is before you go. For this to work, at least one person’s phone in the restaurant has to have Marauder installed on it. That phone will see how many other phones are around it by checking for Bluetooth signals, and that data will be uploaded to Marauder’s servers. Locations on a map (see above) will be color coded based on density. It’s a cool idea that seems to need to be fleshed out a bit more.

For example, there’s no way to measure density based on a building’s occupancy rate. Currently, 20-30 detected devices returns a “crowded” rating whether or not you’re at a sporting event or inside a tiny club. The program also has potential civil and business uses for things like public transportation and housing data. All in all, a unique spin on location-based services.

Ballyhoo! (Symbian)

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Ballyhoo! is a relatively straightforward mobile coupon redemption tool. You search for deals in your immediate vicinity and you’re presented with mobile coupons that can be redeemed at point-of-sale terminals that are equipped to handle near field communication (NFC) – think of those Mastercard PayPass terminals where you just tap your card on the device instead of swiping it.

In order to get merchants on board with this flavor of coupon-giving, shoppers’ usage data can be anonymously given to stores for marketing and research purposes.

Memento (Android)

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Super cool. Memento automatically organizes the photos you take with your phone into albums based on the location where the photos were taken. You can choose to make certain groups of photos public and instantly upload them to popular photo-sharing sites while keeping photos taken in another location private. You can view and share your photos by selecting them from within an organized list or pull up a map to look at collections visually (see above). The program looks really straightforward and easy – it’s for people who take a lot of photos but hate organizing them.

Mem2D (Windows Mobile)

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Mem2D aims to solve the problem of archiving information you might see on a flyer that you want to remember for later. Events are created using a simple web-based interface and when marketing materials for a particular event get printed up, there’s a unique barcode that’s added as a graphic. People who want to remember the information on, say, the flyer you posted in the student union building would simply use the Mem2D application on their mobile phones to take a photo of the barcode.

At that point, all of the pertinent information – time, place, date, the event’s website, etc. – would be saved to a user’s account on the Mem2D website for later. Event info can be shared with friends via e-mail or SMS, and there’s calendar integration and support for mapping and directions as well.

Mem2D [Mem2d.com]

MobileTrader (Symbian S60)

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Think of MobileTrader as an on-the-go marketplace for connecting buyers and sellers who are within a mile and a half of each other. You create a listing as a buyer or a seller and when there’s a match made, each person gets an instant message and can coordinate a spot to meet up and make an exchange. It sounds a little creepy for real-world use but it could find a nice niche in microcosmic systems like college campuses.

In order to prevent spam, sellers aren’t able to contact buyers directly. And everything’s anonymous until a deal is made, at which point the details are recorded – the item sold, the price, etc. – creating a contractual record of sorts. There are future plans for integration with online services like Paypal as well.

Moca (Android)

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Moca is a mobile medical diagnostics program for developing nations. It allows medical field workers to go out to remote locations and provide instant data back to doctors in the bigger cities to diagnose. Using an Android phone, a field worker could take photos or videos, record sound (like coughing, etc.), and ask a series of questions to a patient that a doctor would normally ask. The results get uploaded to a server in real-time and a doctor hundreds of miles away can prescribe treatments.

The system leverages the OpenMRS (medical record system) platform to keep records and Moca, itself, is open-source. There’s a pilot program that’ll be set up in the Philippines this summer to test out the idea’s effectiveness. Impressive stuff, indeed.

Moca [MocaMobile.org]

Eclectyk (Symbian)

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Eclectyk uses near-field communication (NFC) to replace the myriad of cards in your wallet with a simple cell phone application. It can be used for credit cards, ID cards, and it can even be used to unlock NFC-enabled doors. The program also has a sharing feature for tickets, so whoever in your group of friends shows up for a popular movie first can buy tickets and shoot them into everyone else’s phones.

Security consists of three layers: PIN numbers, hardware-based encryption, and even a remote wipe feature that can destroy everything if your phone’s lost or stolen. The system was developed under the advisement of Nokia and Bank of America.

UberCal (Windows Mobile)

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CashTrack is an Android application that’s used for splitting bills. It consists of the app itself and a web interface. You can automatically split bills equally between people in your address book and keep a tally of who owes whom what. You can also manually finesse percentages of a certain bill so that you don’t end up paying for the seven beers your buddy ordered at dinner when all you ordered was water.

TrainMe (Android)

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“Pocket Fitness Trainer” tool, TrainMe, is an Android that contains images and videos of certain exercise moves for people new to working out. It’ll create customized workout plans for you based on how many days per week you want to work out and how much weight you want to lose and the intensity of your workouts will dynamically adjust to you as well. For instance, you’ll do a set of push-ups and then tell the program if it was too easy, just right, or too hard.

The program also includes a food diary and there’s a website that allows you to upload your statistics, workouts, and various other data. You can even browse other users’ workout routines and clone the ones you like for next time at the gym.

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