From Foursquare to Pinwheel and Highlight and many, many more besides, we’ve seen a lot of apps created for users to share location, information and pictures with friends and like-minded people. So it seems inevitable that to help set themselves apart from the pack, newer launches will start coalescing more and more around particular features.
The latest is Wallit: a new app that, yes, lets users check in at particular locations and leave messages for others; but also has the added bonus of letting users add augmented reality-style photos to get their points across more visually.
Wallit comes from the mind of Veysel Berk, a Berkeley-based post-doc candidate in image processing, who has taken some of his know-how to give the app an AR twist. So far, Wallit has raised a round of seed funding totaling $1.2 million from a host of backers including Masao Tejima, president of OpenTable Japan; ex-HP and Netscape exec Sharmila Mulligan; David Kellogg and Daniel Terry, CEO, Pocket Gems. The angel round also included participation from Storm Ventures, Tenex Capital Fund, DBO Capital and Orrick Venture Fund.
The app works like this: there are a number of “walls” set up around specific places, where people can leave messages for others. They can be in the form of texts, photos, augmented reality photos, videos and audio clips. The idea comes from the places that you might come across at a historical site, where people scribble their names or messages for whomever follows behind.
Users can use the app to see who else is around at the same time as they are, and they can look at walls anywhere around the world, but they can only post to the ones where they are physically located.
The app kicks off today with 700 walls pre-created in different spots around the world — cities include London, Istanbul, Tokyo, Paris, Milan, Rome, San Francisco, NYC, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and Miami.
The idea is that this number will grow as usage increases. And while we will see a number of new apps base their debut around the SXSW event in Austin, Wallit is focusing on another key event this week, the launch of the iPad, to bump that figure up in the coming weeks: it will create a “super wall” for all 320+ Apple Stores that will chart the debut of the new tablet — banking on people waiting in lines and socializing using their iOS to boost activity.
To me, Wallit sounded a bit counter intuitive: if you want to be heard, you have to post on a quiet wall, but then no-one reads what you write; on the other hand, if you are on a “busy” wall, how does your update get seen apart from the pack? Berk says that when things get too busy, the posts will be rated via a “social character index”, with certain services like video getting a higher rating than an audio post, or a photo post scoring higher than a text post. Users can also select to view only certain types of posts, for example from their Twitter/Facebook social networks, or their own private networks created in the app. There will also be higher priority placed on posts from higher profile people (e.g., celebrities).
Despite the fact that “Wallit” sounds an awful lot like “wallet,” the company assures me that there is no immediate intention to add an e-commerce element into the mix for the service (never discount a pivot, though..). But that does not mean it does not have a business model, which is this: The app is free for consumers, but it plans to sell a monetization element to brands, the terms of which, Berk says, are still being finalized. The walls for each brand location, or even their super-walls, will allow advertisements, partner promotions and other marketing messages in the form of video, audio and text, he says.
Wallit’s free iPhone app lets people instantly start a conversation on any topic with everyone on their campus, at their office or in their neighborhood. Wallit’s first version has been featured on the AppStore in more than 127 countries in 2011.