One of the points I make with my mass comm students is that they don’t have to wait until they’re “older” to change the world. Marconi, Farnsworth, Zuckerberg and Jobs were all college age when they created what turned into radio, TV, Facebook and Apple.
One assignment I gave them was to create the next mass communication phenomenon. It could be hardware, software, an app, a distribution device or, best of all, something no one has thought of. I asked that it be within the realm of possibility — no creation of time travel, for instance — but that it should be imaginative. We talked about finding a need and simplicity of use. I didn’t give them much time, and a few of the groups stretched “mass communication phenomenon” well beyond its meaning. I wish one of the groups had chosen to seize the opportunity of Internet penetration in the developing world or tackled the issues of digital privacy, both topics we discussed. But I am pleased with the results.
Clip It — A combination of Pinterest and YouTube in which a user can collect his or her favorite videos and “pin” them to a board giving the user easy access to their favorites. Initially, this is targeted to males who would be interested in saving sports highlights and then sharing them with friends. (An untapped market as Pinterest is primarily used by females.)
O.R. Not — aka Obscene Recognition Not. It is an algorithm that recognizes photos with pictured uses of alcohol, drugs and obscene gestures and tags them so that the subject in the photo can remove them from a social networking site if they want to. The target audience is high school and college students who might not want to be encumbered by drunken party photos. In negotiation is a contract with Photoshop to erase the offensive image from the photo.
Smart Cart — While watching television, if you see something on an ad or an enabled program that you’d like to have, you can use your remote to purchase it instantly. Like the Old Navy sweater in the ad? Click the remote and a drop down menu provides the price of everything for sale, and it will comparison shop for you. If you want to purchase, it will send you to check-out, all without leaving your favorite program.
Microfit — You know Proteus DIgital Health, right? Me neither. Basically, with this idea, you take a pill with an embedded microchip and it tracks your nutrients, body temperature, heart rate, etc. Combine with a healthy drink filled with fiber and proteins — produced by this new company — and it monitors all sorts of bodily functions. Imagine parents being able to monitor their children’s nutritional needs or children doing the same for their elderly parents.
Healthy You — Take a photo of your food and the camera will analyze portion size, nutrients, calories, etc. Would come with a pedometer app. Targeted to college students.
Sandy — aka Suri for the beach. A voice-activated device that keeps your smartphone out of the sun, sand and surf. It attaches to your chair and you can speak to it to take photos, upload them to social networks, and call friends, all hands free.
An unnamed one — Music affects the body so why shouldn’t your body select music for you? This one creates a bracelet that uses your biological reactions to music to determine what you’d like to hear.
If you’re a venture capitalist and want to inquire further, let me know and I’ll get you in touch with the appropriate students. Be forewarned: they’re savvy.
Update: From Twitter and Facebook, I’ve heard interest in the unnamed one — “good for the deaf and hearing impaired” — and for Healthy You.