Cool or Creepy? ‘Sonar’ App Introduces You to Nearby Strangers

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Sonar is kind of like a good party host: It introduces you to whoever else is in the room by leveraging what you have in common.

According to their mission statement: “Sonar is a mobile application that helps you learn about and connect with likeminded people nearby.” It works by geotracking your current location à la Foursquare check-ins and aggregating public information from your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, the afore mentioned Foursquare, etc.).

Say you’re at a conference and want to introduce yourself to that funny/handsome/smart tech writer alone in the corner tearing his napkin into little balls. Sonar comes into play by showing that you follow me—er, him—on Twitter. From there, you can do things like send a message over to introduce yourself, or even get an idea of the kinds of things you’d have in common (like accounts you follow and Facebook interests) as long as he’s opted-in to the service. Sonar’s essence is in facilitating real life interaction by giving you something to talk about.

But the key really is “opting-in,” because it communicates the receptiveness necessary for something like this to work. It’s kind of like wearing a sandwich board that says, “Let’s be friends,” but more techy. And less weird.

At the TechCrunch Disrupt conference yesterday, Founder Bret Martin said, “It’s simple—you open up Sonar and we tell you that the guy sitting across from you is Facebook friends with your college roommate, the dude by the jukebox is a VC that you follow on Twitter, and the cute girl by the bar also likes Arcade Fire and Hemingway.”

It’s a smart, easy to understand concept, and one of the more practical applications of the hyperlocal craze we’ve seen. But we’ll see if it reaches the threshold for usership it’ll need to actually thrive.

Until then: Cool? Creepy? Little bit of both?

(via TechCrunch)

Addendum 6/1/11:

A Sonar rep wrote us:

“One of the key points about Sonar is that it works even if you are the only one using the app. It aggregates information from the public social web, including Foursquare check-ins, Facebook friends & interests and Twitter followers. So the ‘opting in’ is really just opting to put public information about yourself onto these social networks.”

After using the app for a few days now, and getting a clearer understanding of how exactly it works, I can confirm that the element of “opting-in” does indeed occur, but not through the Sonar app itself — rather, it occurs preemptively via the networks (Foursquare, Facebook, Twitter) that it culls together.

So, “creepy” it is. Just kidding.

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