Tuesday, October 5, 2010

buUuk has fun exploring real-time updating, push with SG Polls

I'm working quietly in a room when the silence is suddenly broken by a forlorn air horn. It is the alert from SG Polls telling me that there is now a new poll for me to vote on.

Within minutes, you can see people logging in to vote for the latest poll. In the 10 minutes since the air horn sounded, 40 people have voted on the topic: "Will you send or have you sent your children overseas to study?" As people vote, I can see the numbers update before my eyes. Very cool.

SG Polls (free) is the latest iPhone app by buUuk, the developers of the global restaurant finder of the same name that was recently named one of Asia's top apps. Apart from SG Polls, buUuk the company is also awaiting approval for a new app called buUuk About. This app brings together Points of Interest with Augmented Reality so that cartographically-challenged individuals like myself can look through the camera's view finder to find the nearest ATM, instead of trying to figure  out how to read a map.

iMerlion speaks to buUuk co-founder Jon Petersen about SG Polls, buUuk About and about their recent win at Accelerate 2010.

Can you tell us why buUuk decided to develop SG Polls?

We have a few pet obsessions at the moment that we wanted to indulge: real-time updating, push notification, user location and animation transitions. SGPolls allowed us to play with these in a bite-sized app. Also, we've been working really hard recently on some complicated client apps and wanted a fun project to give us a bit of "play" time; we built SG Polls in 3 days.

More seriously we're also interested in how SGPolls works as a social experiment, we've tried to make it really quick for users to give their opinion. We can publish polls to the app in seconds and it only takes seconds to tap on the push notification and vote. So hopefully we can get some interesting data very quickly about how people in Singapore feel about certain topics. After all there seems to be an election coming up ;)

Who do you see using this app?

Anyone with an opinion and an iPhone or iPad. That's all Singaporeans right?

How does this fit into buUuk's business?

It's mostly a technology project, a way for us to learn about some new things. But also hopefully a way to get us some exposure in the local market. Longer term, there may be an opportunity for sponsored polls, or using in-app purchase for private polling (see more on private polling below).

What are you long-term plans for SG Polls?

This is difficult to answer until we see whether people will take to it. We have some ideas around the possibilities of private polling. For example, at a conference, a presenter could create a poll and give out an unlock code to allow people in the audience to participate in a poll. And, of course, the next Singapore Idol will be a lot of fun.

BuUuk About isn't in the App Store yet. Can you tell us what buUuk About is about?

It's another experiment, this time with a new Augmented Reality (AR) engine that Hon Cheng built. It's purely an AR app, but combines all of the point of interest data we've accumulated over the past couple of years. It has bus stops, restaurants, ATM's, car parks etc etc

Who is this app aimed at?

It'll probably appeal mostly to geeks and new iPhone users who want to play with the capabilities of their new toy. It's one of the few apps that uses the camera, compass and gps all at the same time.

What are your plans for it?

Nothing grand. We've been asked by a few clients to build AR into their apps. An example is an app called Waalkz (available now in an app store near you) that provides guided walking tours of Singapore. buUuk About gives us an app which we can use to test out changes to our AR engine without experimenting on our clients.

How does this app fit in into buUuk's business model?

We spend about 50% of our time on our own apps and 50% on client projects. buUuk About is an addition to our portfolio and helps demonstrate to people the type of work we do. We hope people agree it's a bit more interesting than a Powerpoint presentation ;)

Congratulations on being one of Asia's top 10 apps. How did it feel to win?

Warm and mushy.

What does it mean for buUuk to be in the list of top 10 apps in Asia?

We're a small company (8 people right now) with virtually no marketing budget. Exposure like this is worth a lot to us.

Where is buUuk going now?

Well most of them have just gone for lunch, but after that we'll be continuing to work on improving and growing the client base for our main application buUuk, we have plans for a similar app to buUuk specifically for the UK and we'll continue working on interesting client projects. The smartphone application space is just getting started, we want to make sure we stay on top of it. This means learning as fast as we can, hiring smart people and continuing to run a profitable company so that we can keep learning and keep hiring smart people. We don't think too far ahead.

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