Today we’ll be offering a quick overview of a new iPhone app, Balloons, that caught my eye as a really interesting form of social interaction. Balloons allows you to take a photo or write a message, attach it to a virtual balloon, then send it off around the world. It can then be “caught” by someone in a completely different part of the globe.
When caught, you can add extra content to a message and send it back off into the sky! It’s a fascinating concept, and a particularly unique way of interacting with other iPhone users around the world.
Balloons and Balloons Lite
There are two versions of Balloons available in the App Store. The full version, Balloons!, is priced at $2.99 and comes with the ability to launch, catch, and track balloons around the world. The Lite version is a free, ad-supported, app that doesn’t include the tracking facility. It gives you an easy way to try out the experience and see whether you’d like to upgrade.
Launching and Tracking a Balloon
When launching a balloon, you first select from a number of different designs. Adding a photo and text caption is straight forward, and the interface for doing so is great fun. Graphics are quirky, and much of the interface is animated.
It’s possible to either use your name, or Twitter username, as the “sender” of the message. Obviously if you’d prefer to be anonymous, you can just enter a random name. Using a Twitter username is a great idea, as it allows you to get in touch with other people who catch a particular balloon (or add an interesting message to it).
After several amusing status messages, the balloon is sent off into the “cloud” for others to catch. You can track the balloon’s progress in the full version of the app, looking at who has caught it and what they’ve added to the message.
Catching a Balloon
Catching a balloon is another simple process. After finding your current location, Balloons goes away and searches for any “passing balloons” that you can catch. I really like how the app creates a realistic social experience in this sense. It’s easy to believe that these virtual balloons are actually flying overhead (when, in reality, they’re all sat on a web server somewhere!)
When you catch a balloon, every message that has been added to it can be viewed by swiping through. You can also add a message, then send the balloon off into the sky again. This creates an interesting “social chain” of messages from across the world.
I’d recommend taking a look at the video preview to get a better understanding of how the application works:
Balloons caught my interest for two reasons. Firstly is the ease of “pick up and play” – there’s no need to register, and you can experiment straight away. The second is, as previously mentioned, the believability it brings to a social experiment. Because the notion of sending off a balloon is linked to something that does actually happen in the real world, I was drawn to try it out.
Although it won’t keep you entertained for hours on end, the $3 to track and experiment with “social ballooning” is worth giving a try. You can find out more at the Balloons website!