Foursquare made popular the concept of the “check in,” where individuals “check in” to locations as they travel about town, earning points and badges while they do it. It is both social networking and social gaming, and it’s fun.
On this front, I’ve recently become addicted to Barcode Hero for the iPhone, a new app from Kima Labs and founded by a couple of friends of mine, Blake Scholl and Jason Crawford. These are smart guys and the first version of their app is all the proof you’ll need to see they are seasoned pros.
Barcode Hero brings a new innovation to the “check in” world, applying it—not to places—but to things. You can scan anything that has a standard barcode with your iPhone camera, whether it be things you own in your home to items at the store, and share it with your friends. From Best Buy to the supermarket, Barcode Hero will likely have it in their database, and you earn points for scanning items, marking them as “owned” or writing reviews or comments on the items you’ve scanned and share them with your friends.
If you have the most points in a given category, you will be deemed the “King” or “Queen” of that category. Since I started using the app very early on, I quickly became the “King” of sheet music, DVDs, books, Objectivism (from scanning all my Ayn Rand related literature), among many others. I’ve been dethroned in several of these categories since, a good sign the app is rapidly acquiring new users.
In addition to this, you can follow your friends like on any social network, and see what they’re scanning and buying. It’s also much more useful than Foursquare, as when you scan something you can instantly see where you can purchase the product online from a variety of major online vendors.
It does require an iPhone, though a Droid version is planned, according to their Web site, as well as a Facebook account to log in (hopefully they will allow non-Facebook users to use the app in the future as well). Also lacking is a fully integrated Web presence, but I’m sure this is on the way. The few bugs I found at launch have been quickly remedied, and it feels like a solid and mature app.
Unlike many other social media apps, this one has a clear practical application: scan a bar code and instantly connect you to online vendors for the best deal. That means it has a solid business model out of the gate, a very promising sign for this new startup.
I wish Blake, Jason and all those involved with Kima Labs much success and am happy to see such a solid concept so well executed in the growing social media space. It’s a winner.