For the past year, three relatively low-profile but intriguing iPhone and iPad apps from developer Net Power & Light have graced the App Store: Together Talks, Together Justice and Together Learn are all built on the company's core Spin technology. Each app provides a collaborative video chat community around a specific content source; Talks aggregates TED talks, for example. But this week NP&L is doubling down on Spin with a standalone, user-driven free iOS app that's meant to give you a new way to connect with friends and family.
The Spin name, according to company co-founder and CEO Tara Lemmey, comes from the concept of quantum spin and the ability of subatomic particles to be "entangled" with one another, preserving their connection even over cosmic distances. This Spin, while not quite so complicated, still brings a lot to the table. The new app is "capable of delivering truly immersive real-time 'together' experiences," says NP&L, by putting real-time, high fidelity video chat (even over LTE networks) alongside synchronous media sharing.
Spin makes it easy to call up a video chat with a group of contacts (up to 10 simultaneously) or schedule chats around shared events (sports, favorite TV shows, etc.). Once in the Spin experience, participants' camera feeds share space with YouTube and Facebook videos, or photos sourced from Facebook, Flickr or the device itself. With a flick of a finger, different bits of media can take center stage, and users can add their input with onscreen doodles, fun animated props (a vuvuzela? really?) or just chat away. Want to focus your attention on one participant? Make their avatar bigger and they'll get louder, just as though they were closer to you in real life. The whole experience is pushed out at the maximum available quality for both audio and video; full AirPlay mirroring support allows you to push out the conversation to the big screen.
NP&L has some high-powered investor/advisors to go along with a deep technology stack; the company boasts the former Xerox PARC director and current Deloitte innovation guru John Seely Brown on its roster. JSB, as he's generally known, is enthusiastic about the potential of Spin to help move the needle for interpersonal connections through technology. "Social media revolutionized how we connect online," he says, "but the hard work that went into creating the technology platform powering Spin goes even further. Digital interactions finally begin to feel more human, more real, and less digital, deepening our relationships in ways that are more fun, rewarding and fulfilling."
The Spin app, along with its three Together predecessors, is engaging, responsive and fun to use; unfortunately it's not that good at preserving state or the progress of a video playback if you happen to switch to another app while you're using it (at least in single-user testing). Hopefully that's an iOS 7-related hiccup that will be cleared up with a patch in the near future. In the meantime, you can download Spin for free on the App Store and take it for a... well, you can try it out.