So much technology is geared to meeting people and making friends these days that it's rather refreshing to come across a device that does exactly the opposite. New iOS app Cloak promises to facilitate an "antisocial network" by tracking your contacts via geo-location - so you can see who's where and how to avoid them.
Cloak pulls data from your Foursquare and Instagram feeds to give a real-time estimation of where people you know will be, "so you never have to run into that special someone."
Touting itself as an "Incognito Mode for Real Life", the app aims to track "where all your friends, 'friends,' and non-friends are at all times", to give you advance warning of where that ex, tricky colleague or over-chatty relative might be.
Once fired up, the app presents you with a map supplied with icons based on people you follow on Foursquare and Instagram. It draws its information from location-tagged photos or the most recent places your "friends" have checked in at.
Instant alerts pop up when a contact comes within a specific distance of your location. The icon fades around four hours after a contact tags a location, to indicate that they have moved on.
"Personally, I think we’ve seen the crest of the big social network,” former Buzzfeed creative director Chris Baker, who programmed the app, told the Washington Post. "Things like Twitter and Facebook are packed elevators where we’re all crammed in together… I think antisocial stuff is on the rise. You’ll be seeing more and more of these types of projects."
It sounds good in theory, although how effective Cloak is depends on how many social networks it can trace. It plans to add more in the future, but has ruled out Twitter because "the location data just isn't there. Most users have it turned off and even when it's on, it's quite vague."
As for Facebook, its "social" antithesis, there's apparently "good data" but "a lot of it" for the app to process.
The people behind Cloak also point out that a lot of "friends" on Facebook are old high school and childhood contacts, so their location probably isn't as relevant.
But a spokesperson told Time that, "We’re going to be thinking about how to include Facebook soon, as well as other networks, of course."
The app is free in the App Store, with no Android version available yet.
Words: Anna Brech, Photos: Cloak and Rex Features