Smartphone app by U-M students promotes good deeds

Jun 25, 2009

( -- Beautify your world. Leave an inspirational message in a public place. Connect with a family member. Those are just a few of the proposed acts of kindness pushed out to users of a new smartphone application developed by University of Michigan students.

So a user picked up litter in a fast-food restaurant parking lot. Another stuck a note to a public restroom mirror that said, "You are awesome." Others united with an estranged father or brother.

DoGood, a new, free app available to and iPod Touch users, aims to make the world a better place, its developers say.

"We simply wanted to empower the 40 million iPhone and iPod Touch users to collectively do acts of kindness," said Jason Bornhorst, a senior computer science and engineering student. "I can go smile at a stranger, but what if we could get 300,000 people to do that? … The world needs something like this."

DoGood, created by the student-run company Mobil33t, (pronounced "mobil-EET") has been downloaded more than 10,000 times since its release June 8. It has an active user base of more than 5,000, and that number is growing every day. It lets users leave stories about how they participated in that day's deed. It also integrates with and so participants can send a message to their friends when they've finished an act of kindness.

"There's a tweet somewhere in the world about DoGood every five to 10 minutes," Bornhorst said.

App store reviews praise the product's ability to leverage technology for altruistic purposes, and they say it helps them feel part of something bigger.

Bornhorst and his fellow developers were inspired to create DoGood during Elliot Soloway's "Mobile and Web App Programming" class, offered for the first time last semester. Soloway is an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in Computer Science and Engineering, College of Engineering, School of Information, and School of Education.

His class was less about the nuts and bolts of programming than it was about analyzing the comings and goings of products, people, and companies in the world of mobile computing, Soloway said. Students learned iPhone and Android programming on their own, and as a final project, groups designed and built their own products. Android is Google's smartphone.

Pork Bounce, Smober, Talking Walls and Nutrition Wiz are a few of the students' ideas. Pork Bounce is a game involving a pig that jumps across bricks. Smober helps users quit smoking with a tally of cigarettes not smoked. Talking Walls creates oral histories of places by letting you leave a story and tag it with your location. Nutrition Wiz counts calories by reading the bar codes on packaged foods. Students might still submit some of these to app stores.

The proliferation of smartphones provides exciting programming opportunities for students, Soloway says.

"Students can produce software that someone can use. In the past, that was nearly impossible. The steps to get it to the end user were beyond the student, but the app stores changed everything, and these students immediately saw that."

Across campus, they're taking advantage of the platform. Several applications created in Soloway's class went on to win the U-M Office of Technology Transfer's iPhone Challenge, held last semester as another way to encourage entrepreneurial thinking. And Andy Lin, a senior computer science and engineering student, recently submitted his Proximity Messaging System to the Apple store. It allows messaging with others in Bluetooth range, within at least 10 meters.

"There have been location-based messaging apps, but nothing targeted towards users that are within feet, rather than miles," Lin said. "Maybe this could be used to meet people at a bar. You could advertising a status message like 'buy me a drink,' and someone could actually walk over and do it. That idea is pretty out there, but the point is that there could be immediate person-to-person interaction resulting from using the app."

Soloway will teach his programming class again in the fall. Others involved with Mobil33t are: Kunal Jham, who graduated from U-M and Engineering in April; and Mayank Garg, an art and design student.

More information: DoGood --

Provided by University of Michigan (news : web)

Explore further: Ride-sharing app Lyft expands to new markets

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New iPhone app works by bump, not touch

Apr 08, 2009

It is somehow fitting that University of Chicago business school students would develop an iPhone app that works by bump, not touch, on Apple's famed screen. After all, it was a former U of C professor, President Barack ...

Skype comes to iPhones on Tuesday

Mar 30, 2009

Skype has confirmed that a free software application enabling iPhone owners to use its Internet telephone service will be available in Apple's online App Store beginning Tuesday. buys Stanza e-book app maker Lexcycle

Apr 28, 2009

(AP) -- Kindle e-book retailer Inc. has purchased Lexcycle, a year-old company that makes the iPhone e-book application Stanza, in a move that ratchets up Amazon's presence in the electronic book market.

Recommended for you

Review: 'Hearthstone' card game is the real deal

19 hours ago

Video game publishers don't take many risks with their most popular franchises. You know exactly what you are going to get from a new "Call of Duty" or "Madden NFL" game—it will probably be pretty good, ...

Microsoft expands ad-free Bing search for schools

Apr 23, 2014

Microsoft is expanding a program that gives schools the ability to prevent ads from appearing in search results when they use its Bing search engine. The program, launched in a pilot program earlier this year, is now available ...

Growing app industry has developers racing to keep up

Apr 20, 2014

Smartphone application developers say they are challenged by the glut of apps as well as the need to update their software to keep up with evolving phone technology, making creative pricing strategies essential to finding ...

Android gains in US, basic phones almost extinct

Apr 18, 2014

The Google Android platform grabbed the majority of mobile phones in the US market in early 2014, as consumers all but abandoned non-smartphone handsets, a survey showed Friday.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Google+ boss leaving the company

The executive credited with bringing the Google+ social network to life is leaving the Internet colossus after playing a key role there for nearly eight years.

Facebook woos journalists with 'FB Newswire'

Facebook launched Thursday FB Newswire, billed as an online trove of real-time information for journalists and newsrooms to mine while reporting on events or crafting stories.

Genetic legacy of rare dwarf trees is widespread

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have found genetic evidence that one of Britain's native tree species, the dwarf birch found in the Scottish Highlands, was once common in England.