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Social media’s new Discovery Channel CherryPic, an app developed by McMaster students, aims to help small initiatives reach a bigger audience

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Earlier this month, six McMaster geography PhD students launched CherryPic, an app that, according to their press release, claims to be “a Netflix for your life, a localized Pinterest, and a Tinder for activities.”

In other terms, CherryPic is an account-free photo-sharing app that allows users to share images of local events with other users. Right now, the app is only functional in the Hamilton area, but the team is working on a new version that will show posts based on the user’s location.

“We want to take that format where you’re just browsing passively and turn that into some kind of information transfer. Facebook and Instagram are like the sitcoms and dramas of television. We want to be the Discovery Channel,” explained Charles Burke, one of the app’s creators.

He also highlighted the fact that none of the students involved in the project have any background in app creation. He said that while some see it as a “throwaway subject… geography is starting to ask all these big questions and get involved with technology.”

The group’s affiliation with the university has been beneficial throughout CherryPic’s yearlong development. Not only were they able to secure roughly $10,000 in funding through the Forward With Integrity and School of Graduate Studies grant programs, they were also able to connect with Ed Parsons, Google’s Chief Geospatial Technologist. Late last fall, Parsons gave a talk at McMaster through Geographers Without Borders.

“What he said was that at the core, what geography is meant to do is make it so you never feel like you’re lost,” Burke said.

Following Parsons’ talk, the CherryPic creators discussed some fundamental questions of geography, perhaps most notably how technology shapes our sense of place.

“What CherryPic does is give you a friend from the area, but because it’s account-free… your one friend in the area could be thousands of friends,” Burke said.

Users take a photo of an event around them, upload it to CherryPic and caption it with a description of the picture, similar to a Snapchat story. Users then have the option to link their upload to a website or video, a function made possible due to the app being powered by Google.

Burke believes that the CherryPic app enables people to search for something they don’t yet know exists.

Since its launch earlier this month, CherryPic already boasts over 300 users, many of whom have praised the app for its ability to share information about the events that might go unnoticed, such as small concerts or events being held by local or university-run clubs.

But CherryPic is not without its critics. One user approached the team with the concern that app is remarkably similar to Instagram in that it is used to share pictures of events. However, Burke and his team are not concerned by this criticism.

“Our app allows you to discover what is going on around you in the present or future and can in turn become the moments that end up on Instagram,” he said.

There is also the concern of groups using the app to advertise, as CherryPic provides the perfect platform to do so. Burke admitted the app is to an extent an advertising platform, but he compared it to the level of advertising one would see on a poster.

“If you are putting up posters… you are desperate to find the people interested in what you have,” he explained. Users are able to report anything that looks suspiciously like an advertisement—a skill Burke says we all possess, and the developers are able to remove anything from their end as well.

Burke is proud of how far CherryPic has come since it was conceived a year ago. “Obviously [the app] is not all the way there yet. We’ve created a Model T car for creating this sense of place,” he said. He hopes his passion for CherryPic will excite other young innovators.

“We’re building a Silicon Valley here at Mac, but we need more people.”

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