Justin Cranshaw Helps Develop Microsoft App for Commuters
By Byron Spice
People are always coming and going, leaving one place on their way to another. And often they spend the time in those “non-places” in between staring at a mobile device. Justin Cranshaw, a Ph.D. student in the Institute for Software Research, helped Microsoft develop an app to see if those people in non-places might constitute communities.
The app, announced by Microsoft this week, has been released for Android, and eventually will be for iOS and Windows phones. Cranshaw, whose research explores the future of cities in this age of ubiquitous and social computation, helped develop the app, called Journeys and Notes, while interning last summer at Microsoft Research.
Cranshaw said he and Microsoft staff members Sarah Needham and Andrés Monroy-Hernández developed Journeys and Notes because people now spend so much time commuting or otherwise on their way to somewhere else.
“One concern with non-places and the increasing role they play in our lives is that they are without character and promote feelings of detachment,” Cranshaw said. “Despite the large number of people constantly passing through non-places, they lack a sense of community.” People stare at their mobile devices rather than engaging each other.
Journeys and Notes gives people who want to share transit woes, stories and tips a way to connect with others without the need to exchange names. The app’s algorithm connects people with similar commutes, based on their origin, destination and distance.
The app was developed as part of Microsoft Garage, the company’s initiative to encourage its employees to experiment and innovate, often in side projects.