"Add a soundtrack to your street, share private videos in public places, create a treasure hunt..." This is the intriguing teaser written on the Traces website, offering a glimpse of what you might be able to do with the new app.
It's for messaging, but not in the normal way. A 'trace' is tied to a location and a timeframe. As the user is walking down a street or waiting for a coffee at their favourite coffee shop, a notification bubble might show up on their screen; when they line the reticule up with the bubble, it opens a message: anything from text to a video to tickets or vouchers. But, unless the user goes to that place in the allocated timeframe, they will never see the message.
It's the latest in a string of attempts to bring real-world interactivity to social media; but, unlike most other previous apps, such as Path, Bridge, Findery, and the now-shuttered Roamz, it concentrates not on the discovery of places and people, but of content.
"Facebook and WhatsApp broadcast frequent, out-of-context information that's of very little value to you, leaving you a completely passive receiver," Beau Lotto of San Francisco-based developer Ripple Inc told New Scientist. Of Traces, he added, "Instead of reading tweets in a random location you can choose the location to add context to your delivery."
Users can choose a name from their list of contacts, then drop a pin containing their message on a map, as well as how long they want the message to be available for. Traces can be sent to no more than five people at a time, and receivers can re-post Traces.
What could you use it for? A scavenger hunt for a friend, or a piece of music to cheer them up on their way home from work, or a note about a particular cafe, or even a location-based reminder to take out your garbage bins or buy cat food.
It sounds like a lot of fun, and we're hoping we get to try it out sometime soon. At this point in time, though, the app is in beta, and limited to iOS in the UK.