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MagnetU drags social networking into real world

Tiny device seeks out social-networking matches in the real world. Now you can find random strangers out at the bar who are into Star Wars furries, too.

MagnetU information sharing
These happy young people are exchanging MagnetU information. MagnetU

That scrabbling sound you're hearing is social networking clawing its way into the real world in the form of MagnetU, a social proximity gadget.

MagnetU is a tiny $24 device that travels along with you and seeks out other MagnetU users. If two social profiles are a good fit, it will notify users of each other's proximity.

Here's how it works. Load up the MagnetU application, create a set of "social desires," and hook it up with Facebook and Twitter. The gadget connects with your phone using Bluetooth.

MagnetU is meant to be worn or carried like a keychain. (Click to enlarge.) MagnetU

Hit the bars or wander down the street. When social desires mesh, you get a message on your phone that ranks the match as "attractive," "hot," or "red-hot."

Clinking two MagnetU devices together links up your social profiles so you can stay connected with your new BFF after you've parted ways.

This sounds like a natural fit for the club and dating scene, but it could also come into play as a business-networking tool for large conferences or events. CES, anyone?

MagnetU's success hinges on enough people adopting it. I don't expect to wander over to my local watering hole in Albuquerque and suddenly have five new MagnetU friends anytime soon.

MagnetU will get a test launch at a couple of yet-to-be-named college campuses in early 2012.