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Mobile Apps

Somebody app delivers messages via the nearest human

Somebody is a messaging app that sends the message, not to you, but the closest Somebody user to you -- who then has to hunt you down to deliver the contents.

Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

How do you make messaging more interactive? Perhaps by removing the phone intermediary -- by adding a human intermediary. Artist, author and filmmaker Miranda July has launched a brand new messaging app that doesn't send the app to you -- it sends it to someone close by, who then has to hunt you down and read it to you.

"Unpredictable, undocumented, fleeting interactions with strangers can bring great joy and inspiration!" the Somebody website reads. "Pretending to be someone else is liberating. The feeling is a little like Truth or Dare + Charades."

Miranda July

It works using the users' phone GPS. When you want to send a message, you log in, select your recipient, and then the app will show you a list of Somebody users in relative close proximity to your recipient; say, in the same park, or building. You select your proxy from the list, and the app sends them your message and a picture of the recipient so they can find them more easily. Your friend is also sent the proxy's picture.

You can add instructions for how you want the message delivered, and the recipient can then rate the proxy depending on how well they think the proxy delivered the message. And, if there are no proxies nearby, the sender can "float" their message so that users can browse and choose floating messages to deliver.

"The most high-tech part of Somebody is not in the phone, it's in the users who dare to deliver a message to a stranger," the website reads. "Half-app/half-human, Somebody is a far-reaching public art project that incites performance and twists our love of avatars and outsourcing -- every relationship becomes a three-way. The antithesis of the utilitarian efficiency that tech promises, here, finally, is an app that makes us nervous, giddy, and alert to the people around us."

If you want to have the app, but don't want to receive or deliver messages -- if, for instance, you're busy trying to get somewhere or having coffee with a friend you haven't seen for a long time -- you can adjust your settings in the app accordingly.

Obviously, it's very dependant on a high user-base; at this point in time, it's being envisioned for hotspots, such as universities, concerts and festivals, and to that end it has several "official" hotspots set up, including the Venice Film Festival, as well as several art museums around the US. Users are, however, free to create their own hotspots, whether it be a location or an event.

You can grab it for free from the iTunes app store (no word on an Android version), but do bear in mind that it may have a few bugs at this point in time, hopefully to be ironed out in the near future.