A new app called Pupil lets iPhone and Android users take a picture and ask a question to be answered by the community.
Mark Daiss, founder of Pupil, equated it to a question and answer service, but with the added benefit of a photo layer on top.
“There are a lot of Q&A services that are purely text-based,” he said. “But there are a lot of questions that come up as you explore the world that can best be answered by taking a picture and asking, ‘What is this?”
Once you’ve taken a picture, you tag it to a certain category – dogs, flowers, trees, who is hotter, landmarks, etc. – where self-assigned experts from the Pupil community can view and answer them. When signing up for the app, users can elect to receive email notifications alerting them to when their questions are answered or when someone asks a question that falls within their area of expertise. Users can post their answers to the platform via email or on Android or iPhone devices.
Daiss originally came up with the idea when he was walking down the street and saw a car that he didn’t recognize. He was curious about what kind of car it was, but realized there was no easy way for him to answer all the specifics: the make, the model, the year, etc. So he was struck with the idea of a mobile visual platform with which he could take a picture and ask the crowd.
“There was nothing like this to fulfill this very human need,” Daiss said.
So he created a proof-of-concept version in October of 2010, assembled a small team and went to work on the App, which was released in public beta this April.
The app features a game-like ranking system called Pupil Points. As members of the community answer questions they accumulate points and move up the ladder. Taking advantage of the homonym, the pupil team made it so members start as pupils, the unproven students of the world, (the logo, you’ll notice, is an eyeball, thus the other form of pupil) and move up through tiers as they answer more and more questions. In keeping with the pupil-teacher theme, community members go from Pupil to Freshman, to Sophomore, to Junior, to Senior and finally to Professor as they amass Pupil Points. Though the Pupil team has not yet decided on the term, Daiss said there would also be a special title reserved for the community member who has accumulated the most Pupil Points in a given category, something to the affect of a Dean. You could, for example, be Dean of the “dogs” category or Dean of the “flowers” category. The concept of having an absolute leader is akin to FourSquare’s Mayors. Going forward, the Pupil team plans to build out a thumbs-up, thumbs-down-style rating system that would give experts more points for answers that users liked.
“This also provides a way for us to understand how well a user’s questions are being answered,” Daiss said.
In the Pupil team’s long-term vision, the service will get a web-based platform. Similarly to other text-based question and answer services, Pupil could be integrated into online search, meaning that when you Google certain terms, the answers, complete with images, would come up in the results. Daiss explained that, in theory, you could type in descriptive elements of an item that you were wondering about, and, using the Pupil Q&A database, the search engine would recognize those descriptive elements as tags and display Pupil’s image in the results.
For now, however, the team is focused on the product, making sure the public beta goes smoothly, ironing out any kinks, and listening to user feedback.