It seems like a fairly obvious need waiting for someone to fulfill it: an app that lets groups of people easily share photos with nearby folks at an event such as a party or concert, as quickly as they can shoot them.
Indeed, a number of apps have hitched their wagon to that concept. Its just that none of them have become big hits, and the best-known one, Color, is legendary mostly for having raised $41 million in venture funding and then failing, fast and hard.
Now Lyve, a photo-organizing app that debuted last fall, is trying its hand at real-time, location-based sharing. It’s doing so with a new feature called Mix, which is available in a new update to its iOS and Android apps, available today.
Color’s founders boasted that they had come up with breakthrough artificial-intelligence technologies that let the app make sense of hundreds or thousands of photos being snapped by strangers in one particular location. Mix isn’t attempting to do anything that fancy. It just lets users of its app create Mixes–either public or password-protected–and invite other users to join them. It creates 1-kilometer geofences to keep track of physical locations where group shooting is going on, and lets people within that area browse nearby mixes.
As people in a shared Mix take photos and shoot videos, they all appear in everyone’s Lyve app, more or less instantaneously, as a shared pool. Rather than asking friends and family to send you pictures after the fact–as you might do if everyone was snapping them via more conventional photo apps–you can download any shared photos within a Mix that you’d like to preserve.
In this initial form, Mix feels like a rough draft: The moment I started checking it out, I started compiling a mental list of ways that it could be more sophisticated. Right now, you can see a list of all Mixes being created near you, even if they’re password-protected. If the service ever gets really popular, that would get impossibly unwieldy very quickly. I also think that some potential users won’t be interested in the feature at all until they can create more truly private Mixes that only people in their own social networks know are there, period–especially if they’re for something deeply personal like a birthday party or a family outing. (Lyve says it plans to build out Mix’s capabilities in future releases.)
Mix won’t be the App Store’s next blockbuster, but that’s not really the goal. Unlike Color or most location-based sharing tools I’ve seen, it’s just one feature in a photo app that also does other stuff. And even without Mix, Lyve offers an interesting, contrarian approach to wrangling photos. The world is rife with companies offering to store vast photo collections in the cloud for you. Lyve doesn’t do that. Instead, it includes apps for Windows PCs, Macs, smartphones, and tablets that piece together all your photos and videos everywhere into one tidy, easy-to-explore virtual collection without storing it on the web. And it offers a couple of Net-connected hardware devices–Lyve Home and Lyve Studio–which let you protect your pictures on a hard drive in your own home rather than on some company’s remote servers.
Lyve CEO Tim Bucher is a tech veteran whose past adventures include working with Steve Jobs at both NeXT and Apple. He told me that the company is trying to stay out of the game of offering raw cloud-based storage. That’s quickly becoming a commodity–and if Apple and Google respond to aggressive recent moves by Amazon, it might just be a service that comes with smartphones at no extra charge. “The word ‘backup,’ I used to forbid being used at Lyve,” he told me.
Instead, Bucher wants his startup to be about what he calls “life memories.” It’s focusing on helping people enjoy the photos they take throughout their lives, regardless of where they happen to be stored. “We’re striving to be the Kodak of the digital era,” he says. “Our software is the film, so we’re putting it everywhere you capture images.” Mix could make sense as part of that, well, mix.