Apple has Siri, and Microsoft is about to get Cortana

By Tom Warren

Windows Phone Cortana

Microsoft has been in a state of “shut up and ship” with Windows Phone for more than a year now. While the company has released a few minor updates to Windows Phone 8, its feature set hasn’t changed significantly from when Microsoft first introduced the mobile OS in October 2012. The software giant refuses to discuss or acknowledge an upcoming update, Windows Phone 8.1, but a recent software development kit leak has highlighted the huge number of feature changes that will arrive in the coming months and put Windows Phone more on par with iOS and Android. One of the main feature additions is Cortana, a personal digital assistant named after Microsoft’s Halo game series.

Cortana first emerged after a Microsoft employee lost a phone running Windows Phone 8.1 last year. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s Windows Phone work have revealed to The Verge that Cortana will replace the built-in Bing search feature, which is currently launched through a dedicated hardware key, and acts as a digital assistant with a mix of Siri and Google Now functionality. We’re told that Cortana will take the form of a circular animated icon with the hue of your selected Windows Phone accent color, and will have a personality not dissimilar from Apple’s Siri. Cortana will animate when it’s speaking or thinking, and bounce around or frown with “emotion” depending on the queries involved. Cortana will be backed by data from services like Bing, Foursquare, and others to give it some of the contextual power of Google Now.


Central to Microsoft’s vision for Cortana is a Notebook feature that will allow Windows Phone users to control exactly what information is shared with the digital assistant. Notebook will allow the Cortana digital assistant to access information such as location data, behaviors, personal information, reminders, and contact information. We’re told it’s designed as a privacy feature to ensure Cortana doesn’t freely access information without a level of user control. While Cortana will learn things about users, it won’t store them in the Notebook without asking you, and any information that’s stored can be edited or deleted. Cortana will then use this information to provide answers to search queries by voice or text, and provide suggestions, alerts, and reminders. Cortana could greet you by name and ask if you need help or answer questions, much like Siri.

Through search queries and just general phone usage, Cortana will learn more about a user and offer to store personal data like home and work locations and general interests in its Notebook. Cortana will also react to messages or emails that contain phrases like “let’s meet tomorrow at 8PM” and ask if you’d like to set up reminders or calendar entries. Cortana can also provide guidance on weather, stocks, directions, appointments, and music that’s contextual based on location and other data. As Cortana is a digital assistant, it will also be able to manage a do-not-disturb feature, similar to iOS, that’s designed to mute notifications. An “inner circle” of contacts will allow Cortana to manage notifications and phone calls during “quiet hours” when notifications are muted.

Although the initial Cortana digital assistant that will ship in Windows Phone 8.1 will have a lot of capabilities, Microsoft will need to extend it to third-party apps and its Windows and Xbox devices to improve its functionality in the future. The real test of Cortana will be how well it works with voice commands and its ability to understand natural phrases and questions. Microsoft’s recent voice work with Xbox One is impressive, but it also requires that you follow a strict pattern of commands for it to work successfully. Microsoft will have to ensure Cortana is at least as good as Siri for the company to position this as a full personal digital assistant.

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Apple reports $57.6B revenue for Q1 2014: 51M iPhones, 26m iPads, 4.8m Macs, 6m iPods



As expected, Apple just announced its fiscal year 2014 first quarter results for the all-important holiday quarter. It’s Q3 report only included less than a month of sales for the new iPhone 5s, 5c and revamped MacBooks, making today’s report the first to include a full three-month period of sales for the new devices on top of the expected boost in revenue leading into the holidays. It’s also the first report since Apple shipped the new Retina iPad miniiPad Air, and Mac Pro.

Apple reported record quarterly revenue of $57.6 billion, which lands between its guidance for the quarter of $55-$58B and estimates by analysts averaging approximately $58.1B. It also reported net quarterly profit of $13.1 billion, or $14.50 per diluted share. Those numbers compare to the revenue of $54.5 billion and net profit of $13.1 billion reported in the same quarter last year.

Break down of device sales for Q1 2014 include 51 million iPhones, 26 million iPads (both all-time quarterly highs), 6 million iPods and 4.8 million Macs. Prior to today’s report the consensus from an average of analyst estimates predicted Apple would sell approximately 55M iPhones25M iPads, and4.6M Macs.

“We are really happy with our record iPhone and iPad sales, the strong performance of our Mac products and the continued growth of iTunes, Software and Services,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We love having the most satisfied, loyal and engaged customers, and are continuing to invest heavily in our future to make their experiences with our products and services even better.”

Apple’s press release also notes that the board has decided on a dividend of $3.05 per share payable to shareholders on February 13, 2014. “We generated $22.7 billion in cash flow from operations and returned an additional $7.7 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the December quarter, bringing cumulative payments under our capital return program to over $43 billion,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO.


Apple is providing guidance of $42 – $44 billion for next quarter. Apple executives will be holding a conference all at 2:00 p.m. PST/5:00 p.m. EST to discuss the results of its FY14 first quarter report and likely take questions from press.


Apple Reports First Quarter Results

iPhone and iPad Sales Drive Record Revenue and Operating Profit

CUPERTINO, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Apple® today announced financial results for its fiscal 2014 first quarter ended December 28, 2013. The Company posted record quarterly revenue of $57.6 billion and quarterly net profit of $13.1 billion, or $14.50 per diluted share. These results compare to revenue of $54.5 billion and net profit of $13.1 billion, or $13.81 per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter. Gross margin was 37.9 percent compared to 38.6 percent in the year-ago quarter. International sales accounted for 63 percent of the quarter’s revenue.

“We love having the most satisfied, loyal and engaged customers, and are continuing to invest heavily in our future to make their experiences with our products and services even better.”

The Company sold 51 million iPhones, an all-time quarterly record, compared to 47.8 million in the year-ago quarter. Apple also sold 26 million iPads during the quarter, also an all-time quarterly record, compared to 22.9 million in the year-ago quarter. The Company sold 4.8 million Macs, compared to 4.1 million in the year-ago quarter.

Apple’s Board of Directors has declared a cash dividend of $3.05 per share of the Company’s common stock. The dividend is payable on February 13, 2014, to shareholders of record as of the close of business on February 10, 2014.

“We are really happy with our record iPhone and iPad sales, the strong performance of our Mac products and the continued growth of iTunes, Software and Services,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “We love having the most satisfied, loyal and engaged customers, and are continuing to invest heavily in our future to make their experiences with our products and services even better.”

“We generated $22.7 billion in cash flow from operations and returned an additional $7.7 billion in cash to shareholders through dividends and share repurchases during the December quarter, bringing cumulative payments under our capital return program to over $43 billion,” said Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s CFO.

Apple is providing the following guidance for its fiscal 2014 second quarter:

• revenue between $42 billion and $44 billion

• gross margin between 37 percent and 38 percent

• operating expenses between $4.3 billion and $4.4 billion

• other income/(expense) of $200 million

• tax rate of 26.2 percent

Apple will provide live streaming of its Q1 2014 financial results conference call beginning at 2:00 p.m. PST on January 27, 2014 at This webcast will also be available for replay for approximately two weeks thereafter.

iPhone Replaces Hotel Room Keys in New Pilot Program

by Juli Clover

Starwood Hotels & Resorts is implementing a new pilot program that will see two key hotel locations in Manhattan and Silicon Valley allowing guests to enter their rooms with their smartphones, reports The Wall Street Journal.

After installing the Starwood Preferred Guest (SGP) App, guests will receive a virtual key on their iPhone, which can then be used to unlock a door with a tap using Bluetooth 4.0. The newer Bluetooth specification, first introduced with the iPhone 4s, has been used in a similar way for many home locking products like the Lockitron and the August Smart Lock, but this is the first time it’s being used on a larger scale.

Starwood officials are betting that the technology will become the standard for hotels in the future, replacing traditional hotel check-in methods.

“We believe this will become the new standard for how people will want to enter a hotel,” says Frits van Paasschen, Starwood’s CEO. “It may be a novelty at first, but we think it will become table stakes for managing a hotel.”

Bluetooth 4.0 (or Bluetooth LE) is being utilized in a number of innovative ways. In addition to being installed in multiple different home locking products, it has also been used toreplace traditional password logins on Macs through the Knock app and to deliver car diagnostics in the Automatic connected car device. Bluetooth 4.0 is also the driving technology behind Apple’s iBeacons, which are rapidly being implemented in retail storesand other locations across the world to deliver location-based notifications.

Two Starwood Aloft hotels, in Harlem, New York and Cupertino, California, will be updated with the Bluetooth 4.0 technology during the first quarter of 2014. Starwood has plans to roll out the system at all of its locations by the end of 2015 should the pilot program be successful.

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Moment’s Mobile Camera Lenses Make The Smartphone The New Interchangeable Lens System

by  (@drizzled)

A few people have come up with add-on lens solutions for the iPhone and other smartphones, and now the Moment Kickstarter project wants to take that concept further with a bayonet-mounted lens system that focus on optical quality above all else.

“We need Moment to capture better pictures with our phones. Despite their convenience, phones lack the creativity that high quality lenses can provide,” explained co-founder Marc Barros. “With Moment we put the finest of photography back in your product with beautiful lenses that capture the best images on the market.”

Barros acknowledges that there were many other options on the market already, but says that the founding team was frustrated by the “clunky design and poor image quality” of those existing solutions. Moment is compact, and provides either a case or a small adhesive attachment to provide the thin bayonet mount needed to attach its lenses to your case. The lenses themselves will come in two varieties at launch: a wide-angle and a telephoto zoom that captures pics at twice the magnification of your smartphone’s standard camera.

Backers can choose between the two at the $49 backer level, or pick up both starting at $99. The team hopes to ship the device by June, 2014 if all goes according to plan. And things should go fairly smoothly, given the founding team’s pedigree: Barros previously founded Contour cameras, which manufacturers the wearable action cam and GoPro competitor that’s sold in retail and online around the world.

Moment isn’t just coming out of nowhere, either: Barros and his team, which also includes top-flight optical engineers Michael Thomas and Russ Hudyma; as well as Richard Tait, co-founder of the board game Cranium; and Contour Chief Product Designer Erik Hedberg, have been working on the project for the past five months ahead of launching this campaign.


Of course, once the system is in people’s hands, there’s plenty of opportunity for expanding the line of lenses further. Smartphones may never be able to fully replace complicated and expensive DSLR rigs, but if Moment is successful in building a lasting company out of the idea of interchangeable lenses for the cameras we have in our pocket, they could replace pretty much everything else.

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Viddme Brings Anonymous Video Sharing To Web, iPhone & Android

by  (@sarahintampa)

Following the backlash against YouTube’s merging with Google+ for identity, authentication and, most recently,commenting, there’s been a renewed interest in a sort of anonymous video hosting service – something like an “Imgur for video,” for instance. It’s an idea that’s been tried before, but sometimes having good timing helps. That may be the case withViddme, a new video sharing service making the rounds on Reddit, which has seen 140,000 uniques in the one month it’s been live.

The service is one of three projects created by Bit Kitchen, a product lab founded by Alex Benzer, previously founder and CEO at L.A.-based SocialEngine, and Warren Shaeffer, previously COO at SocialEngine, alongside two of SocialEngine’s top engineers.

SocialEngine, a TechStars Boulder 2011 grad that helps businesses build their own social networks, was acquired in December by social media agency Room 214, Benzer tells us. (The acquisition hadn’t been publicly announced until now, as it turns out.) The six-year old, largely bootstrapped company had been profitable for some time, Benzer notes, but they decided to sell because Room 214 had a lot of enterprise customers who could take advantage of the service. Plus, it would allow him and Shaeffer to work on other things. Terms of the deal, mostly cash, are not being disclosed, but the exit gave Benzer and Shaeffer “a nice runway” to work on their new ideas at Bit Kitchen.

At Bit Kitchen, the team has also launched an anonymous group chatting experiment called Masked, and a “digital gratitude journal” called Thankaday, but Viddme is currently their main focus.


“We’ve been in building mode for the last month or two, and kind of putting these [three services] out there and seeing what the organic response is, says Benzer. “With Viddme, we’ve been exposing it to Reddit, because I think that it’s really useful for Reddit users, especially as early adopters.” He says that some Reddit users have already messaged him asking if they can help work on Viddme, too.

Viddme, of course, is inspired by Imgur, a service that developed a brand around being a place to anonymously share photos. But Imgur has yet to take the leap into video, despite the demand. “Imgur’s DNA is photos – it’s in their name. They’ve had four years to think about videos, and they haven’t done it,” says Benzer.

With the new service, now available on the web, iOS and Android, you can drag-and-drop videos to upload them, or, on mobile, upload videos from your smartphone or tablet in just a few taps. The idea is to allow you to share your videos quickly, without having to create an account. So far, it’s been used for lightweight sharing of video, like one of a kid taking their first steps, as well as for things where anonymity is the main draw, like the tutorial on how to exploit a server.


After the video is uploaded, you can share it to social networks, post to Reddit, or just grab a link which you can share elsewhere as you choose.

Key to Viddme’s value proposition is that you’ll never be forced to register, though on mobile the company will be able to associate a device with the videos you upload, so you could later quickly pull your videos down, if you chose to do so. They may also later introduce an optional user account feature for those who do want a way to better manage their uploads across devices, but this would not have to be associated with your “real name,” as with Google+/YouTube.

viddme-iphoneCurrently, there aren’t a whole lot of restrictions on video content or length, besides a promise that they’ll “obey the law,” and use their best judgement. (So, yes, there’s going to be some NSFW stuff on there, be warned.)

Like Imgur, Viddme’s potential business model could also one day involve monetization through pro accounts, advertising, or enterprise deals, but for now, the service is free while Bit Kitchen tests the waters.

Benzer says there’s already some investor interest in L.A. for Viddme, and while they have a “significant” runway thanks to SocialEngine’s sale, they’re considering raising in order to speed things up. “We’ve received some offers already, and we’re considering them more so for the network value, and less for the financial value,” he says. “We’re definitely talking about it right now.”

You can try out Viddme yourself, from here.

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Apple Begins Hiring for Arizona Sapphire Plant with Focus on iPhone and iPod

by Eric Slivka

Apple yesterday posted a trio of job listings (via 9to5Mac) for positions located in Mesa, Arizona where the company is building a sapphire manufacturing plant. The facility is to be owned by Apple and run by sapphire producer GT Advanced Technologies, although the new job listings confirm that Apple will have some of its own staff on hand as well.


Furnaces for sapphire production

Sapphire is currently used to protect the cameras on several recent iPhone models, as well as the Touch ID fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5s, with the material’s high durability and resistance to scratching making it a key component for those applications. Apple’s commitment to the new sapphire production facility has led to speculation that Apple is preparing to significantly expand its use of sapphire glass, perhaps for the company’s rumored iWatch or to protect iOS device displays.

Among the three Apple job listings for Mesa, one is for a facilities manager to oversee operation of the facility, while the other two positions relate to design and quality engineering with iPhone and iPod products specifically mentioned in the listings.

The iPod/iPhone Manufacturing Design Engineer is accountable for driving the development of key mechanical manufacturing processes across Apple’s worldwide supply base. In this highly visible hands-on role as the expert technical member of the Manufacturing Design Team you will have direct frequent communication and collaboration with Apple Industrial Design, Product Design, Manufacturing Design partners and worldwide suppliers.

Apple’s mention of the positions relating to iPhone and iPod manufacturing of course does not indicate whether or not the company may have broader plans for sapphire such as an in iWatch.

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Moment lenses are the latest attempt to make your smartphone’s camera better

By Dan Seifert

Moment lens for smartphones

Smartphone have essentially changed photography as we know it. The always-with-us devices have enabled more people to take more photos than ever before. The top four most popular cameras on Flickr bear this out: they are all iPhones. But as popular as smartphones are for taking pictures, they are saddled with a variety of limitations, including fixed focal length lenses. Subsequently, an entire industry of accessory lenses has cropped up, all of which aim to expand upon or improve your smartphone’s camera.

Moment is the latest company to attempt this feat, and its wide-angle and telephoto lenses are designed to complement an iPhone’s, iPad’s, or Samsung Galaxy’s built-in camera lens. Launching on Kickstarter today, the company has the backing of Marc Barros, formerly of Contour Camera, a company that produced GoPro-like action cameras.


The wide-angle Moment lens offers an 18mm field of view, while the telephoto version provides a 70mm field of view (an iPhone’s typical field of view is about 32mm). Both are constructed of machined metal and glass, as opposed to plastic, and are designed to feel like the premium lenses you might use with a high-end still camera. Moment promises that the lenses are made to exacting standards that minimize distortion and chromatic aberration.


To get the lenses attached to your phone, Moment is providing mounts compatible with the Apple iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4, and Samsung Galaxy S2, Galaxy S3, and Galaxy S4. The mount is a thin metal plate, which lets you screw the lens onto the back of the phone, much like you would mount a lens onto a DSLR. Moment says that the mount works with or without a case, and emphasizes that the lenses are fast to attach and easy to use.

Moment isn’t the only third-party lens you can get for your smartphone — Olloclip has been making similar accessories for years. But the company hopes that its emphasis on build quality and image quality will enable it to win over some of the more dedicated smartphone shooters. Interested buyers can back the project on Kickstarter starting today, with shipments expected to begin in May or June of this year. The company is looking to raise $50,000 to support its efforts, and backers that pledge $49 or more will receive either a wide-angle or telephoto lens, while a $99 pledge earns both versions.

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Review: Evomail+ is not the Mail replacement it tries to be


Evomail launched in 2013 as one of the many new contenders in the iPhone email client market. Today Evomail 2.0 (now branded “Evomail+”) has been released to the public. The update features a redesigned interface to blend in with iOS 7’s new aesthetic.

But is a redesign and an improved feature set enough to make you switch away from your current mail app? Keep reading to find out.

EvoCloud and Push Updates
Evomail+  includes upgrades to the EvoCloud back-end that claims it makes server-side operations up to 80% faster and improves the number of errors users see. Of course, the 80% number is theoretical, so how does it stack up against real-world usage?

Not too well, unfortunately. I turned on push notifications the night I installed the app. After reading and archiving a few emails, I woke up the next morning and found two push notifications waiting for me. These notifications were for some of the emails I had read and archived the previous night, and most of the emails I had gotten never actually showed up as push notifications at all.

Push wasn’t  the only problem I had with EvoCloud. I found that I was able to compose and send new emails with no issue, but every single time I tried to send a reply, I got an authorization error from the server. I finally uncovered the issue, though: the app was not automatically filling in the recipient’s name when you press the reply button. I reinstalled  the app and haven’t had as many issues with replys, though they definitely still persist is some cases.

It’s also important to note that EvoCloud stores copies of all of your emails on a third-party server. If that’s an issue you would prefer to avoid, Evomail+  may not be for you. This isn’t really a new feature of EvoCloud,  but it is something important to be aware of when logging into your mail account.

Redesigned Interface
Starting with iOS 7, apps are expected to forego the traditional colorful interfaces and instead rely on sparse white interfaces with color used only to emphasize important elements. Evomail+ holds to this principle pretty well, but that alone isn’t enough to give them a pass on design. Let’s dig into the design a bit more.

Evomail+  features a “one-button interface” in the mail inbox view. That’s right, there’s just one button that controls everything. That button resides in the lower-left corner. You can tap it to compose a new message, or swipe it up from the bottom to open a control bar with controls for mass-editing your inbox.

This control bar just not well designed. The first icon on the bar is an arrow pointing up. This glyph has absolutely nothing to do with the function of the button: labeling a message. Tapping it with no messages selected presents a error telling you to select some messages in order to label them or put them in a folder. If you do select a few messages and try again, and those messages happen to be from separate email accounts, the app will pop up a full-screen error telling you to only select messages from one account. Of course, it took me two or three tries to actually hit this button at all, since it was so close to the “compose” button that I kept accidentally hitting that.

The next button on the control bar has two arrows pointing to the right. I couldn’t  tell if this meant “reply,” “reply all,” or “forward,” so I selected a message and tapped tapped the button. As it turns out, that button allows you to postpone a message for later.

The third button is a checkmark.  This one is pretty straightforward. It’s supposed to mark images as read, right? Wrong. This button archives the selected messages. Thankfully there’s an undo button for all of those times you press a button thinking it does one thing only to discover that it does something entirely different.

The last button on the bar is an X. This one actually does what you assume: it deletes the message.

To hide the control bar, you can drag the One Button To Rule Them All back down. (Notice that the button doesn’t actually move, you just have to swipe down across it to hide the bar.) Swiping or tapping in the blank space where there aren’t any messages in the list view doesn’t close the bar.

Another use for the single button is to reply to (or forward) messages. I actually didn’t realize for a while that you have to tap and hold the button to access these functions. By “a while” I mean about three days. I ended up discovering it by accident.

Next, let’s talk about the sidebar. You can access the sidebar by swiping the button to the right. Unlike many apps that have been out for some time now, you can’t swipe anywhere on the left edge to open it. You have to use the button. Once the sidebar is open you can swipe any part of its edge to close it.

The sidebar itself contains a bunch of useful features. This is where you can find your account-specific inboxes and folders. You can also add a new account and reach the app’s settings.

In the settings page you can modify your accounts and setup signatures, aliases, gestures, your default “from” address when composing new messages, and a bunch of other features. One unfortunate omission is the inability to change the label color associated with each account. By default, a purple strip along the side of messages in the inbox indicates that they came from your primary account. A green strip indicates that the message is on the second account you added. Unfortunately, at the moment you can’t customize these colors. I have a specific color scheme that I keep consistent between my mail clients, but I was unable to implement it in Evomail 2, which did not help my workflow.

Bottom Line
There are a few other upgrades in Evomail+, like landscape composing or support iOS 7’s background update feature, but the clunky, difficult, and unrefined interface controls, frequent server errors, and unreliable push notifications give me no choice but to recommend avoiding Evomail+ until the developers can get these issues fixed. I certainly can’t say it’s replaced the stock Mail app on my phone.

If you’d like to give Evomail+ a try anyway, you haven’t got much to lose. Even though it’s a separate download from the original version, it’s available for free to all users on the App Store.

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Meet ChoiceMap, A New App That Helps You Make Better Decisions


Making complicated decisions is an emotionally fraught process and (if you are like me) the whole thing can leave you feeling paralyzed. ChoiceMap is a new free iPhone app that helps you break down complex dilemmas into a list of priorities, rate them by how they will affect your life, and then uses an algorithm to score decisions. You can use it for everything from figuring out the future of your relationship to just deciding what to eat for dinner.

It might seem a bit strange to use your iPhone to make the kind of decisions you’d usually talk over with a friend or hash out in your head (or a journal), but there are already several apps out there intended to help you make sense of your feelings. For example, TechCrunch’s Sarah Perez recently profiled Feels, which she described as “the pro/con list for the smartphone, emoticon-favoring generation.”

Both apps can help turn a mass of frazzled thoughts into cool, rational decisions, but I don’t think the two necessarily need to be seen as competitors. We all process things in different ways. For some people, seeing the emoticons Feels produces is helpful. For others, the bar graphs and percentages ChoiceMap uses to rank and rate your options are the way to go. Of course, the numbers only mean what you want them to mean, but looking at them gave me a much-needed moment of clarity on some issues that have been causing me a lot of anxiety.
ChoiceMap screen
Over the last week, I’ve used ChoiceMap to organize my thoughts and feelings on stuff ranging from what movie to watch next, as well as more personal issues I am too scared discreet to put on TechCrunch.

Back in May 2013, I wrote about an app called Expereal that wasinspired by Daniel Kahneman’s 2010 TED talk “The riddle of experience vs. memory” and helps you keep track of your emotions by rating them on a 10-point scale each day. Emotions tend to play tricks on our memories and Expereal is intended as a tool to help users keep their recollections of certain events or periods of time free from cognitive bias.

ChoiceMap’s developer Jonathan Jackson was also influenced by Kahneman’s work. In this case, ChoiceMap draws on the psychologist’s writing about decision-making. In his bookThinking, Fast and Slow, Kahneman states that our thoughts are affected by two systems.

System 1 “is basically intuition, a black box. It’s hard to know what priorities influence our gut feelings. System 2 is slow, methodical, and conscious,” explains Jackson. “With ChoiceMap, you weigh priorities, so decisions reflect what you care about the most.”

As seen in the video above, Jackson was inspired to make ChoiceMap while working through important and complex decisions about his career path, which city he should move to, and a potential relationship. In addition, Jackson also worked with Ashoka, an organization that helps social entrepreneurs decide which social issues to tackle.

“I realized that the algorithm I wrote solved a personal problem: where I should move after grad school, but the math had the potential to solve a major social problem: everyone makes mistakes,” he says. “That triggered the idea of a digital platform to help everyone make better decisions.”

One of the things I like best about ChoiceMap is that you can create your own list of options or select from a wide assortment of templates for decisions ranging from “outfits” and “cars” to “breakup or stay together,” “baby names” and “career paths.” Jackson decided which templates to include by using ChoiceMap, of course.

“We compiled a list of suggestions from friends, beta testers, and our own lives. We ChoiceMapped that list and turned the top results into templates,” Jackson explains. “We researched each template’s priorities, too, to make sure we included important factors for each decision.”

I wish I had ChoiceMap when I was making the decision to move abroad several years ago. Instead of just sitting around dealing with a crazy-making mix of worry and excitement or engaging in anxiety-provoking discussions with friends (“There are a lot of mosquitos there. You’ll get bitten to death.”), ChoiceMap could have helped me sort out my hopes and fears in a much neater, more methodical way. Of course, you can do the same thing with pen and paper, but, to be honest, seeing the results of ChoiceMap’s algorithm is pretty fun and often enlightening. But ultimately, Jackson says the app does not set out to make final decisions–that’s still up to you.

“The funny thing is–with ChoiceMap–people don’t need to decide what’s best. They need to acknowledge their own priorities,” says Jackson. “ChoiceMap helps people clarify these priorities one step at a time. As users walk through ChoiceMap, they feed our algorithm everything it needs to rank their options. So, at the end of the line, people discover that they’ve already made the big decision through a series of tiny steps.”

ChoiceMap plans to start raising funds this month to create a larger platform for a wide range of decision making and already has a monetization plan in place. Jackson refrained from sharing too many details, but says “global-decision making is a big market.”

Future plans “extends well beyond the iPhone app,” he tells me. “We plan to change the way the entire world makes decisions–from picking the size of a latte to passing foreign policy. The app is a tiny step toward a much larger decision-making platform.”

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