Two new apps try to figure out the messy convergence of the internet and real life

Smartphones have been used by many startups as the bridge between the internet and real life, but few apps have caught on. Foursquare, for example, encourages you to add your real life friends to its growing database. When it first started, the mobile app was meant as a repository of your social history, and as a way to “stumble” upon your friends in real time. But cities are big, and strangers many, so Foursquare has moved on to more profitable ventures, namely location recommendations and deals. Facebook, too, encourages you to add existing friends to your social network. Twitter, on the hand other, promotes building relationships with strangers, but rarely do the lines cross between real and virtual.

Now what happens when you want to use technology to make going out in the real world a little less intimidating?

Two new apps, one available for Android and iPhone and the other just iPhone, are attempting to make meeting strangers in real life a little less tricky– and less creepy. Introdooce focuses on social gifting, with a twist. The company is appealing mainly to singles by partnering with various “high-traffic” venues in Toronto (for now), allowing patrons to send messages to others, with the option of adding a real-life gift. It addresses the often-difficult task of breaking the ice, especially in a loud place like a club or bar.

When you get to a partner venue, you’re encouraged to check in, like you would on Foursquare. A list of others is displayed on screen, with the option of messaging that person and potentially gifting them with something on the menu. Introdooce addresses privacy issues by not allowing you to see others on the network unless you’re an existing contact or that person is checked into the same venue as you. The app will ultimately live or die by how many users it attracts to its network, but it’s an intriguing idea.

Jingu Friends is an app recently released for iPhone that attempts to connect users on popular instant message services like Kik, WhatsApp, LiveProfile and Hookt. It consolidates messages into a public “Lounge” that acts as a centralized meeting place. From there you can pursue individual contact with users on one of the four supported IM clients. Jingu started its life on BlackBerry and has since grown to over three million users. The iPhone launch is its first expansion into the modern era, and the app is clean, simple and functional. The app addresses potential privacy concerns by allowing users to block or report abusive behaviour. You can also filter messages based on country or city, or just leave it open to the entire world.

Both apps address the growing demand to make face-to-face interaction easier via technology. Whether they’ll be successful depends on their respective communities’ desire to stay respectful, and their respective developers’ ability to grow them.

Download Introdooce for Android and iOS.

Download Jingu Friends for iOS.