Inspired by Iron Man, Zazu Makes Mobile App for More Intelligent Wake-Up Calls
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choosing off the pre-set menu. “It’s going to be able to find out everything that’s pertinent to you,” says Held, who holds the programming role at Zazu. This might sound a bit invasive, but Zazu ensured me it has users’ data security in mind. Held was recently part of the team that placed first at the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition, a simulation competition in which students are challenged to successfully secure the network of a small company.
For those of you who need an alarm clock with some authority (ahem, myself), future releases of the Zazu app will enable you to program in sounds and messages that “verbally berate you into getting out of bed,” Shah says. They’re also toying with enabling the app to translate text messages from your friends into audible wake-up notifications, requiring users to answer a math question or complete a maze in order to turn the alarm off, and offering multiple voices and accents for users to select as their alarm’s narrators.
Zazu is exploring a “freemium” business model for when the app hits the market, in which users get a more basic set of features for free, such as the pre-selected set of news feeds, Shah says. The personalized RSS feeds, wake-up messages, and synchronizations with calendars and e-mail accounts would come with a paid pro version of the application.
The Zazu team is a youthful one (perhaps a bit too youthful, judging by the mock business card they slipped me at the end of the interview), so it’s fitting that the startup is renting space from Boston’s Hangout Industries, a maker of software platforms for teen-oriented social games. (Hangout is actually renting to a few other Web startups, creating much the same informal incubator environment as Cambridge’s Allurent, which I wrote about in the winter). Shah just graduated from Northeastern, and Gerry and Held are still students—though they will be working with the company full-time throughout the summer and during the roughly semester-long “co-op” period Northeastern builds into its curriculum.
Ultimately, the three envision the technology as an app that follows you everywhere as a virtual personal assistant, and hope to develop a system that can deliver the same information to users as they’re driving in their cars. Says Shah, “We’re building JARVIS but better.”
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