These days our lives revolve around smartphones. They are so tightly interwoven in the fabric of our life and we use them everywhere and every time, so that the phones know more about us than our families and probably more than ourselves also.
While there are a variety of apps that make life easier, we don’t really make smart use of our smartphones. This is where personal assistant and contextually aware apps come in. They use your smartphones to alert and help you with stuff. The most popular of these apps is Google Now which is on Android and is now available in a constrained form on iOS.
Shifu is another personal assistant app for Android phone, but unlike others takes into consideration what free time you have and then only alerts you to complete a task. In this way it is not intrusive.
How Shifu Works
The way Shifu works is by mining your smartphone usage data and algorithmically estimating how much of free time you might have at any given point of time. This involves a lot of statistical and algorithmic calculations and is a self learning one so the app will get better over time. Once Shifu figures out the estimated free time and your real time context such as location, device and network state and time it can use the information to recommend tasks which are best suited for you. It will automatically tell you when to wish a friend on a birthday using your Facebook information or will alert you to return a missed call.
Shifu also tracks geographic, demographic and device information and is able to extrapolate data based on data subsets with other users and offer alerts. While this might cause privacy concerns with some users Prashant Singh the CEO and Founder of Signals, the company behind the app assures us that they have strict security measures in place.
Apart from self alerts you can also create your own alert based on location and other factors. This would alert you to visit a place you mark if you and in a particular area or upload pictures or watch a TED video if you are connected to WiFi network. You can also set an alert to remind you to talk about something when you call someone.
While most apps would require you to tap to open an app or use gestures to open it like Google Now. Shifu has taken a slightly different approach. They incorporate the alerts in your live wallpaper superimposing the alert over your existing wallpaper. It also has a cool shortcut where you can swipe down with three fingers to bring up the action menu.
While this is a non obstructive way of alerting someone, if you’re someone with a number of widgets and icons on your homescreen you will find this disturbing and will probably want to keep part of your homescreen free.
As of now the app is in Public Beta and only works on Android devices 4.0 and above and needs 1GB of RAM to function properly.
Review: Shifu App
The app has been built by Signals, that was started about 8 months back. It has a team of three member and one intern. Prashant Singh, who is co-founder, was part of Spice Labs, before he quit to found the new company. While he was in Spice Labs he was part of a team that built 20 apps that saw a cumalitive download of over 53 million. The other co-founders are Michael Massey and Deepansh Jain. Michael is the one behind all the server side magic of Shifu, while Deepansh is the one who built the app.
Prashanth says at the moment there is no immediate plans for monetisation and their concentration right now is to add users and upgrade the app including the integration of more social networks and third party clients. While there is no plans in the first year to monetize the app, after that the team could like at various angles including sponsored tiles etc.
We definitely loved the way Shifu works and the way it has already found a place on our homescreen. We could see ourselves being more productive after just a couple of days with it. If you want to try the public beta you can grab it here.