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There are plenty of apps and services out there that use complicated algorithms to try and figure out what you might like. These might dive into your past browsing, buying or viewing habits, or they might rely on the crowd, recommending things based on what you have in common with other users. But the team at Side, which consists of three Harvard sophomores — Nithin Tumma, James Ruben, and Neel Patel — is taking a different approach to recommendations.

side-ios-app

Instead of relying solely on computers, Side also takes input from those who know your personality better than anyone: your friends.

When you jump into the Side iOS app for the first time, you’re asked to connect with your Facebook account. This allows the app to access your list of friends so you can begin answering questions about them. Once you’re all set up, you’re dropped into the app’s home tab, where you’re asked to make choices for someone based on their personality. For example, a question about a friend of mine asked which movie she would star in: The Dark Knight or The Ring? Or another: It’s 1AM, what is this friend up to? Under that question, photos of a person partying in a club, and another photo of people racing in shopping carts.

Making decisions like these can help Side get a sense of what that person is like. And, when people sign into the app and answer questions about you, Side can begin to understand what kind of person you are. It’s another layer of the onion known as your personality, and while it isn’t a foolproof way to nail it down, it’s at least bringing a bit more into the equation than, say, Netflix does with its viewing recommendations.

But figuring out someone’s personality type alone isn’t all that special if you’re not going to do anything with it. Fortunately, Side has you covered there. Once you’ve answered questions about others and others have answered questions about you, the app can begin to show its true purpose, which is not as a silly question/answer game but as a recommendation engine. Once the app feels it has enough on you to make a recommendation, you’ll receive it under the “Insights for Me” section of your profile. It could recommend, for example, that you try zip-lining through a Costa Rican rain forest.

It’s actually not all that clear what Side’s focus is going to be as far as recommendations go. Adventures? Food? Movies? Perhaps this is deliberately foggy. By not mentioning a particular concentration, the door is left open for just about any category. The only downside to that approach is that people aren’t really sure what to expect, and when an app is also its own little social network of sorts, most people aren’t willing to invest themselves blindly before having an idea of what they’ll get in return.

If you think you can rope some friends into downloading the app and joining in with you, Side could be a worthy addition to your iPhone’s app library. If your friends aren’t interested, or for some sad reason they don’t exist, you can also download the app and answer questions about yourself to trigger some recommendations. But if you have no desire to play the personality game with yourself and you’re not the experimental type, this early version of Side is one to pass on. It’s definitely an app to keep an eye on, though, especially as the small team — which designed a gorgeous app despite starting out with zero iOS development experience — finds its stride.

You can nab the Side app for iOS in the App Store today. Android users are out of luck at this point, but the team behind Side says that a version for Google’s OS will arrive in the future.


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