My 7-year-old son and I have tested the beta of the Microsoft Garage project Thinga.Me. Thinga.Me is the modern way of collecting things.
When I was seven years old, I collected stamps. That was still a cool hobby back in the seventies. Now my son is seven and he just fell in love with an app that allows him to collect anything - digitally. Microsoft announced the Microsoft Garage project Thinga.Me in July. I was lucky enough to get an invite to the closed beta test. I signed up, because I knew my oldest son would love it.
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At the core of the Thinga.Me app is a smart cropping function that cuts away the background and only keeps the "thing" you want to collect. The captured items can then be placed on digital shelves in collections. My son created right away a Lego collection to start capturing his favorite figures and current building projects.
Collections can be shared online and presented several different shelve styles. The Microsoft Thinga.Me site has a showcase of collections that beta testers have shared.
The smart cropping works extremely well. My son does not care too much about the recommendations of having a solid background and great lighting conditions, he just captures away. He then uses the add and remove features to clean up shadows and artifacts. The clean-up feature is very intuitive. You just drag a line over the area that needs to be cropped or added. The system is smart enough that it can crop a ball lying on the lawn, without any artifacts. The Microsoft developers really nailed that image processing part.
What needs work is the workflow user interface around the capture function. I have given them feedback about the user interface. My son got quickly used to it, but it can be made much more efficient and also more appealing. It could benefit from some gamification as well and the use of gestures, instead of typing text or tapping on buttons.
The interface in the current beta release is taking your finger from the top of the screen to the bottom to get through a collection task. Adding is also not predictive in the sense that the app would pre-fill fields when capturing several items. These UI issues are though easy things to fix as the smart crop is really the complicated part.
My son is now not only into collecting his Lego, he just wants to collect whatever is around him when I allow him to use the app. On the weekend he captured his younger brother. It was funny to see him on a digital shelf, but he was against being shelved and he wanted to be deleted again immediately.
Humans always loved to collect. Our ancestors needed to collect to survive. Collecting has stayed with humans since then. Just look at Pokemon Go, to see what people go through to collect something. Thinga.Me is the modern way to collect and it works for all things, except little brothers.
You can sign up to receive early access to the Thinga.Me app on this page.