New Report: Are 'Mind Reading' Apps Good or Bad?

Audience and analyst opinion on ‘mind reading’ apps

There is either something brilliant or something sinister about Google Now.  Zach Epstein, Executive Editor at BGR believes it “is easily one of the best things to happen to mobile devices in the past few years. [Because] the service unburdens us by doing much of the thinking for us when it comes to the various events of each day.”

Whilst Tom Bradley wrote an entire piece in Forbes last year entitled: “Google Is Very Creepy, And That's What Makes It So Awesome”. The truth is, a company like Google has entered our lives entirely… and there is no turning back. Google Maps is many people’s ‘can’t live without’ service, most of us couldn’t even do our jobs without Google Search, whilst Gmail is the preferred non-work email client for millions.

Google Now just marries all this dependency together, by scanning your Gmail account and helping you stay ahead in your life. Been invited to a birthday party? You’ll get a note to put it in your Google calendar (if you want to). Expecting something from Amazon? You’ll get a reminder when it is due. In effect this takes the pain your of your personal admin and frees you up for more interesting stuff.

There is no denying predicting behaviour can be extremely useful. Autofill is an excellent example of this. Whilst British startup SwiftKey, which provides a free, predictive typing app for smartphones based on previous behaviour, has taken this one step further. And not surprisingly, this has proved massively successful, and saw the company gain $17.5 million in funding last September.

Yet despite the advantages, very quickly, a grey area emerges on where this is all truly heading. As more and more information becomes available about us, what if this predicting starts to get intrusive? Or what if these apps stop asking for our explicit consent? This could prove a very real problem, especially as a combination of the Internet of Things, Wearable Tech and an obsessive navel gazing interest in health, is likely to increase the depth of data about us.

It won’t be long before a massive amount of semi-medical information is beamed direct from our bodies, to goodness knows where. What happens when all that is married together with the existing data on our smartphones? This could be a world where apps really do go one step further and start ‘reading our minds’.

Picture the scene: perhaps your app knows you’re hungry, maybe it is aware that carbs at lunchtime make you tired, so it buys you a branded salad it has selected. Needless to say, this delicious leafy concoction would the one that was most beneficial to you and your apps’ revenue partners.

New research conducted to a sample of IT professionals shows that many people are uncertain about this whole trend. When we directly asked ‘do the benefits of ‘mind reading’ apps outweigh the negatives?’ 48% said no. Yet 53% would prefer to use an app that understands what they want. We’re only a series of tiny, incremental steps away from apps that really do read our minds…


The question just remains: “Are ‘Mind Reading’ Apps Good or Bad?”


Read the full report here.