Interview with Erik Wood Developer of OTTER for Curbing Texting While Driving
Apr 23, 2010 4:10 PM –
Texting while driving is becoming a serious hazard on our roadways, complicating the distraction is our own consumer lust for smartphones without physical keyboards, thus harvesting more focus on the screen and not on the road. Today we’re interviewing Erik Wood of OTTER, LLC; developers of OTTER to help alleviate text messaging distraction while driving. Learn more:
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I am 43. I live in Seattle. I still think of my wife as my girlfriend and that’s a good thing. We have two daughters – 4 years old and 8 years old.
Why did you create your app?
My youngest daughter Eve and I were walking back from our school playground a couple blocks from our house and she came inches from being run over by a driver who was texting. It changed my life to pull her back from that car and never have the lady who was driving it even notice us! That was powerful.
Even despite my experience, I am a fan of texting. 72% of teens do it everyday. The texting culture is in its infancy. Instead of coming up with yet another personally invasive, phone locking type product, I wanted to create a tool that people could use to manage their texts at home, in the office or, most importantly, on the highway. I think OTTER promotes the idea of doing one thing well with quality results as opposed to doing 7 or 8 things at once all with mediocre results.
What technology did you use in creating your App and why?
I should defer to my software guys on this one, but I will say that one key was to tap into the smart phone’s GPS capabilities to make the GPS Mode feature and the Parental Control feature function so easily.
About how long did it take to create your App?
6 months. Some big app houses could have cranked it out in a few weeks but we kept testing and testing and we had two goals that came up at every design meeting.
- Easy to use
- Not personally invasive
What is a cool uncovered tip or trick you can do with the App?
In GPS Mode – the auto-reply that is sent out to let friends know that “The OTTER user is currently driving” is editable with Android’s tap and hold on the response. No where in our description is this noted. It gives you more freedom to tell people, say – where you are headed and when you will get there. My friend changed his GPS Mode reply the other day saying that he was driving to the desert and what his eta was. I don’t know if this is “cool” – but if you are an OTTER dork like me, it is! You heard it here first…
What other interesting uses can come from the App?
The Auto-Reply feature with access to all your customizable responses has seen some cool uses evolve. We have heard of teen students scheduling “texting blackout periods” so that they can get some real studying done. They use whatever reply they want and it lets them focus without feeling disconnected to their social life…I think that is pretty cool.
Can you tell us about future feature enhancements with your App?
We may add a calendar feature to the Auto Reply but so far our users are not asking for this. We don’t want to clutter the simple functionality, so I need to be convinced of the added benefit before we jump on this.
What did you really like about creating Apps on the Android platform?
That’s easy. The freedom of the platform to allow apps to run freely. Also, there is no waiting period to upload. When you are done, you’re done and its out there.
What are some things you would like to see improved with Android?
I realize that Google wants to encourage users to access the market via their handsets but the Android marketplace website could be more user friendly. I am not talking anything like Apple’s, but just a simple website that is easy to search and access reviews would be cool.
What is your opinion of the Android App Market’s distribution method? In comparison Apple’s model (strict control over the iTunes store) or the Windows Mobile model (no store at all).
I love the freedom of Google’s Market. OTTER can’t run on the i-phone (even on 4.0) because of the control Apple maintains over their OS. I think this will hurt Apple within 6 to 12 months.
What is your Opinion on the state of the Rating/Feedback system in the App Market?
I am still learning about this. I am concerned about ratings as anyone can flame you (like the competition) and you go from 5 stars down to 2 stars over night. This can really hurt downloads. I don’t know how to solve this as I think customer feedback is key.
Do you have plans on releasing Apps for other markets (i.e. iPhone, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, etc.)?
We are planning to be out on Blackberry and Windows within 6 months or less. When Apple let’s 3rd party apps run freely, we would love to build OTTER for the i-phone.
Your app is a paid app, why did you choose this model over the free model, and how to you project its success?
We have a free version, OTTER-lite (OTTER-urban $1.99 and OTTER full $3.99) but we are by far the least expensive app in our class with a low download cost and no recurring fees. Our competition is anywhere from $15 to $40 and many have recurring fees. I think we are going to show users how accessible this technology really is.
Must-have Android Apps?
What advice would you give to another aspiring mobile application developer?
Don’t let technology drive your vision. Come up with an idea and stick to it. Let the available technology mold to your idea and not the other way around!
Can you tell us what future Android Apps you have brewing?
I’ve had cancer twice and I keep thinking of a simple app that relates to people who find this has crept into their lives. I also have other ideas for OTTER and related apps to make cell phone use safer.
Erik Wood, Owner
YouTube Demo Video link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pNJiu3t9Yo8
Thank you Erik for your time and learning more about you and your app. Feel free to request our feedback on helping mold it. Don’t forget to check out our Android App Review of OTTER!