What are you doing right now? Nothing? If you’re not working, chances are that you would like to be doing something with your friends. But who’s available? And what’s there to do? That, my friends, is where Laila comes in. Laila is a service, that is essentially a machine learning algorithm, designed to nudge users to hang out with their friends.
Laila is the brainchild of Buffalonians Justin LaRosa, Mike Ferris, and Will Kramer. It was LaRosa and Kramer who both had the idea for the program, although neither one knew each other at the time. It took a mutual acquaintance at the Medical Campus to introduce them, and within a week of the introduction, the two met up with Kramer (who took the lead on engineering).
LaRosa and Kramer describe Laila as a personal assistant of sorts. It’s not designed as a dating program – rather it is intended to get people off the couch, to interact with their close friends in real life. These are intended as more serendipitous meetups, instead of scheduled well in advance get-togethers. Laila has the ability to learn users’ schedules, so that she (it) can signal to someone that it’s a good time to do something… on the fly.
For example, Laila predicts your work schedule (based on phone mapping), and the schedules of your closest friends, in order to prompt users that there is a window coming up when everyone is free to do something. At that time, Laila will signal Susan (for example) that her friends Rebecca and Tim have some spare time at 6pm and it’s the perfect time to get together. Then, Laila suggests a place to meet up that’s based on the kind of places you and your friends like. Laila is like the friend who initiates hanging out.
Up until now, the most efficient way to gauge availability for meeting up was texting.
According to LaRosa and Kramer, it’s a bit like how Spotify recommends music, and Netflix recommends videos. “Millennials are the most lonely generation,” explained LaRosa and Kramer. “30% report that they need more interaction, have a hard time initiating get-togethers, and don’t know what to do. It’s not limited to the younger generations – Laila offers everyone a chance to live more rich and fulfilling lives. The program lets people know that their close friends are open to doing something… at this time… and this would be a great place to meet!”
The name Laila was chosen to give the program a more human feel – down the road, once the program has expanded to other cities, Laila will be a voice assistant working through Google Home or Amazon Alexa.
LaRosa and Kramer also said that Laila is not intertwined with any sort of social media platforms, and that friends’ locations are never shared with users – it’s a non-invasive app that only suggests to friends times and places to meet up… when everyone is free to do something. Users can set their availability status to manual, or they can let Laila handle their social life.
The Laila team has just launched an external beta program in Buffalo. At this time, they are looking for people to participate. Laila is completely free to use, so go have some fun trying it out. In order to download the program, simply click here. Then, invite a few of your close friends to join in on the fun. It won’t be long before an app will be available to download, but right now the team is still in that “in-between” mode. In the meantime, clicking the link above will take you to the TestFlight page, where you will be prompted to take a further step. Downloading beta Laila is possible on the following platform (with more platforms coming soon):
- iOS apps: iPhone running iOS 11 or later
Ok Buffalo, I’ll see you around town even more, thanks to my new social organizer Laila!