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UTaP to offer social media experience tailored for college students

Courtesy of Jeff Frazier

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Entering a campus such as Ohio State, which enrolls about 57,000 students, can be intimidating, especially when trying to meet fellow students. But Karl Meves, a fourth-year in electrical engineering, introduced a new way to keep Buckeyes connected.

Monday, Meves will launch a new social media application, uTaP, available free to students enrolled at OSU who use a smart phone.

Combining elements of Facebook Places, Google Maps and Twitter, uTaP is a location-based application designed to facilitate communication between OSU students.

“The idea is that everyone is trying to meet the people around them,” Meves said. “With uTaP, students will feel much more comfortable asking for help or communicating with classmates while controlling who their audience is.”

From anywhere on campus, students can communicate with other uTaP users two different ways: posting to other students within a specific range or within defined periods of time.

If a student needs help with homework in William Oxley Thompson Memorial Library, he or she can set a distance to only allow users inside the library to receive the post, and users in that range will be notified accordingly. The ranges can be set up to two miles.

“A bigger range gives users the most potential audience,” Meves said. “But a bigger priority is put on a shorter proximity, as messages posted closer to you are more important because they are meant for you.”

As students enter specific areas on campus, they will be notified about events happening nearby, such as free food or other university activities, and these events will fade after the specified time period has passed.

“If you track your path on campus each day, you usually are taking the same two-mile range,” Meves said. “And there are more things going on around you than you think.”

Unlike Facebook and other existing social media applications, uTaP is only available to students who have a valid OSU email address.

Meves said uTaP allows users to contact other students securely and privately, including a private messaging service to those who would like to message specific individual students. This also prevents individuals not affiliated with OSU from abusing the application.

“People are now held accountable because you only have one OSU email address,” Meves said. “If you are kicked out of the network, you can’t get back on through another address.”

Meves, who received an acceptance letter from the Apple App Store in February, said he is implementing uTaP at OSU, but is also testing the app on the campuses of Ohio University and Miami University.

“The fact that it is designed specifically for college campuses really drives the appeal,” said Kyle Nielsen, Meves’ business partner and a fourth-year in finance and accounting at Miami University.  

Available for iPhone and Android software, Nielsen said uTaP enhances interaction between its users and their environments, creating faster connections between students with more entertainment value than other social networking sites.

“I like knowing that if I’m in a hurry and need help from other students I can use uTaP,” said Michael Mulcahy, a third-year in biomedical engineering. “If enough OSU students start using this application, I’d probably use it more than Facebook.”

Jace Homan, third-year in sport and leisure studies, said uTaP is less appealing because of its lack of privacy.

“I wouldn’t want to receive messages that don’t pertain to my interests,” Homan said. “I could receive five or six messages just walking to class through the Oval when I have no intention of stopping, and that could get annoying.”

Meves and Nielsen said they expect uTaP will be integrated at OSU by April, and said they hope students will communicate via uTaP on a daily basis.

“People just enjoy talking to people,” Meves said. “Whether it’s pure entertainment value, or just trying to start a pick-up basketball game, I have no doubts that uTaP will benefit OSU students.”

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