Recently Exion Systems released a new version of its BuZZone Pro, and made the basic BuZZone a free tool. Initial releases of this software run on Windows Mobile Pocket PC devices and desktop or laptops equipped with Widcomm based Bluetooth devices.
The Pro version of this application in essence makes it easy to users to search and find new contacts. It also enables communication in different formats, including chat, forums, push-to-talk and voice. The standard version allows for users to use the Instant Message feature, without the forums or voice chat functionality.
After installing the software you can create a profile. On this profile you'll enter some personal information:
You now turn your device discoverable, and wait a few seconds until all discoverable Bluetooth devices show up on your screen. Tap and hold an icon (or item on a list) to see the options available. First thing to do is Check Contact. By doing this you'll find if this device is running the BuZZone software. If it's negative, go for the next one. If the device is actually running this software then you have the option to Get Acquainted, which is basically introducing yourself to the other party. The icon corresponding to your Pocket PC will change on the other person's device. The other party can then tap and hold, selecting Get Acquainted, meaning that you're both now "known" to each other.
An icon view of other Bluetooth devices
A list view of other Bluetooth devices
By then the profile information is exchanged between devices. You can check each other's profiles, including the voice recorded greeting and photo!
Getting to know each other
Looking at Profile information
Looking at Profile information
Another way to find a person that matches your profile is by using a Search Profile option. Here you can specify what kind of other party you're interested in finding, with specifics likeage range, photo required or not, keywords, company name, etc.
Searching for the soul mate on the dance floor?
To initiate a conversation, tap and hold the icon corresponding to the person you want to communicate with. Select Chat or Phone Talk to establish communications. On the other side a dialog will show up asking for authorisation. The other person can the Accept or Cancel.
Once in chat mode it behaves pretty much like other IM solutions. What you enter in one machine is sent to the other and so on. You have buttons to insert smileys and to insert your Profile information. There's even a push-to-talk style button: tap it and record a message. Tap the send button and the other person will receive an alert and a blinking icon will indicate that there's a voice message. This can then be played. The sound quality on this function is very good, like a voice recorder note.
Chat. The Outgoing section is the push-to-talk part of it.
Another option is to actually engage into a phone-style talk. It's a direct connection between both devices, and what is said into one is transmitted directly to the other one, very much like a voice packet network based solution. In this case I found the voice quality is low when compared with the push-to-talk option.
The forums are a different beast. These are actually great and they have the potential to "extend" your Bluetooth network. They can be used during events, fairs or any other activities as bulletin boards. When you create a forum you can turn it Private or Public. Any user can create a forum on her own device and set for how many hours a post will be available on these forums.
Creating a new public forum
Users can then browse the public forums available on any device in the vicinity and read and post replies, like newsgroups. Companies organising events could create Public forums on fixed computers, so visitors could grab the latest information, discuss presentations, etc. This case is very similar to the concept of point servers.
Browsing forums available around me
Checking the threads
Reading a thread
Why I say this can extend a Bluetooth network? Because the forums are mobile, like the device. If the owner walks away with a forum in her pocket, the information will be available somewhere else. For example in a cafe next to an event. This is actually a great social networking tool !
I would just like to see this tool as part of a bundle with some Bluetooth enabled Pocket PC. If this software is available on a new generation of devices then we could see more people creating ad-hoc networks of friends, networks of clubbers, etc... What a great potential for this kind of software .
You can find both the free 94640 BuZZone and the 96706 Pro versions on Handango.