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Future Tech: 

These apps want you to talk to strangers

Somebody app wants you to talk to strangers

You have more in common with strangers than you think

Would you invite a stranger over for dinner? Would you even talk to a stranger in the street? If you answered no, you may have difficulty coming to terms with the latest wave of apps, designed to help us take more risks and embrace the unknown.

Sometimes it feels like we do everything in our powers to avoid interaction. On public transport you’ll find awkward glances and averting eyes. There’s a stilted silence in the elevator at work, and a polite nod to the neighbours when you arrive back home. Increasingly our eyes are fixed to our phones, as we frantically tweet while waiting for a delayed train and ignore the strangers on the platform – who, for their part, scroll through their own devices for ways to pass the time. Isn’t technology great?

But technology isn’t to blame – not really. In fact, developers are increasingly dreaming up ways to bring us closer with the ones we love, and even to those we haven’t yet met. We’ve featured five of these more unorthodox apps below – they won’t be for everyone, but who knows? Take a chance on a stranger and it might just reap great rewards.

Cuddlr

Dating apps like Tinder are all well and good – but what if you’re not looking for a relationship, or even a date? Sometimes all you want is a cuddle, and now there is Cuddlr to help you find exactly that.

Matching you up with strangers using your phone’s location services, the app encourages you to pair up with willing huggers of any gender or age – bringing people together without the pressure of anything more. “Our culture doesn’t have a space for closeness without pressure,” the app’s developers told the Daily Mail. “The way we talk about meeting and sharing space and contact with someone assumes that it’s centered explicitly around sex and dating, or based on the kind of affection a parent might show a child. We’re not getting the right type of contact often enough; we don’t give and get enough hugs.”

Well isn’t that nice? Not convinced? Okay, next!

Somebody

Not sure how to deliver a message to your friend or partner? With Somebody, you can hire a nearby stranger to do it face-to-face on your behalf. This quirky concept from writer and filmmaker Miranda July puts your relationships in the hands of the unknown, creating unique and – let’s be honest – probably very awkward interactions. You can send guidance for your chosen messenger through the app, setting the tone, facial expression and emotional state so that your message is heard by the intended recipient loud and clear.

In an interview with the BBC, July described the app as “a far-reaching public art project, inciting performance and twisting our love of avatars and outsourcing.” While it’s probably unlikely to resonate with the masses, then, we’re glad it exists if only for this short film July directed to promote it.

HomeDine

What better way to get to know a new group of people than over a delicious home-cooked meal? This is the concept behind HomeDine, an app that pairs you up with strangers with a mutual interest in attending dinner parties – or, if you’re feeling confident, you can put your own culinary skills to the test and play at being host. HomeDine is something like the Air BnB for home-cooked meals, beginning as a website before launching on mobile in mid-2013.

If there’s still food left once you and your guests have stuffed your faces, then why not try another social experiment? Take a picture of the remaining grub, then upload it to Leftover Swap and somebody may just pop round and claim it.

20 Days Stranger

Designed by MIT’s Playful Systems, 20 Days Stranger groups you together with an anonymous individual so you can experience life in their shoes. You share updates and photos anonymously with your stranger for the duration of the experiment, offering an insight into your day-to-day life while you peer into their routine.

When the 20 days is up, you’re given 400 characters to send a message. Whether you say thanks and goodbye or exchange contact details to keep in touch – the choice is yours.

Umbrella Here

Okay, so cuddling up to a stranger might feel a bit much and you’d rather not invite anyone you don’t know into your home – so how about just offering some shelter in the pouring rain? Having scraped through its Kickstarter campaign by just $800, Umbrella Here hopes to bring strangers together (and keep them dry) when the heavens open.

Umbrella Here is an app and a physical light, attaching to your umbrella and turning green to signal when it’s available for sharing. Even if you’re not keen on welcoming a random under your own umbrella, you’ll surely be glad to see the lights turn green in stormy weather.

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