Companies swear up and down that they aren’t using smartphone apps to eavesdrop on our conversations and serve up hyper-focused ads. But this distressing concept app called SayPal, which tips users in Bitcoin every time they mention a brand, demonstrates that it’s probably not going to be very long before that’s actually our hellish reality.
The app is the brainchild of Matt Reed, a creative technologist at redpepper who was also responsible for the short-lived tool that would Rickroll Zoom meetings, as well as the Zoombot which let users create a digital twin that could attentively sit in on video calls on their behalf. This latest creation, SayPal, is a distressing sneak peek at our inevitable ad-saturated dystopia.
Whereas PayPal has users exchanging real money back and forth, SayPal instead deals with imaginary currencies like brand recognition and Bitcoin. The app uses voice recognition to monitor a user’s ongoing conversations, and when it detects specific brand keywords being mentioned, the user is rewarded through deposits to a Bitcoin Lightning wallet, which can later be transferred to an exchange or stored away.
The app’s biggest challenge isn’t convincing brands to go along with the idea, it’s distinguishing name-drops that naturally come up in conversation versus someone staring at their phone while they repeat the word “Supreme” for hours on end. Even if it filters out obvious attempts to game the app, there’s still going to be a lot of Tesla evangelists who will become overnight millionaires if ever given access to SayPal. That’s just the tip of iceberg as to why an idea like SayPal isn’t going to see the light of day anytime soon, but never say never.