Brave new tech-centric world embraced by Kiwi digi gurus

This country’s diminutive stature has, according to legend, made us the perfect testing ground for technology firsts. And while it seems we always have to wait before we get our delivery of the newest gadgets, there have been a host of cool techie developments of late, from sandwich ordering to iPad apps, and crowdsourced language studies to dancing digital cows.

In an achievement sure to rank right up there with Sir Ernest Rutherford’s splitting of the atom, New Zealand recently became the first country to launch the Subway Express iPhone application, which, Subway claims is the most downloaded free iPhone app in the country.

The app was developed right here in Enzed by mobile technology development company Altaine, which has been raking in awards for its widgets in the last couple of years.

“New Zealander’s are the fastest adopters of new technology and penetration of iPhones is among the highest in the world”, says Brian Tap, regional director of Subway Asia Pacific. “We’ve had incredible success with the Subway Express for mobile and online. And the iPhone application is a natural progression from these current platforms.”

As you might expect, the app allows you to order, pick up and pay for your food, with the added bonus of also being able to locate the closest Subway (the country’s most trusted food brand, according to the Reader’s Digest) near you. And for those of you who like to accumulate those loyalty points that seemingly take forever to actually result in a free sub, the app also allows you to view your loyalty and gift balances.

New Zealand’s success has sparked interest globally for the Subway franchise: Altaine, which set up the text, web and mobile ordering system for Subway around five years ago, has also developed iPhone and online systems for Subway in the UK and conversations are underway to further develop these systems for other international markets.

Speaking of international markets, The New Zealand Herald’s iPad app has been getting some international props. It’s already been downloaded more than 7,000 times and remains the number one app in the New Zealand iTunes store. And Mark Zeman, creative director of Shift, the digital agency responsible for it, says the media commentary has been fantastic.

“Some people are saying it’s the best news experience available and blows away other news-focused apps, even those from the US and Europe …We knew we had to do something different with the iPad app and craft an experience that combined the trust of the brand with the interactivity of the iPad. We were determined to make this the most engaging, immersive and visual way to access the news online. I think we’ve succeeded.”

Shift worked in conjunction with developers Carnival Labs and Mercedes came on board as the principal sponsor of the app, which meant it was free to download at launch.

“It allowed us to work with motion design director Jonny Kofoed and create a Mercedes ad that was purpose-built for the iPad. It plays beautifully in both portait and landscape orientations and people see it once every day while we cache news in the background,” says Zeman.

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In other cool tech-related news, the Kapai Group are utilising the iPhone and iPad in combination with social networking sites as an online learning tool for te reo māori. And it’s crowdsourcing the expertise online.

The Kapai Group are aiming to publish an audio-visual, online learning event every three minutes, 24 x 7, for one month at w w w . k a p a i . tv, and fluent te reo māori speakers are being asked to literally contribute their voices to scripts.

To take part, you go online to find out what phrases need voicing and then with an iPhone, record your narration using the voice memo. When you’re happy with your linguistic performance, send it in.

“When we receive the audio, as long as it supports a safe learning event, we’ll put it online,” says director Paul Ransfield. The site has started publishing over 3,000 situational phrases, spanning 12,000 words, to the internet on social networking sites including Facebook and Twitter.

Ransfield is predicting an astronomical growth in online learning. “I expect New Zealand to generate significant export earnings in the online learning market. There are no technical barriers to us being market leaders; we just need to show everyone how to supply.”

Ransfield says suppliers can expect a royalty-based contract for the use of their voice or graphic or script. Basically, if it gets played online, they’ll get paid.

In other appy related news, fans of tap-dancing bovine beasts (hazard a guess that would be middle aged mothers and teenage girls) can rejoice and perhaps break out into their own celebratory dance with news that Tribal DDB has developed a Facebook game and iPhone app for Cadbury’s dancing cow Freida.

There seem to be a host of these slightly gimmicky online games being released at the moment, but apparently it’s what the consumer wants. So the Facebook game, called Smooth Moves, allows players to use the arrow keys to hit the falling chocolate pieces in sync with Freida. The coolest aspect of it is that Freida dances in accordance to the type and style of music playing from your iTunes library. And the sweetener is that there are iPhone and iTunes prizes up for grabs.

To play the Smooth Moves Facebook click here and to download the Freida iPhone app, click here.

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