iPhone app makes commuting social

391 PaX is currently trialled on the Queensland University of Technology inter-campus shuttle bus between Gardens Point and Kelvin Grove

Screenshot of bus seat arrangement

Screenshot of bus seat arrangement

Social awkwardness between bus passengers may be a thing of the past, thanks to a new iPhone application designed to facilitate commuter interaction.

The app, called 391 PaX, is freely available through Apple’s App Store.

It is currently being trialled on the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) inter-campus shuttle bus between Gardens Point and Kelvin Grove. The trial began yesterday and is expected to end in two months’ time.

391 PaX features ‘seat messages’, which has a map of the 391 QUT bus interior so that passengers can click on individual seats and leave virtual graffiti.

There is also a ‘passenger chat’ icon that enables commuters to instant message other app users on the bus, as well as a ‘check-in at stop’ button that allows users to share their location with friends via Foursquare and Facebook.

The app’s developer, QUT PhD researcher, Jimmy Ti, told Computerworld Australia that he developed 391 PaX out of his own experience with public transport, which tended to be boring and lonely.

The app, he said, is geared toward decreasing passenger boredom and isolation, in addition to facilitating conversation between commuters.

“Usually when we travel on public transport, we tend to play with our own devices, we look for entertainment; we don’t actually interact with people around us much,” Ti said.

“I found that to be a lost opportunity because we tend to meet these people frequently because they travel back and forth at the same sort of station with us everyday, and they probably know more about the suburbs we’re travelling to.

“It’s good we have that commonality but people don’t actually use that to start conversation.”

Depending on the trial results, Ti said there are plans to expand the app statewide across Queensland’s bus, train, and City Cat services in the second half of 2012.

In addition, Ti hopes the app will be successful enough to expand to other states and territories, as well as becoming compatible across multi-platforms, such as Android and Windows Phone.

Follow Diana Nguyen on Twitter: @diananguyen9

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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