Flinch is a new iPhone app that brings the awkward childhood game, staring contests, to mobile devices. It launched last July and an updated version was released a few weeks ago.
Reminisicent of Chatroulette, a once-popular video chat app, Flinch uses video conferencing to randomly pair up users. It accomplishes this via an iteration of ooVoo’s intelligent video platform.
The first to smile, laugh or “flinch,” loses. The app uses facial recognition software to tell who breaks their serious face first. Already, the app is having some issues with inappropriate or dangerous content. People have streamed alarming things.
There have also been reviews citing verbal abuse and indecent exposure by users of the app on Twitter.
Toni Bridsong, a Family Safety Evangelist at Intel Security, wrote about her Flinch reservations in an April 7 blog post. Bridsong finds Flinch “creepy” and thinks it’s the perfect cyberbullying and predator platform, adding that the app has a mostly male 20-40 year-old audience.
“Frankly, the instant streaming video of strangers on my iPhone 6-plus screen was acutely creepy,” Bridsong wrote. “The app, which is now being downloaded and applauded by curious teens, is definitely gaining traction as more of a hook-up app. While Flinch features some awesome, advanced facial expression technology (it detects who smiles first and issues a win), my short time using this app sent it straight into the red zone when it comes to family safety.”
Matt Farrell, a product manager at Spitfire Technology, helped design Flinch. He says censoring against offensive content is a “significant focus” for the team.
“We have taken several steps to create the safest possible environment for our users,” Farrell told Business Insider in an email. “In addition, the Flinch team takes account monitoring seriously; user accounts as well as social media channels are proactively monitored for violations and inappropriate uses of our app. When we identify inappropriate use through monitoring or other measures, we immediately deactivate the accounts.”
Farrell contends that all users have the ability to block other users so they will not be matched with them again. He also pointed out that Flinch is a game with a finite amount of time in which interaction can occur (each game is a maximum of 60-seconds).
Still the app seems to be gaining popularity and it’s one of the top free games in the iOS App Store. Farrell says the growth has happened “organically and virally” and that the app has been in the top 50 for the past few weeks. At the time of writing, Flinch was #46 on Apple’s Top Free App chart.