Erin Sparling and Nicholas Hall are web developers, inventors and half-brothers living in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. This year they are throwing a New Year’s Eve party, and the whole Internet’s invited.
To get in, revelers just have to show up, check in on Foursquare via their mobile phones, and voila, the building’s door will open for them.
“We’ve been using the system to get in for over a month now,” says Hall. “People think we’re psychic, because they see us showing up to the apartment and getting buzzed in the second we arrive.”
Sparling, 30, and Hall, 28, grew up together in Pittsburgh. “Nick and I have always just taken our crazy ideas and tried to make them real,” says Sparling. “We have a lot of plans for ways to automate the house, like a couch analytics system that tells you which person has been sitting on which cushion and for how long, or a fridge cam that tracks who eats what.”
Sparling leads the Design Technology department at the Wall Street Journal, where his brother is a frequent consultant. The pair have turned their apartment into a hi-tech home studio, filled with equipment for photography, development and design.
“The way this Door invention came about is, we have all these great gadgets and we wanted our friends to be able to use them,” says Hall. “So we brought in some extra desks and turned this place into a sort of co-working space.” They named the spot Apartm.net, which is also their website.
Instead of just making everyone a spare set of keys, the brothers decided to experiment with Foursquare’s new API. “We’re friends with Naveen Selvandurai, Foursquare’s co-founder, so he gave us an early look at the new API and asked us to build something cool.” Over the course of one weekend in November, the “Door” project was born.
“The developer API allows people to have an incredible amount of access to data that’s generated by Foursquare. So one can build applications with great breadth: from games that are built on top to visualizations of checkin history to maps of trending places in your city,” says Selvandurai. “We particularly like this hack because it has an interaction with the physical world – and part of the goal of Foursquare is to get you out from behind your computer at home.”
The brothers have made a video each year to promote their New Year’s Eve bash, but this year things have become a little more complicated. “The video has gone viral on the web, so yeah, we’ve sort of invited millions of folks to come to our party,” says Hall with a laugh.
“That’s ok, we love the internet,” says Sparling. “We live there.”
The boys sat down last night for a late-night planning session. On the agenda, designing a Do-It-Yourself kit that would allow anyone to recreate their Door project on their own. “The software part, with Foursquare, is easy,” says Sparling. “But creating a door attachment that works universally is going to require some thinking.” They are considering creating a Kickstarter project to fund the development.
Extra planning will also be necessary to protect the boys’ incredible assortment of geeky items if the party turns into a mega-rager. A shrine in the living room features every single console ever made by Nintendo, including the original Gameboy with both the camera and printer extensions.
Their prize possession is the coffee table. It’s a G4 model Xserve, the server that powers their personal website, among others. “We try not to spill too much beer on it,” says Hall.