App for That

New App ‘Dumbstruck’ Captures Reactions To Your Texts

It'll also record your vicious scowls in response to your friends' brunch shots.

Dumbstrucks' interface (Facebook)

Dumbstruck’s interface (Facebook)

This week we came across Dumbstruck, a new app that lets you send photo messages to your friends—and then watch videos of their actual reactions. Suddenly there’s a lot more pressure riding on that bikini mirror shot, huh?

Dumbstruck was founded by Michael Tanski and Peter Allegretti at their Albany-based mobile app idea lab, Doctored Apps. It launched at the end of December 2013, and has since attracted tens of thousands of users, according to Joe Masciocco, who heads up strategy for the app. Mr. Masciocco was also kind (and patient) enough to walk Betabeat through a trial run of Dumbstruck, so we could figure out how it works. First, we used our email address to make a Dumbstruck account. Soon after Mr. Masciocco found our username, we received a notification that he’d sent us a message.

A little overwhelmed about having to record my reaction on the spot.

A little overwhelmed about having to record my reaction on the spot.

Here’s the fun part. As we somewhat nervously discovered, the app would only permit us to view Mr. Masciocco’s message once we clicked the “Start” button, authorizing the app to start recording our reaction. We opened the message—a photo of Mr. Masciocco’s coworker playing virtual golf in the office, plus a few lines of text—and started laughing back into our iPhone’s camera. Dumbstruck then sent our reaction video—a rather unflattering six-second recording of our eyes and forehead twitching with laughter—back to Mr. Masciocco. (We vowed to make ourselves more selfie-ready before opening his next message.)

“This is the exact opposite of what Snapchat is,” Mr. Masciocco said. With Snapchat, users just send one-way messages out into the app-o-sphere, never to hear from them again. But with Dumbstruck, “We have a twofold thing,” he told us. “What were doing is capturing a very candid reaction that makes both people enjoy a moment.”

Of course, we had to ask: are people going to use this for sexting?

“I think that there’s a chance of that happening,” Mr. Masciocco said. We appreciated his honesty, and also agreed with him, obviously.

He added, “If you want to make me sound normal and not creepy, I would say that what we do is enhance digital communication with human emotions, and I think that goes for lots of different human emotions and interactions.”

Follow Jordyn Taylor on Twitter or via RSS. jtaylor@observer.com