Weird Science: The Apps have It

The world of apps is a strange and at times scary place. From facial recognition software to the Klout Tile that tells you how popular you are, there is an app for everything. Not all of them are as trivial as Angry Birds, though. There are plenty of useful ones. Here are some of my favorite unusual apps.

1) Oh Music, Where Art Thou? – Designed for cyclists, this smartphone app works like an aural GPS. It plays music directionally through the headphones of the cyclist. The sound comes from the direction the cyclist needs to go in and it gets louder as the destination is approached. I suppose it’s stadium-loud when you get there.

2) Glasses Off (Ucansi) – This app trains older (as in 50 and up) people to see better. Actually to not see better, but to learn how to interpret what they see better. As people age, their eyes have a harder and harder time focusing. The images they see become blurry. Glasses Off trains the brain to interpret the blurriness. The app costs $90 and after three months of 3 times a week, fifteen minute training sessions, your sight will be that of someone ten years younger.

3) Instant Wild – This iphone app takes advantage of crowd sourcing to record animal sitings. It connects users to motion sensitive cameras in wild habitats of Kenya, Sri Lanka, and Mongolia. When the camera senses motion, it sends a signal to the app-bearer who can then identify the animal and add the siting to a database. With the vast amount of animals creating motion and getting their picture taken, the more people identifying these sitings, the less work there is for increasingly under-funded researchers.

4) mFarm – Speaking of Kenya, there’s a group of farmers there that have gotten together to create their own app. They use it to check current market prices and send each other information using SMS (short message service) notifications. By the way, that’s the mFarm team up in the image for today’s post.

5) Crashing satellite tracking app – Both NASA’s UARS satellite and DLR’s ROSAT X-ray telescope fell from the sky last year. And both incidents had apps (UARS app and ROSAT Reentry) you could use to track the progress of the descent. A handy way to learn if you were in danger. I don’t believe there’s anything scheduled to fall to the earth any time soon, but do keep that little tidbit in the back of your mind for the next time.

Thanks for reading.

Sue Lange

Sue Lange’s latest ebook, Tritcheon Hash, is full of lapses of logic and weird science. “It’s a wild, good read.” Get your copy right here at good ol’ BVC.

This essay was first posted on December 11, 2011 at the Singularity Watch blog.

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Weird Science: The Apps have It — 4 Comments

  1. If you had published this on April 1, I’d have thought “Oh, music, where art thou” was an April Fools joke. I note they say on the Wired page that it’s a “research project,” but apparently you really can download it. Please don’t! I’m not going to whine about how dangerous it is to listen to music while you’re riding a bike; I’m going to rant about it! Do you people with your earbuds in think the cars around you are paying any attention to you at all? Trust me, they aren’t. They don’t even see you. You need all your senses to ride a bike safely. You’ve got to be able to hear that car racing up behind you.

    OK, no more ranting. The mfarm app sounds very useful indeed.

  2. I bike to work about twice a week. Since the trip is about 7 miles, a music-GPS thing would be unhelpful — the music would be inaudible by the time I got to work. I do use an Ipod, but then I am biking on the W&OD trail, and at this hour of the morning I usually have the place to myself. You should NEVER wear earphones if you are street biking.

  3. Right on Nancy & Brenda. Having done miles and miles of bicycle touring the last thing I needed was something to block out the sounds around me. Scary!