Archive for the ‘Mobile Computing’ Category

Angry_Birds_Land_Särkänniemi_8Many of us carry a computer in our pocket that’s as powerful as the supercomputers of the late 1980’s. Many of us also mostly use that revolutionary device to slingshot cartoon birds at evil pigs. Smartphones have undoubtedly improved and changed our lives in many different ways, yet the potential of these mobile computers to benefit science and humanity has often been overshadowed by their talent for eating up free time with a silly game. But as CI fellow T. Andrew Binkowski said in his (flood-delayed) talk for Faculty Technology Day on May 8th, there are few reasons why the power of smartphone apps can’t also be harnessed for teaching and research in an academic context.

In general, the world of smartphone apps is a cruel and competitive ecosystem. Almost 1 million apps are available in Apple’s App Store, which has seen some 50 billion downloads since its launch in 2008. Due to this scale, Binkowski said he often warns people that no matter how good their app idea is, it’s very likely that somebody else has already created and released something similar. Often, it’s the design, marketing and support of the app that separates it from a crowd of lookalike releases — Angry Birds wasn’t even the first game where a player flings animals at buildings, and yet it is now the most successful franchise in iOS history.

For your typical developer, that makes selling your app “the hardest 99 cents you will ever earn,” Binkowski said. But for academic apps meant for the classroom or laboratory, that fierce competition is irrelevant.

“A lot of educators have goals to better reach out and connect with students, facilitate research, or something as simple as improving communication,” Binkowski said. “This removes a lot of the burdens and constraints of developing an app. If you want an app for your lab and you’re the only one in the world doing this research, you don’t have to worry about this fiercely competitive marketplace. You can build something that just helps you.”


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