Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The World in My Back Pocket

I’m not the type of person to say wow to every little thing I stumble upon, but when I do say wow I mean it. It comes out like a WOW.
Last week I’ve stumbled upon one of this WOW cases so I thought I’d share it with you. It’s a software application for the iPhone called Pocket Universe that shows you a map of the sky, plots the stars up there and connects them with lines in case they form some constellations, and generally tells you where to find a particular heavenly object you might be looking for. As in, where can I find Jupiter this arvo?
The trick is that the software really uses everything in the iPhone’s arsenal. Using the iPhone’s built in GPS as well as its ability to tell where you are based on the cellular antennas it’s in touch with, the software is able to not only show you how the sky would look like at a particular given time but also how the sky would look like from your exact location. Wait, it gets even better: Using the iPhone 3GS’ compass, it can show you how the bit of sky you’re currently looking it should look like.
Remember the search for Jupiter? If you ask the software to find it for you, it provides you with directional arrows that tell you which way to turn to in order to find your favorite planet. And when you’re at the right heading it shows you exactly where to find Jupiter in the sky. In my book, that’s a big WOW.
I’m not the type of person that goes about saying how good my iPhone is; I think it has many deficiencies. I also think this particular application, Pocket Universe, should run on many other bits of hardware just as well. But the reality is that my old Windows Mobile phones have had some very similar hardware yet no one bothered to use it the way Pocket Universe has. The reality is that the iPhone was the first platform where all of the above mentioned abilities were combined together to create a first rate educational tool.
Downsides? Well, there are downsides to having this tool. Like, the first night I went out to find me some stars I got bitten all over by nasty mosquitos. I therefore suggest being careful when using Pocket Universe.
Pocket Universe sells for $4 at the iTunes shop. I highly recommend it.

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