An interesting new iOS app launched today called Whale Alert. Though it's available for anyone, the iPhone/iPad app is intended primarily for use by workers in the shipping and maritime industry. It "combines science and technology to help save critically endangered North Atlantic right whales by reducing threats of collisions with large ships along the East Coast of North America."
From the launch announcement by IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare):
The app links the bridge of a ship to the latest data about right whale detections and informs users when their vessels enter right whale management areas. The app uses Global Positioning System (GPS), Automatic Identification System (AIS), the web and digital nautical chart technologies to alert mariners to NOAA’s right whale conservation measures that are active in their immediate vicinity. A key feature of Whale Alert is a display linking a system of near real-time acoustic buoys that listen for right whale calls to an iPad on a ship’s bridge showing the whale’s presence to captains transiting the shipping lanes. In a matter of seconds the ships position is updated on the iPad in relation to any endangered right whales in the shipping lanes allowing the ship to safely slow down and navigate around the whale.
North Atlantic right whales, which live along North America's east coast from Newfoundland to Florida, are one of the world’s rarest large animals and a species on the brink of extinction. So few exist -- about 450 -- that scientists have identified and named almost all of them. Collision with ships is a leading cause of right whale death.
What makes the iPad/iPhone app X is for X-Ray different is its ability to feed kids' curiosity. Every alphabetic object in X is for X-Ray, from an accordion to a zipper, has had its insides photographed by Hugh Turvey, Artist in Residence at the British Institute of Radiology. (Which sounds like an incredibly cool job, to begin with.)
As you read through the book, you can turn the X-ray vision on and off, rotate some of the images 360 degrees around, zoom in on other images, and even put on a pair of stereoscopic glasses to see things in 3D.
Unsurprisingly, this gimmick works better for some letters than others. A flower, for instance, doesn't make for the most exciting x-ray to look at. Nor does a piggy bank. But the internal combustion engine more than makes up for those brushes with mediocrity. If you put the engine photo in x-ray mode and rotate it, the image comes to life. Suddenly, you're not just looking at the insides of a piece of mechanical technology, you're watching them work—pistons pumping and cranks turning. It's really neat and strikingly beautiful.
My main complaint with the app is really a complaint with app development, in general: X is for X-Ray is only available for iPhone and iPad. I don't own either of those things. If it weren't for the fact that Mike Levad, the app's producer, lives in Minneapolis and brought the app to me to try out on his iPad, I wouldn't even be writing this review. There seems to be a remarkable number of very cool science-related apps that aren't available for Android. I find that a bit annoying.