American Physical Society Mobile App SpectraSnapp

American Physical Society

PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT - Spectra Snapp Mobile App

The Challenge

For their very first mobile app, the American Physical Society sought the development of a tool for use by students and others interested in the scientific process that could function as a spectroscope – a device well familiar to anyone who has taken a basic chemistry class. Physicists employ spectroscopes to reveal the unique emission lines for an element or compound. The APS SpectraSnapp app would transform an iPhone or iPad camera – with only a few quick adaptations – into a device for imaging the emission lines of any nearby light source.

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Using an instrument known as a spectrometer, physicists can see the unique emission lines for an element or compound. SpectraSnapp, the first app from APS and developed by Breakthrough, lets you image – and analyze – the spectra of a variety of light sources. Oh, and it’s FREE!

What We Did:
•Innovative Expansion of App Requirements
•Custom iOS Development
•Integration with Third-party, Open Source Software
•Creative Interface Design

The Solution

The BT development team’s approach was to expand on the minimal requirements outlined by APS – a two-screen app: one to snap a picture; the other to compare the image to an existing library of spectra.  The team set to work creating an app that emphasizes the scientific process, accesses APS’s extensive content, and serves as a teaching tool and a scientific instrument for analysis.

They accomplished this – and more. The APS SpectraSnapp presents a front screen that offers a variety of functionality:

  • Learn – this option, populated with content from APS, teaches SpectraSnapp users about spectral analysis.

  • Build – SpectraSnapp provides full instructions for building a makeshift spectrometer to append your phone's camera and requiring just these few items: a diffraction grating; black construction paper; and electrical tape (black works best!)

  • Snap – this is the actual component for taking a photo of the target light source, such as fluorescent office lights, sodium street lamps or bright neon tubing.

  • Calibrate – the most challenging function to develop, the Breakthrough team incorporated inexpensive, open source photo editing software that allows users to manipulate and refine their photo.

  • Analyze – allows users to compare their sample against APS’s extensive, built-in library of spectra.

  • Share – provides links to APS Web pages and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

  • Physics Central – offers information and background on the APS.

  • Help – tips, tricks and answers.

APS was thrilled with the results of SpectraSnapp and has been seeing as many as 200 daily downloads of this cool app.

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