It may be the first mobile app conceived of inside a small airplane flying above Guyana.
Jessica Herron was traveling back from visiting a group of wildlife scientists in South American when she was struck by their reliance on low-tech tools in the era of smartphones.
“The technology is in your pocket, you might as well make the best us of it,” said Herron, who at the time had just left a job at Microsoft Research in Seattle and was looking for a new project.
“I had this assumption that they’d have cutting-edge technology when they went to the field,” she said. “But they had hand-held GPS and pads and paper.”
After Herron returned to Seattle she began work on an app, which she is calling Glance, for collecting and sharing data about wildlife sightings. Last week, she launched a Kickstarter campaign to help fund its development. As of Monday afternoon, it has raised $1,468 of the $20,000 she hopes to collect in pledges from funders on the site.
“We not only want the support of people who are interested in this, we also want their input,” said Herron, who is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and recently returned to Providence.
Indeed, the app is still taking shape. The idea is that users can take advantage of the technology in their smartphones—such as the camera or GPS—to record and store information about wildlife. It could be used by amateur birders to determine the location or rare birds, or professional in the field to help figure out migration patterns.
Eventually, said Herron, the app could also be used for such ecological research in water quality and forestry.
She’s developing Glance while working part time at Brown University. Herron is partnering with Alex Hills, a Brown graduate who has also been working for Microsoft in Seattle. He plans on moving back to Providence in July.
Microsoft alumni have recently had good luck with developing apps after leaving the software giant. Last week, Twitter Inc. bought Spindle Labs Inc., a Boston start-up founded by three former employees of Microsoft Corp.’s New England Research and Development Center in Cambridge. To be sure, Spindle was focused on commerce rather than conservation.