University of Wisconsin geoscience professor Shanan Peters spends a lot of time looking at rocks.
But finding good-looking rocks can sometimes be a challenge. Peters said the difficulty of finding noteworthy geological sites prompted him to create an app to solve the issue through crowd sourcing.
Rockd, a mobile app he released Sep. 17 in partnership with Patrick McLaughlin, a former geologist for the Wisconsin Geological and Natural History Survey, seeks to crowdsource the task of finding places where people can go to look at pieces of the Earth’s crust.
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“People who know where to go out to see specific things really only appreciate looking at them out in the field, and it’s really hard to figure out where to go sometimes,” Peters said.
Wisconsin offers few places for the avid geologist to locate new rocks. The challenge for Peters, then, was to develop something that made it easier for those wanting to explore geology.
“A lot of the motivation was to facilitate the process of knowing where to go when you go out in the field, making the best use of your time on the fly and figuring out what you’re looking at,” Peters said.
The app allows users to upload their own photos and notes and then compare those to other users’ observations and knowledge of that specific location.
While the app is mainly geared toward professional geologists, Peters said many students in his class have already used it as a tool for their work out in the field. He added that it is also something families can use during vacations to appreciate the places they’re visiting.
“Really anybody who is interested in a passive way or serious way can use the app,” Peters said.
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For professional geologists, Peters joked there is a bit of a “gaming element,” as colleagues compare some of their findings and share their experiences.
At the moment, the app remains person-focused — where only one user shares their findings on their account. In the future, Peters said they’d ideally like users to have the capacity to join groups.
For example, the UW Department of Geoscience will have its own group where students and professionals can contribute to the group’s activity, Peters said.
In the future, Peter said they would like to include developer-created official stops — similar to Pokéstops. These locations would offer a more structured viewing experience as opposed to purely looking at what someone else saw.
In the future, Peters hopes to add more features to the app without taking away from its simplicity.
“We hope to keep expanding capacity [for this app] to tell you about the world around you,” Peters said.
Rockd can be downloaded for free at the App Store and will soon be submitted to Google Play.