News - March 20, 2017

Mobile application shows development of nature (video)

Vincent Koperdraat

How have the greens in your garden changed in the past weeks? According to WUR biologist Arnold van Vliet, there’s a good chance you do not know. The new GrowApp, which Van Vliet helped realise, can show you those changes.

Photo: Vincent Koperdraat

The application has several other functions as well, but the main use of the GrowApp is to create time-lapse videos by putting together series of photos made over time. You can use it with the tree in your back yard, or on a beautiful weeping willow along your favourite walking trail. What makes the application stand out is the overlay. If you took a picture of that nice oak in your neighbourhood on a previous occasion, you will now see a hazy overlay of that picture on your screen while taking a picture of the same oak.

Biologist Arnold van Vliet thinks this is really nifty: ‘This makes it possible to stand on the exact same spot and take a picture from the same angle each time. Once you have made several pictures, the application does its job and automatically creates a nice animation that you and other users can see.’

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Application development
Van Vliet is involved in the development of the GrowApp, together with other scientists and GLOBE. The latter is a network of schools that study nature and the environment together. According to Van Vliet, the GrowApp could become a paragon of citizen science. The aim is to have thousands of people deliver data through the application, which scientist can then analyse.

Schoolchildren and scientists will be the first, logical users. But Van Vliet does not expect it to end there: ‘Do not underestimate the addictive effect on "normal" users. Personally, I cannot pass a tree that I have photographed before without getting my smartphone out of my jacket to take a new picture anymore.’

Android and computer
The application can currently only be used by people with an Android smartphone. The team is working on a version for iPhones. It is also possible to view users’ time-lapse videos on a computer. This will also show what pictures scientists are most interested in.

The GrowApp is available for download in the Google Play Store.