App of the Week: PhotoMath

Photomath
Title: PhotoMath
Platform: iOS and Android
Cost: Free

From WordLens (now part of Google Translate) to Invisibility 3D, apps which use the camera as an input tool to harness machine intelligence always interest me. When one such app, PhotoMath hit the top of the download charts last year, there was some minor outcry among educators. Would students use the app to cheat? But while the PhotoMath app reads and solves mathematical problems by using the camera of your phone and tablet in real time, it is far from the scourge of math teachers. Like Wolfram Alpha, it is a nice tool to have on hand when you can’t remember enough math to help students with their work.

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Within the app with an active camera, you can manipulate the size of the datawell to pick up the whole of more complicated questions, and the app solves advanced math problems including quadratic equations and inequalities. The app goes beyond solutions, anticipating the admonition to “show your work.” A red button opens the step-by-step process for doing just that. Continue reading

App of the Week: Leafsnap

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Name: Leafsnap
Platform: iOS
Cost: Free

Leafsnap has languished for years on my phone. The app represents the sort of big audacious online project that we as librarians need to know about. Merging geographic location with image recognition, it combines reports from the field to produce an interactive electronic guide.

For the end user, Leafsnap is designed to make a “best guess” about the species of a plant, based on an image of a leaf you upload or input through the camera. I hadn’t been able to use it before last week. It’s limitation? Spearheaded by the Columbia University, the University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution, Leafsnap is crowd-sourced, and a caveat warns that the database best reflects the northeasten U.S. for the time being (though there is a U.K. version, too). When I heard someone speculating about the name of a specific tree while I was in Massachusetts, I was happy to put the tool to work.
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App of the Week: Gift Giving Special

Note: This is a repost from November 30, 2011. Now that the holidays are over and teens have new devices, and maybe gift certificates for apps in hand, those looking for just the right apps for those devices will find lots of possibilities in this gift-giving special.

In this special edition of YALSA’s App of the Week, our app reviewers bring you their selections (listed in alphabetical order) of apps that make great gifts for teens. If YALSA Blog readers have ideas of great apps to give to teens during the holiday season, feel free to add them to the comments on this post.

Title: Biophilia
Cost: Free initial download, $9.99 to download all song apps.
Platform: iPhone, iPad, iPod (requires iOS 4.1 or later)

Biophilia app iconBjork’s latest offering is part album, part exploration of music theory, and part audiovisual playground. Every part of this app is meticulously designed. From the font you see throughout, which was created especially for Bjork, to the sound and motion in the menu screen. Put on your headphones, and arrive in a galaxy of nine stars, one for each track. When you navigate to each song star, you have options to watch an animation, follow along with the score, read a narrative about the inspiration for the song or a musical analysis, and to play. In this case, play does not mean simply to listen to the song, but offers an option to explore an interactive piece, to play with the song, rather than just to play it. The music itself is as sensual and strange as Bjork’s other albums; the songs are conceptually connected by a love of nature and feeling of interconnectedness (hence Biophilia). Continue reading