Fun fact for today: that little smartphone you carry in your pocket has more processing power than all computers NASA had back in 1969, when they sent Apollo 11 to the moon. Modern smartphones are extremely powerful by yesterday’s standards. Not so long ago, people were content to pay $1795 for a portable machine that weighed 11kg and offered a fraction of iPhone’s power. And what do we do with our personal mainframes? We play Angry Birds, send silly texts, and tweet about the contents of our fridge.
Some hopeless nerds, including me, cry when they think of this wastefulness. Fortunately, there are people who see smartphones as more than gadgets. They write apps that remind us just how much can be done with this little piece of plastic and metal.
To prove my point, I’ve thrown together a small list as seen below. I was looking for original and insightful thinking, and for software that pushes smartphones to the limits. Let me present to you the six most ingenious smartphone apps that I’ve come across.
1) LifeLens by UCSD graduates
This one inspired me to write the article you’re reading. A couple of days ago, a group of graduates from University of Central Florida in Orlando got into the final round of the Imagine Cup 2011 software competition with their LifeLens project. LifeLens utilizes the processing power of modern smartphone, together with the in-built CCD sensor, to check blood samples for malaria parasites. While the app needs a small hardware mod (a pinhead sized magnifying glass you have to attach on top of your regular camera lens), it is definitely one of the best ideas I've heard about. Every year 8 million people die from malaria, and a portable, easy to use diagnostic tool might help us reduce this number.
2) Tricorder by Moonblink
After LifeLens, this one might look like a silly trekkie toy, a successor to plastic phasers and crotch tight uniforms - but that would be a terrible understatement. Yes, Tricorder is Sci-Fi inspired, but that’s precisely why it’s incredible.