As of January of 2013, Apple reported that there were 775,000 apps available to iPhone and iPad users. So it’s not surprising that a lot of entrepreneurs are hoping to build the next great app. Several of those tech-minded creatives are UVA students or alumni. We spoke with five about the apps they’re developing and/or have developed for smartphone users. Here’s the lowdown:
The Married App
What it does: Allows guests to get directions, requests songs during the reception and even see all the pictures taken by others through the app and on a projector in real time.
Who made it and why: Rose Blais Alexander (Engr '09) and her husband, Jared Alexander (Engr '09). They made a the first version of the app for their own wedding at the UVA Chapel in 2010.
What it does: Users can make same-day hotel reservations at a discount. ABC News named it one of the top travel apps right now.
Who invented it and why: Sam Shank, (Col ’95), was looking for a super-simple way to book a room on his smart phone at the last minute, and was not impressed with the existing apps.
What it does: Classified listings of 140 characters or fewer providing real-time messaging between buyers and sellers. Outside a concert venue trying to land a ticket? Go to Antengo and find someone selling one closeby.
Who invented it and why: Hunter Jensen, (Col ’05) with co-founder Marcus Wandell. While attending a concert, Wandell thought that it would be nice to be able to see all of the beer vendors, and their deals, on his phone. They then refined the idea to capturing an entire mobile marketplace.
What it does: Users physically bump their mobile devices together, creating a connection between the two phones. Each friend can check on the other’s status and location and be automatically notified when the other safely arrives home. Universities can use the data it produces anonymously to make informed decisions to improve student safety.
Who invented it and why: Duylam Nguyen-Ngo (Engr ’13) and Ashutosh Priyadarshy (Engr ’12), in response to several high profile crimes on campuses nationwide.
The UVA App
What it does: Easy access to news, a Grounds directory, calendar events, library listings and athletics updates—even recorded versions of “The Good Old Song”—are available for iPhone and Android users.
Who invented it and why: The application was developed by a group that included representatives from the Office of Admission, Student Affairs, Athletics and the Alumni Association. The University contracted with WillowTree Apps, Inc., of Charlottesville to help design and build the app, which includes two dozen subapplications.
When third-year mechanical engineering and computer science major Dan Nizri arrived at UVA as a first year, he had trouble navigating Grounds. The New Jersey native thought how helpful it’d be if a college campus map app existed. This past summer, Nizri began developing an app to help UVA students maneuver around Grounds.
Nizri launched the app for Android users in early September; to date, it’s had over 550 downloads. A student enters his start and end points and the app gives walking instructions. The difference between this app and other GPS apps, Nizri says, is that Grounds Nav “has all the specific locations on Grounds—buildings, fraternities, athletic fields—stored, so you can click on a place and it shows you where it is on a map and gives you step-by-step walking directions.”
Since the app’s launch, he’s added several other features, including street view, which shows what a building looks like, as well as the ability to enter your class schedule. Nizri hopes to have the app, which is free, available by download to iPhone users by next semester. He’s expanded to eight campuses nationwide, including Penn State and Boston College, and plans to add more.