What does it take to develop a compelling, innovative app for Nokia Lumia smartphones? For the developers of the TouchMountain app, it helps to be attracted to the Windows Phone UI. ‘It was fascinating to find out how much you can do with a smartphone,’ says André Meyer, a student and TouchMountain’s main developer, ‘and to learn how much potential we can find in this young platform.’
TouchMountain is a mobile tourist guide to finding mountain peaks. The app, which started as a 12-week university project, has been published by MIT-Innovation AG, a technology development company in Wollerau, Switzerland.
The TouchMountain app combines and integrates several mobile technologies to let Nokia Windows Phone users find and learn about nearby mountain peaks. TouchMountain uses the phone’s camera and Augmented Reality to let users discover local mountains. The app then uses data from the phone’s GPS sensor, accelerometer or gyro-sensor, digital compass, plus the Internet connection, to visualize recognized peaks on the phone’s display. Users can also find peaks on a map or text list. To learn more about any peak, users tap a mountain peak on the screen; TouchMountain then offers information on more than 750,000 peaks worldwide, including elevation, distance from the user, live webcams, Wikipedia articles on the surroundings, and local weather. TouchMountain also features a compass, navigation, sharing, and pictures of the landscape that include images of annotated mountains.
You can meet André and see the app in action in this TouchMountain video.
To develop the TouchMountain client, Meyer and his colleagues used a variety of programming languages, third-party libraries, and developer tools, including the Telerik RadControls, a suite of UI controls for creating engaging and interactive UIs for Windows Phone apps. (Access to the Telerik suite is among the benefits of the Nokia Premium Developer Program, of which MIT Innovation AG is a member.) Meyer describes the RadControls as ‘simply stunning’ and adds that the experience was so good, his team also bought a license for Windows 8 and WPF applications. Along the way, valuable help was provided by both Nokia and Microsoft. ‘Nokia and its employees do an amazing job with their developer platform’, Meyer says, ‘helping developers with questions, test devices, and other support.’
Next, Meyer and his colleagues are going to concentrate on promoting their application. They plan to use the geotargeted Promotions feature of Nokia Ad Exchange (NAX) to promote TouchMountain in other apps to users in countries where such an application is relevant. NAX is an easy-to-use, cross-platform ad exchange that links developers with more than 120 ad networks worldwide and enables payments in more than 200 countries.
Early feedback from TouchMountain users has been overwhelmingly positive, Meyer says, adding, ‘We get absolutely incredible feedback from our users everywhere around the world.’ Some users have even offered to add new features to the app, including translations into additional languages and new peaks for the database. Perhaps that’s not surprising; TouchMountain’s developers were also its first users. ‘As avid outdoor athletes,’ Meyer says, ‘we always wanted to know the name of the wonderful mountains we found.’ Now they, and other mountain fans worldwide, can.