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App, app and Away

Fri, 17th Oct 2014

Naked Scientists launch new online experience

Matthew Cornford

Half of the million-plus people per month who visit the Naked Scientists website do so using their mobile phones or tablets. And if you are one of them, we have developedNaked Scientists app Podcast something specially for you, to make the science we report on easier for you to access and listen to.

Our new Naked Scientists App places our news stories, the answers to science questions you always wanted to ask, science articles and our extensive catalogue of audio and video podcasts at your fingertips. After you download it for free from the Play Store, your Naked Scientists App keeps tabs on our content to let you know when we’ve published something new. You can choose what you would like to download, and then store that material on your device, meaning that you don’t need to be online to continue to enjoy our content.

In more detail

The app is the brainchild of Cambridge University computer scientist Matthew Cornford, who joined the Naked Scientists as a summer intern. Matt was looking for a coding project that would stretch his skills and also return a real and lasting value for a large number of people. And as the Naked Scientists had not yet launched an app, this seemed like the ideal project.

Why we built this app

The first thing we did was to consider what content we had and how this might be enhanced with an app. Looking at the site statistics, about half of our visitors – you (!) – are using mobile devices to read and download our programmes, podcasts and articles, or to visit our online forum. This is a significant change on a year ago, when that number was under one third. This probably reflects the fact that over that time the number of people using smart phones and tablets has increased enormously, and we’ve also comprehensively re-designed the Naked Scientists website so that it offers a considerably improved user experience. Given this upswing in mobile users, it was clear that we needed something that would be sympathetic to those devices.

Avoiding big bandwidth

Smartphone users know only too well that bandwidth can be at a premium, so most people would baulk at the idea of downloading even a small fraction of the close to 1000 hours of multimedia podcast content in the Naked Scientists archive. Also, hunting through page after page of listings on a website to find items of interest can be tedious. We’ve solved these problems by dividing our podcasts up into different strands or categories. Details of each episode are available along with an option to download and play the item, or store it on your device to play later. As you browse you can “pin” things to a shortlist menu, making them easy to find and enjoy later, and when you no longer need the audio, you just press the delete button to remove it. So, you only need to download what you want, which you can do when you have access to WiFi, and then you can take the material on the move with you. Your device will periodically be keeping tabs on our server feeds and will let you know when new content has been released that you might like to look at.

At the same time, the news items, answers to science questions and NS App Landing pageinterviews with the thousands of scientists we’ve talked to over the years are available as text transcripts. This content, which constitutes only a very small amount of data, is automatically imported into your device on a regular basis.

Get experimenting

For budding experimenters we’ve also offered a selection of our favourite “kitchen science” demonstrations for you to try at home, ranging from tricks to fool your brain to ways to make your own submarine or transmit electricity.

Join us LIVE

One feature we are looking forward very much to testing is our live radio link up feature, which is something of a first we think. The Naked Scientists contribute regularly to a range of live radio programmes in a number of countries around the world and we also run interactive science expos in front of live audiences. We figured that listeners of our podcasts might like the opportunity to tune in to some of these outputs live, and even to influence the direction that they take. To make this possible, we have built into the app an audio streaming system which you can select from the main menu. When we are off-air, this plays a selection of our latest programme outputs. But fifteen minutes before a live radio event takes place, the app will pop-up a message to let you know that a programme is about to begin. At the appointed time, if the live radio button is pressed, the app stream connects automatically to the correct radio station so you can listen, live. And if you want to send us a message, you hit the contact button and ping us your thoughts or feedback in an email.


Overall it’s been great fun developing this app, but now we need you to help us to test it and to tell us what you think so that we can improve it. It can be downloaded, for free, from the Play Store, using your gmail address, via this URL:

Based on how this Android edition goes, we’ll then begin to explore creating the iPhone equivalent.

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Make a comment

The app is really good. I have a question about mobile bandwidth: does the app sync when it's only connected via an expensive mobile connection? Or can I delay or restrict the sync to use only WiFi? johnmuir, Tue, 18th Aug 2015

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