The Cats in Space app is a part of the Earth as Art Space Apps Challenge. You can read more about what our plans were for the project at its start using the first link, but now that we’re drawing to a close we wanted to share what the completed project looks like!
The Cats in Space Project
Our project includes several components that we’re bringing together to promote engagement and offer a fun (and hopefully educational) experience to users:
We’ve got a subreddit and a Flickr group set up and have included example images we’ve located to give users a sense of the kind of things they might find and to generate interest in participation. The subreddit currently pulls from images we placed on Imgur (which hopefully will increase the reach of our project as well), but eventually may include links to other sites as more user submissions are added.
Our project has received a lot of attention on other social media channels (namely Facebook and Twitter) as well, and we’ve heard from a variety of users worldwide (including, but not limited to, other Space Apps participants). It’s been a lot of fun, and a good number of folks have responded to our updates, retweeted us, and told us what a cool project we’re doing. I even got a PM on Reddit from one person at NASA telling me that he and a few colleagues were hunting for cats, which made me pretty excited.
The interest we’ve generated will hopefully be sustained through gameplay and through additional interactions on Flickr, Imgur, and Reddit as more people use the app, and find and add photos to the groups. We chose both these platforms as they each have different user bases, allowing us to further extend our reach across multiple audiences.
Using the idea of gamification, our goal was to create an app that would get people to engage with satellite imagery created by NASA. The Cats in Space web app (link coming soon!) presents satellite images of earth and deep space images to users who upvote or downvote based on whether or not the image looks like a cat. If they find a cat, the can share the image on the subreddit or Flickr group. Now that we’ve generated interest in our hashtag and are increasing our following online, we can embed the link to the web app in our image descriptions for easy access and to encourage play the instant someone sees and image and becomes interested in the project. The fact that new images are added regularly to the NASA Flickr accounts we’ve identified means that ongoing game players are less likely to encounter only the same images during repeat play.
People can definitely submit things to the photo pools using the web app, but we also encourage users to submit images they find outside of the app as well. We’ve already begun to see this happen on Reddit, and hope it’s a trend that continues!
Why do this?
NASA has huge stores of amazing, publicly-available imagery, but the folks who are going to actively seek it out are probably the ones who are really interested in that stuff to begin with. Creating a fun activity out of these images has the potential to bring in viewers who might not normally engage with the images, and even teach people who already love NASA images some fun new information (I love looking at satellite images, and I learned a lot through sustained engagement with them while hunting for sample images!)
Using a game that’s simple, appropriate for all ages, and encourages imaginative engagement with imagery is a good way to bring the images to nearly any audience (except maybe people who really don’t like cats), so it could be great to use in schools or as a leisure activity. Since the interface is simple, users don’t have to have much technical expertise to interact with it, which makes even more accessible to a wide range of people. Since our project (like all the Space Apps projects) will have publicly-available code, we’re hoping it might also be a resource for other developers who are looking to create this type of game.
Using a fun game to highlight the images will hopefully be an enjoyable educational resource, but will also help make users more aware of some of the great work NASA is doing to document our beautiful planet and universe.
We learned a lot doing this project, and I’m sure we’ll be blogging about that soon, but for now, we hope you enjoy the app and the photos—be sure to tell us what you think on Twitter, Reddit and Flickr!
Our team includes:
Abby Philips (@abigailleigh)
Jeff Chatham (@khhaaannnn)
Julia Skinner (@BookishJulia)