The Future of Smartphone Physics

Physics Toolbox Tango

There are a lot of new smartphone capabilities coming our way in the next few months, and we at Vieyra Software are aiming to stay ahead. One example of a new technology is Google's Project Tango, which has been in the works for a few years now. Project Tango will make use of a few additional camera capabilities and internal algorithms to make indoor precision motion tracking without GPS a real possibility.

While it seems that the existing developers are interested in augmented reality for games and niche markets, we posit that there will be some fantastical opportunities for science and science education as well. One of the key sensors that is really missing from current smartphones is precise position information, so the new core technologies will allow teachers, students, and researchers to plot out motion, similar to what has been traditionally done with sonic rangers. The ability to connect the position information of these devices by the cloud will allow users to study multi-device motions as well. The data can the be visualized in real-time, separately, or concurrently.

But it doesn't stop there. With precise position information and additional sensor information, users will be able to collect data in three dimensions, visualize that data, and even interact with the data via the camera screen. Magnetic fields might automatically come to mind, but sound, light, and pressure fields are also candidates for visualization -- imagine visualizing interference patterns across a whole room, produced by two interacting speakers!

Physics Toolbox Play

One thing we have noticed is that although our apps were created with the high school physics student in mind (and they are, in fact, our end users in many cases), most of the initial interest in Physics Toolbox apps comes from teachers, university faculty, graduate students, and even those in industry. However, there is a key group missing from this STEM-collective: the general public.

Recognizing the need to make smartphones, data collection and analysis, and physics accessible to younger children, parents, and "lay" users in informal environments, we anticipate that Physics Toolbox Play will be available by the summer months. This gamified version of Physics Toolbox will expose the users (ideally, children and their families at STEM events or for personal use) to a variety of simple challenges. These challenges will include the use of a sensor to collect some kind of required data (like producing a tone within a given frequency range using a glass soda bottle partially filled with water, or jumping to produce acceleration), ask the participants to decipher the data to make meaning of it, and then see a very brief tutorial explaining how the sensor is used in STEM careers.

We currently have a library partner with whom we plan to use these apps to support Family Science Nights, but, if you are also interested in pioneering a beta version of this app with us this summer, please don't hesitate to reach out to us at!

Physics Toolbox Pro

If you are looking for some new things to come out sooner than later, keep your eyes open for Physics Toolbox Pro. You can expect this to be an improvement over Physics Toolbox Suite with the following features:

  • Data storage and loading (initial release)

  • Modification of data collection frequency (initial release)

  • Data filters (initial release)

  • External sensor support: TI SensorTag (initial release)

  • Simple statistical analysis of selected data: mean, mode, min, max (subsequent release)

  • Linear regression lines (subsequent release)

  • Fast Fourier Transform analysis (subsequent release)

Hoping for something more? Let us know at

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