Colorado Wildflowers Guide: an app for the midsummer wildflower season
by Libby James
photo by Libby James
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What happens when a software engineer and a hobby botanist put their heads together? The result is an enticing app that will add pleasure and meaning to a hike in the mountains, especially during the midsummer wildflower season. No longer is it necessary to get on a computer to identify a wildflower, hikers can take a photo of their find on the spot with their cell phone and the app will identify the flower for them.
Ernie Marx and Rob Raymond became friends when their sons were on the same soccer team. Over time they realized that if they shared each other’s expertise they would be able to come up with a wildflower app that could help hikers and wildflower lovers identify what they were seeing as they hiked in the mountains.
Marx works in soil and plant science at Colorado State University and calls himself a hobby botanist. He has developed a personal library of more than 30,000 photos of wildflowers complete with identification for each one. He provides the content for the app.
Raymond, who is an engineer for Google in Boulder, has the skill and expertise to create and manage the app using photo recognition that makes it possible to identify wildflowers using photo recognition.
The app is easy to operate and works even in high mountain areas where there is no cell phone reception. The app went live a few months ago and already there have been more than 1,000 downloads. The user takes a photo of the flower he or she is curious about and the app compares it to the library on the app. The name of the flower pops up almost immediately.
The project continues to evolve. Currently there are 500 flowers on the guide with more being added all the time. The partners update it every two weeks. Marx takes more than a thousand photos every week. “I’d take more if I didn’t have a job,” he said.
There is no charge to use the unique app. “We’re doing it for fun,” Raymond says.
Go to Colorado Wildflowers Guide published by Alpine to locate the app online. A blue columbine beside the app helps to identify it.