Four undergraduate students from the Computer Science Department have developed a smartphone app due to be used in a major BBC Four programme hosted by Surrey’s Professor Jim Al-Khalili early next year.
Second year students Mirette Bastaurous, James Carty, Nikhil Banerjee and final year student Josh Wright (all on the BSc Computer Science programme), were tasked with developing the ‘Time Warper’ app, which enables users to see just how much their personal clock is affected by Einstein’s theories of special and general relativity. Based on the different rates at which time flows across the country, the app uses the user’s location to tell them how much their age has been affected by gravity and the speed at which they move about. The app runs on both Android and iOS.
The app is due to be featured in a programme on BBC Four in 2017. In the programme, Professor Jim Al-Khalili of Surrey’s Department of Physics will reveal how the laws of physics can tell us how the rate at which we age is affected by gravity and the speed we move, and where to go in the country in order to weigh less.
The four Computer Science students worked with digital solutions company Pervasive Intelligence Ltd and production company Furnace Ltd to create the app, which took around four months from start to finish. In the three weeks since it was launched, the app has already been installed over 5,500 times on IOS and Android.
James Carty said: “Developing the app was definitely a challenge, but also great fun and a wonderful opportunity”. Mirette Bastaurous added: “Although the programming we had learned during our first year was very valuable, we found that programming for a commercial app is a bit different – because for an academic assignment you basically need it to work once, whereas for a commercial app obviously it has to work every time! The physics element was also quite challenging for someone without a physics background like me.”
With this experience under their belts, the second year students have been inspired to consider undertaking their Professional Training placements in companies involved in Android programming.
Dr Helen Treharne, Head of the Department of Computer Science, said: “The collaboration with Jim-Al-Khalili, Pervasive Intelligence Ltd and Furnace Ltd has been fantastic. It has provided the students with experience of how to create the Time Warper app that has gone live and the students have thoroughly enjoyed working as a team with an innovative SME. We are very excited about being part of new BBC programme. We are also grateful to the University for its contribution through the Access Agreement fund to its development.”
Download the Timewarper app here! The programme is due to be screened as a 90 minute special on BBC Four in March 2017.