Thousands of users download U-Va. phone app
Monday, September 6, 2010; 9:31 AM
The University of Virginia has rolled out its official iPhone app - nicknamed "The Good Ol' App" - to offer quick and easy access to a voluminous amount of content for students, alumni, faculty, staff, visitors and Cavalier sports fans.
The free application, which can be run on iPhones, iPads or iPod Touches, was unveiled over the weekend. Since then, several thousand users have downloaded a copy.
"It's a wonderful little device and it's a wonderful way to stay connected with the university," said Zachary Wheat, director of interactive media and Web services in U-Va.'s Office of Development and Public Affairs.
The app has 22 sub-apps that allow the user to get updated Cavalier football scores in real time, check the latest university news, view the week's best photos of life at U-Va., search the university's student and faculty directory, check U-Va.'s course catalog, search the library, and even listen to "The Good Old Song" and other fight songs and cheers.
The app's niftiest feature allows the user's GPS-enabled device to pull up information and the history of U-Va.'s buildings by viewing the building through their iPhone's camera.
When viewing Newcomb Hall, for instance, through the app's "monocle" feature, a small box pops up in the camera's viewfinder. Clicking on it gives the user the option to pinpoint the building on a map. It also informs the user that: "Newcomb Hall, the university's student center, houses a ballroom, movie theatre, dining facilities, meeting spaces, lounges and offices. The design of the building, completed in 1958, was inspired by the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg." Tobias Dengel, CEO of the app's developer, Charlottesville-based WillowTree Apps Inc., said the U-Va. app's "augmented reality" function is believed to be a first for a university iPhone app.
"To our knowledge, we're the first university app that has the monocle," he said.
A growing number of colleges and universities are launching their own iPhone apps, as smart phones become increasingly popular. Virginia Commonwealth University, for example, rolled out its app on Aug. 10. Others include Duke and Stanford universities.
U-Va.'s app really shines, Dengel said, when it comes to Cavalier sports.
The app allows Cavalier sports fans to receive real-time notifications of sports scores, check sports team rosters, read team member bios and watch videos from VirginiaSportsTV.
The app also provides instant notification of U-Va.-related news. At 4:55 p.m. Tuesday, for example, the latest U-Va. press release popped up, touting success in the university's new effort to collect some $265,000 in delinquent parking tickets by booting the vehicles of the worst offenders.
Robert Sweeney, U-Va.'s senior vice president for development and public affairs, said the new iPhone app will help the university build closer connections to U-Va. alumni around the world, thereby helping fundraising and overall connectivity.
"We believe we will reach some alumni - particularly young alumni - via the iPhone app when we might have failed to connect with them via more traditional technologies such as email, web sites, or direct mail," he wrote in an e-mail. "And their experience should be fun, informative and entertaining. Such connections can have a very positive influence on fundraising, but that is only one of many positive outcomes. The Virginia app is another tool to bring our alumni and friends closer to the University, and that's our over-arching goal." U-Va. is planning to add a number of features to the app, including a function to purchase sports or concert tickets, track university buses and check the menu at U-Va.'s dining facilities.
While the app is only available for Apple's mobile devices currently, Wheat said, the university hopes to launch versions that can be run on other platforms, such as Google's Android smart phones.
U-Va. awarded a $50,000 contract to WillowTree to build the app in mid-June, Wheat said. WillowTree previously built iPhone apps for Charlottesville's noncommercial alternative station WNRN and Albemarle County-based consumer electronics retailer Crutchfield Corp.
Information from: The Daily Progress, http:/