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Business News/ Opinion / Online-views/  Here’s to an apt ‘app’ for everything
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Here’s to an apt ‘app’ for everything

Here’s to an apt ‘app’ for everything

Wish list: Are there Indian apps that can identify birds orsuggest recipes?Premium

Wish list: Are there Indian apps that can identify birds orsuggest recipes?

There are a few Indian iPhone apps that I wish existed: one that would recognize things in nature, for instance. Just as the app SoundHound is able to listen to a song and tell me the name of the band and even the lyrics, I wish I could record birdsong and have an app tell me what bird it is. There are dozens of such birdwatching apps from acclaimed field guides such as Petersen, Sibley (the best of the lot, according to Birderslibrary.com), Audubon, and National Geographic, but they apply to North American birds. A great app is Build-a-bird, which shows viewers how birds adapt by changing beak size and shape.

The same applies to the trees. I wish I could photograph the tree, feed it into the app and find out all the facts—common name, genus, species, if the roots are medicinal, if the fruits are edible, geographical origins, history of the name, and any other quirky facts. Again, such apps exist but only for trees in the West. In Bangalore, the National Gallery of Modern Art (NGMA) has started an excellent “tree walk" programme. Eminent naturalists such as S. Karthikeyan lead a group of nature lovers on tree walks inside the premises. I asked Karthik, as he is known, whether he would like an app that automatically identifies trees. “But that would take all the fun out of it," was his instant response.

Wish list: Are there Indian apps that can identify birds orsuggest recipes?

Downloading The Night Sky, Stars, and SkyView have made a skywatcher out of me. I point my phone upwards and watch the constellations materialize, even though the cloudy Bangalore sky hides the actual stars. I watch how Leo, Gemini, Cancer and Virgo move through the sky, sometimes close to the moon and other times, away. I am able to spot Venus and Mars, usually through my iPhone but occasionally without.

Apps are wonderful things. They let you play and amuse yourself with Angry Birds and other games for hours. Productivity apps give you the feeling that you are in control; the master of your universe. And they let you dream. For example, another wonderful app would be if I could lay out all the vegetables (or meats) that I have on a counter, photograph it, feed it into the app, and then get a recipe that will not involve making a trip to the grocery store. A recipe based on existing ingredients and clever substitutions (amchur instead of imli?).

Recently, I downloaded several productivity apps, which, in my mind, are exactly like buying a mop. They represent pure potential. They give me a glimpse into a future that includes sparkling floors rather than one that is littered with socks, withered jasmine petals, and dust. Productivity apps also make me feel like those guys who are called “productivity gurus", in podcasts. The only problem is that they haven’t made me more productive. Let me give you an example.

One app that I was excited by is called The Habit Factor. The lite version is free, so I downloaded it. This app, ostensibly, helps you cultivate good habits. It begins with some peppy proverbs. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit." So said Aristotle.

The Habit Factor asks you to list two or three habits that you want to cultivate. The goal is to enter a time period—I entered one year—and a specific habit. I entered “meditate for 10 minutes per day". People who do yoga every day and eat sprouts for breakfast recommend meditation first thing in the morning. I don’t eat sprouts or do yoga.

I sat down on the first day. Very happily, I opened my eyes after 12 minutes and clicked the tick mark in the app. One day down, 364 to go. The logic behind this app is that you tick it on each day that you keep your habit and it will draw pie charts and diagrams and tell you how good you are at keeping your habit.

You know what my success rate is after three months? 0.4%. I haven’t sat down, let alone emptied my mind for three consecutive days. This app needs a built-in whip. When that berry cake in my refrigerator is singing like a siren to me, as it is now, The Habit Factor needs to say, “Don’t do it."

Shoba Narayan is looking for a new app: one that will ease the guilt of not keeping a habit. Write to her at thegoodlife@livemint.com

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Also Read |Shoba’s previous Lounge columns

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Published: 11 May 2012, 08:02 PM IST
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