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Florida Uses Latest 'Augmented Reality' Technology to Go After Lionfish

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which is well-known for using social media, will unveil its latest high-tech tool in its Web-based campaign to eradicate lionfish.

by Christine Stapleton, McClatchy News Service / May 29, 2014

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has earned a reputation for boldly going where few government agencies dare to venture — Flickr, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, Linkedin, Google Plus, Facebook and Twitter.

Today, the commission will unveil its latest high-tech tool in its Web-based campaign to eradicate lionfish: Augmented reality. AR, as it is known in the tech world, allows images, such as photographs in magazines and logos on T-shirts, to come alive with videos, music and interviews when viewed through a free smartphone app.

“It’s kind of kitschy but it will make an impact,” said FWC spokesperson Amanda Nalley, who came up with the idea for creating an augmented reality T-shirt. “I think it’s going to be something really cool.”

Instead of unveiling the augmented reality T-shirt, as well as its own new lionfish app for smart devices, at a press conference, FWC is inviting the press and public to participate in a live Twitter chat today from 2 to 3 p.m. To participate, sign in to Twitter and follow @MYFWClife or #FWCLionfish. Use the hashtag #FWCLionfish to comment and ask questions.

Nalley said she stumbled upon augmented reality while trolling the Internet for new communication tools and realized AR could be used to spread more information about lionfish via the logo on the commission’s Lionfish Control Team T-shirts. FWC gives away the T-shirts as prizes in contests and lionfish tournaments.

“It’s a great way to reach out to people who are already immersed,” Nalley said. “We want to get as much information out and make it as easy as possible. We want people to be able to access information while they are out hunting and fishing.”

Taking full advantage of the augmented reality T-shirt depends upon loading an app called Aurasma (which is separate from the FWC’s free lionfish app). When the logo on the T-shirt is aligned in the scanner window of the Aurasma app, the logo on the smartphone morphs into a video narrated by Nalley.

The augmented reality technology is being used increasingly for advertising. Singer Taylor Swift is using the Aurasma app to explain the inspiration behind her Red album. Maidenform is using it to sell bras and Oreos to sell cookies. Disney used the technology during its Star Wars weekends to provide a “virtual” character experience.

FWC is well-known for using social media, including witty Facebook posts and Flickr photostreams of orphaned panther kittens.

FWC has already introduced two apps to help monitor invasive and endangered species. The IVEGOT1 app was created by the University of Georgia’s Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health and allows users to report python sightings to FWC using the GPS features of a smartphone. Similarly, when users of the “Florida Gopher Tortoise App” take a photograph of a tortoise or its burrow, the photo and its GPS coordinates will be sent automatically to the FWC. Both apps are free and available for iPhone and Android devices.

Details about the FWC’s lionfish app are being kept under wraps until the Twitter chat.

Lionfish were first spotted in Florida waters off Dania Beach in Broward County in 1985 and are now a common sight along south Florida’s coast. The venomous spiny fish, which can grow to 15 inches or more, has no natural predator in these waters and often competes for food with native species including grouper and snapper, according to the FWC.

A female lionfish can release up to 30,000 eggs per spawn and spawn every four days in warmer climates. Pet owners are blamed for the lionfish’s release into Florida waters.

©2014 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.)

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