Controlling a telescope via the iPhone
Tim DeBenedictis, product architect of Carina Software, unveils the company's SkyVoyager iPhone app, which enables users to find stars, clusters, and galaxies in the night sky. He also demos SkyFi, a device that offers users the ability to use their iPhone as a telescope controller.
>> As astronomers people are always asking us you know hey what's that bright star in the sky up there? Well usually that bright star in the sky is the planet Venus. So our first idea for an iPhone app would be one that says its Venus but of course you know we'd eventually have to do better than that so here's what we eventually came up with. It's an app called Sky Voyager and it's on sale this week so you guys should all go to the Apple iTunes store and get a copy of it and what I'm gonna do is I'm gonna activate the compass and altimeter to show you what's overhead in the sky right now from San Francisco. That green area is the horizon and as I move the phone around you're getting a live dynamic view using the iPhone's GPS, compass and altimeter of where the stars are in the sky right now. So then you really can answer the question of hey what is that bright star in the sky right there. Here's another use for the app. Suppose you know you want to find something in the sky but you don't know where to look. Say you want to say find out where is Jupiter so I'll go to our search function, go to planets, hit Jupiter and hit the center button and so now you've got this handy arrow which tells you where to look, where to move your phone to find Jupiter and so that's a second you know purpose for the app. Every computer controlled telescope available on the market today is controlled via an RS232 serial port. Macs you know haven't had serial ports since the 90s and when we asked Steve Jobs if he could put a serial port on the iPhone for us he didn't really return our call so we realized we'd have to something a little different and that solution is something we spent a number of months researching. Since we couldn't find one that really worked for us we decided to build our own and here's the solution, it's called Sky Fi and its battery powered, it takes 4 double A cells. The batteries will last for about 8-10 hours on a you know fresh supply of batteries and I'm gonna plug in our telescope to the serial port here and I want to turn the power on ok so Sky Fi generates its own wireless network. I'm gonna go to our settings here on the iPhone and I'm gonna join the Sky Fi network. This is hard to do upside down by the way. Ok there we are wrong network. Ok so now we're talking and I'll re-launch our app so let's connect to the telescope. Ok so now we're talking so now if I want to drive that telescope to any of those objects in the sky let's so pick the star up here called Alganib and we'll go there.
>> So after we've I'll disconnect here so I don't bump into anything by accident here but we realized that after we built this device this is not just a solution for astronomers ok really this device is a robot designed to move very heavy loads with very high precision. There are many applications that use serial communication. We actually have a customer in Spain who's using our device to talk to industrial strength GPS receivers. Cash registers you know have serial ports. We're actually adding USB to a future version of this device. So what we're really building is a platform. If you are an iPhone developer and you want to talk to hardware devices that apple won't let you talk to this is a way to let you get around that barrier.
==== Transcribed by Automatic Sync Technologies ====