The startup requires a similar type of analysis, but it's more focused on the needs of the end user. What do anglers want? What do the lure makers want? What is the state of the recreational fishing industry? I love going out to boat ramps and talking to anglers and their spouses. The anglers are usually men. With the men, I ask them what their favorite lure is, and they'll open up and chat. With their wives, I ask them how many lures their husbands own, and they will go on a huge spiel about all of the lures their husbands have. Those interactions can be super energizing for me.
Question: Your app recently became available for iPhone. What are some of the things it can do?
Answer: The app does a lot of things. First, it allows the user to see what the lure looks like to the bass (and the human) in different water types. So the way that the lure appears in clear water is different from basic lake water or muddy water or green water or swamp water.
Then, it allows them to see the effects of depth. As the bass goes deeper and deeper, the lighting gets dimmer but it also changes in colors available for vision. The reason that the ocean looks bluish is because the water absorbs the red wavelengths to a greater degree than it absorbs the blue. The app also allows the user to see the effects of the viewing distance on the perception of the lure.
The viewing distance is the distance from the lure to the fish. As the lure gets farther away from the fish, it basically blends into the background but the rate at which it does this varies between the water types. The best analogy of this for human vision is when you see things through fog. We have all probably experienced the sensation where an object "appears" out of the fog as we get closer to it.
Question: What else?
Answer: The user can also apply the visualizer to their entire tacklebox. They can scroll through their lures for a given set of conditions and figure out which lure is most conspicuous for a set of conditions. They can also user the real-time visualizer to see things through their camera as the bass would. You can imagine that a person who is shopping for lures at the big box stores might find this handy.
Question: How does light behave differently in water?
Answer: I am sure that the physics professors who read this are going to be aghast at my explanation, but here goes. In a vacuum, light travels forever. It doesn't slow down. It's crazy to think about, but in a vacuum, a little photon of light just keeps going merrily on its path of travel. But light can get altered when it bumps into things. This depends on the wavelengths of the light and the properties of the things it's bumping into. In the air, light doesn't bump into things as often, so it still travels a really long distance.
But in water, the light is constantly bumping into water molecules and those of stuff that has dissolved in the water. "Pure" water itself absorbs parts of the light. This alters the light that is available for vision.
As you go deeper and deeper in the ocean, there are fewer red wavelengths because they were absorbed by the water. In addition to this, you can have other stuff in the water that also absorbs the light. Algae, particulates like mud and dissolved organic matter, which make the water look like iced tea, all absorb and scatter different parts of the light. In addition to this, you have the effects of depth, viewing distance, time of day and cloud cover that make the problem of how animals see things in water very complicated.
Question: Bass angling is the largest segment of fishing in the USA -- over 15 million people in the U.S. participate and spend about $3 billion for supplies, equipment and travel. Will you continue to add features to the app?
Answer: Absolutely! There were many features that I wanted to include in this original design that had to wait. One feature that I really wanted to incorporate was the ability to have the angler estimate the water properties right where they are fishing. Right now, the angler simply chooses between several different water types: clear water, lake water with a little bit of algae in it, water with lots of algae, swamp water, and muddy water.
We have some ideas for how to use the phone to get the light-transmission data right on the water. The other feature that I want to incorporate is the ability for the fish to look up or down. Right now, the app just simulates vision when the fish looks horizontally. But the visual scene is quite different when the fish looks up toward the surface versus when the fish looks down toward the bottom. We hope to incorporate these fields of view in the future. We also want to incorporate additional species.
Question: What's your best advice for someone who's just begun a startup?
Answer: Make certain that you enjoy working on your startup. You need to believe in your product. It's tons of fun at the start because you imagine your startup being this wildly successful company. But then you hit a spot in the middle where it becomes real. How do we get the money for our ad campaign? How do we get the money to do the Android version?
Despite the fact that I am ridiculously busy with my research and my home life, I do genuinely enjoy working on this project. I love the idea of taking this branch of science to the recreational fishing industry where I think it has real applications. I like being at the boat ramps and talking to anglers. I also really enjoy working with my partners who help pick me up when I am feeling down about something.
Question: Did you ever make any mistakes in your early years?
Answer: One way in which being an entrepreneur and being a scientist are similar is that you always need to be prepared to learn new things and develop new skills. It is a never-ending process of learning new things and adjusting to new facts. There are still times when I fall back into the mode of being a dinosaur and doing what feels familiar. Sometimes, I still have to work at being less of a dinosaur.
TECH TIDBITS ... with BECKY FULLER Question: Social media?
Answer: Our Twitter handle is @BassVisionApp. Personally, I just follow a bunch of other scientists who are tweeting about things that they are excited about.
Question: Favorite app?
Answer: Either BringFido or DogVacay. BringFido is basically Expedia for dog owners. It lets you search dog-friendly hotels. It's nice to read other dog owners' takes on the hotels. DogVacay is this app that I discovered also while travelling with our dog. We had a big family Christmas party in a hotel that did not take dogs and all the kennels in the area were booked. We used DogVacay to find someone who would let our dog sleep in their house for a night. This lady had at least 15 dogs in her house on December 23 (at $30 per dog per night). It was a big dog slumber party. But it solved our problem.
On Facebook, I follow ... My family and high school friends. For reasons I don't understand, I use Facebook to stay in contact with long-lost friends and family. Twitter is for science.
Question: Book or Kindle? What are you reading right now?