MIT students show off array of Android apps

Professor Hal Abelson gave his students one assignment in his class this past semester: design an application for Google's new mobile platform.

The students came up with a broad range of ideas, all of which show the overwhelming power the operating system has to change the way mobile phone applications are regarded.

Applications couldn't be just anything, as they needed to have a legitimate use and a way to be profitable. Students also needed to work with the Android emulator, since there are no commercially available Android phones at the moment.

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Either way, Abelson was apparently quite happy with what the students produced: all will be receiving "A's" in this experimental MIT class.

With a key feature of the phone being its GPS and mapping capabilities, many focused on this as a basis for their work. A interesting approach to this is GeoLife, an application to remind users of certain tasks when they move past locations where the task is to occur.

Another uses locations to automatically change phone settings, called Locale. For example, the phone could know to ring when outside, but change to silent within certain locations such as a user's place of work, a church, etc.

That application won a $25,000 prize as part of Google's Android Developer Challenge. Created by four students, they now move on to compete in future rounds for cash prizes of up to $275,000.

Other applications included Re:Public, a location-aware social networking service, Loco, an event finder, and Snap, a guide to interesting places nearby. The only application submitted not to use location as a basis was KEI, which enables the cell phone to be used to unlock a car.

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