This is Laser Labs!
Laser Labs is here! After several years of using computer apps for science outreach, we have now formed Laser Labs, a not-for-profit company to publish such applications to popular apps store.
The Gravitational Wave Group at the University of Birmingham has a strong outreach group that regularly organises a variety of events, from school visits, to exhibitions at national science fairs. This all started in 2010 when the British Science Festival came to Birmingham and the group decided to develop an exhibition: 'Looking for Black Holes with Lasers'. Our aim was to make the relatively unknown field of gravitational wave research more visible to the public.
We had not done anything like this before and had to start creating a lot of material from scratch. We built a demo of a laser interferometer, produced hands-on activities for children and learned how to describe our research to them and other non-scientists. We also developed our first computer apps to support our exhibitions. The programs now known as Space Time Quest, Black Hole Master, Stretch and Squash and You are Einstein all started as prototypes at that time.
Since then our apps have been freely available and used many times by the scientists in Birmingham, as well as researchers from gravitational wave groups around the world. In the meantime, the world of computers has continued to change extremely quickly. In 2010 we were developing Java based desktop apps. Now in 2016, we must provide apps for mobile phones and tablets, especially when we want to communicate with young adults or children.
In 2014 we decided to create new versions of our popular apps for mobile devices, using Unity3D as a development framework and engine. At the same time we started to investigate the organisational aspects of app publishing. It turned out that a not-for-profit company in the form of a social enterprise was the best structure to accomplish our aims.
And here we are! As Laser Labs we want to promote science and support science outreach activities with fun and well designed apps. We hope you will enjoy them!