Yesterday, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) released two apps related to lionfish -- one to alert authorities when you've caught one of the suckers and another to alert you about how terrible these things are.
Why? Because lionfish are bad. Obvs.
The nonnative predators "negatively impact" Florida's wildlife and habitat, according to FWC spokesperson Amanda Nalley. And they're just generally annoying, according to everyone else.
But instead of merely releasing the apps, the FWC held a one-hour Twitter chat to answer questions about them. And there were lots of questions -- nearly 75 -- because one of the apps proclaims itself to be about not reality nor fiction but about augmented reality.
It's a new technology that turns your phone into a camera -- novel idea! -- and allows a certain image or logo to be replaced by a video with sound and effects. It's being made famous by people like Taylor Swift who used it to promote her last album, and when Nalley first stumbled upon it, she knew she liked it.
Now, users can download the app Aurasma, search "MyFWCMarine," and whenever the FWC's lionfish logo is viewed through the app's finder, an educational video about lionfish (narrated by Nalley) appears.
"We're Looking at QR codes all the time, and you hear a lot, 'Well, you know, people don't use QR codes as much as you think and the trends show they're going down," Nalley tells New Times. "So I was thinking, what we could use other than QR codes? And I came across this augmented reality, and I thought, Wow, this will probably replace QR codes. Why not put this logo on the back of the shirt and use it for the app?"
In addition to the app, the FWC is giving out yellow Lionfish Team Control T-shirts that feature the lionfish logo blown up on the back of the shirt so users can easily access the video. And although the T-shirt goes with the app, any rendering of the FWC's lionfish logo will cause the video to appear.
"We've thought about doing it for a while. We realized that a lot of people have smart devices, and we went, 'Hey, this might be a great way to submit data. Will you remember to go online and put your data up after you get off the boat? This might make it easier and make it instantaneous."
The FWC also released an app called "Report Florida Lionfish" that allows users -- stick with me here -- to report lionfish in Florida.
"It's the first app of its kind that we know of to submit lionfish data in Florida," Nalley says. "It's going to help us multifold, because not only can we track how many they catch and see but what kind of gears they use to remove them, where they see them, things like that. I feel like I know this stuff left and right, but every day I talk to someone that doesn't know lionfish are edible or don't have poison or have never even seen one, so the apps are really just about informing people."
The first 250 people to successfully submit data using the Report Lionfish app receive T-shirts.