Hands-on with theBlu: Ocean Education App Helps You Explore the Deep
When we first heard about theBlu, we were confused as to exactly what it was. And after reading a bit about it, not much was cleared up. So we went hands-on to explore this socially-connected, global interactive app that aims to support oceanic conservation.
The downloadable app for Mac and PC, which will soon be available on mobile, tablets and smart TVs, lets you experience the ocean in 3D and interact with friends via Facebook to go "diving" together. Created to educate others about the oceans and support oceanic conservation, theBlue lets you do your part by purchasing aquatic species and habitat art work.
To get started, we clicked the yellow Free Download button from our laptop on www.theblu.com. We then waited for it to download, and when complete, we installed the app, clicking through the prompts. Once finished, we located theBlu icon on our desktop and clicked it, which launched the app.
We were taken to an underwater view, with rich, blue water flowing at the surface. Then a prompt pops up to link with either email or your Facebook account. We chose Facebook, and were given the chance to set up a bio with a photo (which was already filled in with our Facebook profile picture), nickname, short bio and why you love oceans. You can also skip this step if you want.
Sharing theBlu Experience
You can then send invites to your friends through email or Facebook. The theory is that every time a friend successfully joins theBlu, you earn a unique fish. We sent invites via Facebook to three of our coworkers. However, when they tried to join via their Facebook, they all received error messages or blank screens and were unable to access theBlu.
Proceeding to the next step in the setup process, we were instructed to click on three fish to earn one free fish. Every time we clicked on a fish, we had the chance to learn about it and connect with other theBlu users who had clicked on that fish as well. You're also given a constant feed of different users' activities such as where they just traveled. By clicking on a user's name, you can view when they joined, their social score, their connections and how many species they own. From there, you can choose to follow them, similar to a Twitter follower.
Spending Your Credits on theBlu
Once you earn credits, you can use them to adopt a fish. Once we adopted a Powder Blue Tang for 30 credits, we were taken to our home screen, which showed fish swimming through their current environment and gave options to go to different habitats such as Coral Reef, Sandy Bottom and Kelp Bed. You can also take photos of your current view, go to the next view, follow fish or go to the store. We took a photo of an interesting looking fish and were given the option to share via Facebook.
We tried to enter a Micro Habitat, and were directed to a pop up box that said 25 percent of all proceeds from this habitat go to oceanic conservation.We unlocked this habitat for 20 points so we could view microscopic organisms, then traveled to the Micro Habitat, which took about 30 seconds. We then were able to see round, greenish organisms. By clicking on them, we learned what that organism was called and a little bit about it.
At any time, you can view or edit your profile and see which species you own. A cool, personalized feature is that you can name your fish. By tapping on a fish, it takes you to where that species is currently swimming.
When you don't use your laptop or device for a bit, it reverts to screensaver mode, where you're given plenty of rotating underwater shots. We like the view of a fish slowly swimming along and gazing at the the water's surface above.
There's a lot to discover in this underwater world, and users can easily get hours of entertainment and learning. And we like that one of the motivations behind the project is oceanic conservation. Although there are some minor kinks such as the error when we tried to invite Facebook friends, anyone interested in the oceans will enjoy this screensaver/interactive interface.