Android™ App for SPIE Field Guide

SPIE member Christopher Wilcox has created an SPIE Field Guide app for Android devices.

01 April 2012
Alexa Zaske and Kathy Sheehan

After seeing that SPIE had produced an iPhone application for the SPIE Field Guide to Geometrical Optics, SPIE member Christopher Wilcox, an electrical engineer at the U.S. Naval Research Lab (NRL), thought of designing a similar app to tap into a larger user base—people with an Android device.

Wilcox, who regularly publishes his optics research and has developed several Android apps, worked with SPIE Fellow Sergio Restaino, senior optical physicist at NRL, to design a mobile app SPIE would be interested in.

The new SPIE Field Guide app for Android devices (available at for $6.99, along with a free “lite” version) offers key definitions, equations, illustrations, applications, and design considerations through an interactive Field Guide, originally authored by SPIE Fellow John Greivenkamp, a member of the SPIE Board of Directors. Besides getting tips for use in the lab and in the field, users can bookmark their findings, conduct full-text search, and enter notes.

Wilcox integrated voice-activated search in the app, making it easy to search the Field Guide while on the go. Another feature is image enlargement, which allows users to zoom into or enlarge images, making it easier to interact with equations and figures.

“It is my vision that textbooks one day could be just like this,” Wilcox says. “Electronic content with interactive equations and figures can really give students a visual feel of what’s going on. In the fields of math and science, this could potentially be very valuable.”

 Photo courtesy of Jamie J. Hartman, NRL

Wilcox, who has a PhD in engineering and a master's in electrical and computer engineering from University of New Mexico, has numerous papers in the SPIE Digital Library, most recently, “Design and verification of finite element model for a thin-shelled composite mirror for use with MEMS active optics,” presented at SPIE Photonics West in January. He will be a conference session chair for the first time at SPIE Defense, Security, and Sensing 2012 in Baltimore, MD, 23-27 April, where he will also present three papers.

He started a small business several years ago to develop apps for the Android market. His most popular, the Meteor Shower Calendar, shows a list of upcoming meteor showers and tells you where in the sky to look for them. 

"I've also made several live wallpapers that use the phone's location data to calculate sunrise and sunset and sets the background colors accordingly," Wilcox says. "It also shows the current phase of the moon.

"And, on a slightly 'nerdy' note,  the stars twinkle at night. The algorithm is based on work I did for my PhD dissertation where I developed a mathematical model to describe the atmosphere's effects on starlight as it propagates to a telescope."  

Wilcox lives in New Mexico with his wife, Jennifer, and son, Erik.

The Field Guide to Geometrical Optics is also available as a spiral-bound book on paper or ebook.

SPIE offers several mobile apps for the optics and photonics community, including the latest SPIE Newsroom app for iPhones, a conference app, and the SPIE Field Guide to Geometrical Optics. Go to

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