Where's That Jet Going? This App Knows - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Where's That Jet Going? This App Knows

(CNN) -- Have you ever looked up at the sky, seen a plane zipping through the clouds and wondered, "Where the heck are those people going?"

A new smartphone app, while buggy for some users, may have answers.

Plane Finder AR, which debuted last week and costs $2.99, lets iPhone users point their phones at the sky and see data about flights passing overhead.

Among the data presented to users: How fast the planes are moving, where they're going, where they started, their elevation, the flight number and how far the aircraft are from the person's smartphone at exactly that moment.

To accomplish this, the app employs "augmented reality" technology, which refers to an emerging -- and at times clunky -- category of smartphone apps that seek to overlay digital information on top of the real world.

Augmented reality apps let people essentially use their phones as a lens through which to view what's going on around them. The apps switch phones into camera mode, so users see a moving picture of the nearby environment. Then they take data from the internet and plot it on top of the picture.

So, for users of the Plane Finder AR app, a view of the sky is enhanced with gray blobs of information about flights that are zipping by, perhaps unnoticed from the ground.

Mark Daniels, CEO of Pinkfroot, the UK company behind the app, said Plane Finder is designed for people who are curious.

But he admits the app won't work well in all locations yet, particularly in the United States, where plane-tracking technology is behind that of Europe.

"It works better by the day. We put a new feed into New York and one's going across to Oregon and one to Florida in the next couple of days," he said, referring to new signal receivers that can be used to track planes and send data to the application.

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