Tech

July 13, 2012

One of AFIT’s own designs top word game app

by Cindy Holbrook
Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

Wouldn’t it be cool to design your own app? And wouldn’t it be cool if the app was among the top 50 to be downloaded?

Maj. (Dr.) Kennard Laviers, an assistant professor of computer science in the department of electrical and computer engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology, recently developed a new app called Anagram-it, that started out as just a game for his wife to enjoy. The app has achieved a good measure of success.

“The reason I made Anagram-it is because my wife, a longtime fan of word games, was not able to find one she liked in the app store, so it seemed like a good idea to make one,” he said. “It took me about two weeks of weekend and night-time programming to put it together using Apple’s standard software development kit. My daughter, who is 8 years old, and my wife are mentioned in the app as my software testers. They helped me in a major way to bring the app to the quality it is today.”

Laviers teaches software engineering at AFIT so the development of Anagram-it came natural to him. Anagram-it is a word puzzle game where the object of the game is to find as many sub-words as possible from a given word.

“For example, the game may ask you to find the anagrams of Kennard,” said Laviers, who also does research on artificial intelligence, cyber security with cognitive modeling, and intelligent/mobile interfaces at Wright-Patt. “I would then guess the words ‘and’, ‘red’, ‘nerd’ and so on. Anagram-it was in the top 50 for word games in the Apple app store for a few days and stayed in the top 100 for a few weeks. It continues to sell copies on a daily basis.”

Laviers taught himself to program when he was 12 years old and it has always been a hobby.

“It is something I absolutely love to do,” said Laviers, who is currently working on another app. “I do feel anyone that has a passion for programming can write an iOS application and Apple makes it very easy now to get those applications into the market. Making the programs a continued source of income, I think, requires a lot of time spent testing the application for correctness and asking people their honest opinions about what they like and don’t like about the app, and a willingness to make those changes.

Also, Facebook, Twitter and blogging regularly on the Internet helps a whole lot. My philosophy is not to ‘strike it rich’ with any one application, but just to have a lot of applications in the app store to provide a steady source of income after I retire from the Air Force in three years.”

His new app, currently referred to as Webzy, will be available in the Apple app store soon.

“This one was motivated by something we are trying to do at work,” he said. “More and more interest in the government is getting directed to the use of mobile devices such as iPads and iPhones, and we thought it would be great to look at using the iPad as a type of mobile network controller. So to motivate myself to work on my off time at home, I thought I would take the idea and make a game out of it.”

In this new game/app, users are provided a scrambled network and they have to uncross all the links before the timer runs out. If they uncross all the lines, they move up to the next level and it gets a little harder. To make it interesting, spiders crawl into the picture and try to undo the players’ work. The spiders come in and add more lines. Flies are used to distract the spiders. Players can pick their difficulty level, change sound settings, pick themes and turn on and off graphics features to speed up the game. Also, the top 10 high scores are recorded.

“The game has some interesting particle effects that make it not only fun to play, but also beautiful just to look at,” Laviers added. “This game is an arcade puzzle-style game, which we hope will share some of the popularity of the Anagrams game. This one was far more difficult than the Anagrams app, so hopefully it will have some level of success.”




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