The National Zoo App allows users to view live webcams of pandas, lions, tigers and more. (National Zoo)
Sometimes its easy to get lost in the number of apps available for your phone and tablet. There are thousands to choose from whether you use an Android, Apple, Windows or Blackberry device, and it can be hard to figure out which apps are useful and which are not.
Here is a list of five apps from federal agencies that offer something fun, unique or just plain useful:
1. NASA: Comet Quest
This app game for the iPhone allows users to learn about comets by allowing them to pilot a space probe onto a comet and conduct scientific experiments, earning points along the way. You can also try to dodge icy debris while communicating with Earth if you feel up to it.
Participants earn bonus points for answering short quizzes that test their knowledge of comets.
2. Health and Human Services: Talking Glossary of Genetic Terms
Have you ever wanted to learn more about genetics? This glossary of genetic terms will pronounce the tough words so you can say them properly as well as explain each of them in terms a non-scientist can understand. Some entries even have color illustrations or 3D animations to help users better understand the complex world of genetics.
3. Smithsonian: National Zoo App
For: Apple, Android
Like pandas? Of course, who doesn’t? Wish you could take those pandas wherever you go? Now you can with this app that gives you not just the famous giant panda cam while on the go but five other live animal webcams, including gorillas, tigers and lions. It also comes with educational activities for children and an “animal index” to test your knowledge of the animal kingdom.
When you visit the zoo, you can also use the app for a GPS-enabled map of the 163-acre park.
4. National Park Service: National Mall App
For: Apple, Android
More than just a map of the National Mall in Washington, this app features an “augmented reality” function that allows the user to see park information through the lens of the smartphone camera.
The app also suggests tours depending on how much time you have or if you have any special interests. It comes packed with a calendar of events so you know what to expect.
5. Office of Personnel Management: OPM Alert
For: Apple, Android, Windows, Blackberry
If you’re a fed, a contractor or anyone who does business with the government, then you need this app. It alerts you when there is a change in the operating status of the government, whether a shutdown or blizzard.
In case you are unclear on what that means, it provides detailed explanations for who is affected and for how long, so you can stay at home instead of figuring out who will still be around to take your calls.