Pursuit of Appiness: Natural History

The Smithsonian is a bear when it comes to Apps… Smithsonian Institution has its own confusing suite of apps, while also having one all encompassing app. Instead, I took a different route. I looked at an app for the NMNH developed by the Smithsonian Institution that generates unique content.

“MEAnderthal” has sadly been removed from the app store, so for those of you dying to see it, your only chance will be to look at the below screenshots. (Also, I still have it downloaded, just like I have the original Flappy Bird, so if anyone wants to play some deleted games, let me know). Before the app was removed, I went to NMNH and looked at the MEAnderthal app, which is designed to be used in the Human Origins exhibit. With this app, you can take or upload a photo of yourself and “neanderthal-ize” yourself: think protruding brow, too much facial hair, wide set eyes… all that attractive stuff.

It is advertised on the Human Origins page of the SI website, as well as on the general website for the Smithsonian and the NMNH. Unfortunately, since the app is no longer available (literally as of 2 weeks ago), there is no advertisement within the Human Origins hall. I cannot remember if there was an advertisement when I first looked a couple weeks ago, but when I revisited earlier this week, I looked, to no avail.

I think I know why it is not being advertised in the exhibit and has since been removed from the App store… and that is because it simply doesn’t work. I have an iPhone 5s with Verizon, and even when connected to SI wifi and my own wifi connection at home, the following screenshots detail how far I was able to connect with this app:

IMG_8007 IMG_8008IMG_8009

this last screenshot is my favorite:


Nice brown screen!

So whether or not it is truly ethical to use this app in my evaluation since it didn’t work, I did anyway based on my belief that an SI developed app should at least be able to do one of its duties, regardless of how well it accomplishes that duty. But this app couldn’t even take a photo. I like it when really well designed, beautiful apps crash, because at least I can blame it on the intense graphics or coding–but this app isn’t even that aesthetically pleasing.

I like the concept behind it, which is why I rated it highly on its content value inside and outside of the museum. It doesn’t rely on the exhibit, but at the same time, it enhances the exhibit. It may seem like just a silly game, but I think that a child might be able to more easily connect their identity to his or her neanderthal ancestors if they can “neanderthal-ize” themselves. Also it is decently advertised, save having big signs in the hall. It apparently works on Android, as well, but since I don’t have one, I cannot speak to that. You can download it for iPad, but I always think it’s so silly when people take selfies with their big ol’ iPads 🙂

Despite those half-hearted compliments, I unfortunately have to give it a 2.

App Eval 2


2 thoughts on “Pursuit of Appiness: Natural History

  1. I am sorry that this app is no longer available though it sounds like it was not the best experience you could have had. I think an app that modifies pictures is nice for a little while but it does not hold our attention for very long. I also think that you are correct in pointing out that it did not really expand on the exhibit that much and did not allow for deeper engagement. I think that increased engagement or connection should be the goal of any app and I do not think this app did this at all. While the entertainment factor might garner some connection, I think there are betters way to create deeper connections


  2. That’s really interesting– have they taken the MEAnderthal photobooth in the exhibit down as well? As I remember, when it first launched the app was a way to make the booth accessible to a wider audience. The early reviews weren’t very high either though, which was disappointing. The app had great potential with a few tweaks.


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