An app called Ahaa! lets you trace pictures in the clouds (or anything else) and compare them with what your friends see.

The other day, as I paddled the San Marcos River, I looked up in the sky and saw a horse charging through the clouds.
I didn’t mention the illusion to my paddle partner, but he probably saw something else in the white puffs skidding across the sky.
Everybody sees something different when they gaze at the cream swirling into a cup of coffee, eyeball a mountain range or look at a tree branch. And now an app, created by someone I met while whitewater rafting in Colorado this summer, lets you compare your discoveries with friends.
Matthew Burdine, 35, guides whitewater rafting trips on the Arkansas River near Buena Vista. I spent a morning this summer blasting down rapids with him, and as we floated past a cliff face, he pointed out what looked like the outline of a woman in the shape of the rocks.
That prompted Burdine to tell me about the smart phone app he was creating called Ahaa!, which was in development then but has since launched.
Here’s how it works: You take a picture of anything – a cloud formation, a cliff, a mountain or a cup of coffee. You share it with a friend or two, and everybody traces the outline of whatever form they see in the picture. When you press “compare,” the app shows everyone’s picture.
“It’s all about seeing other peoples’ perspective. We all see things differently, but no one’s wrong,” Burdine told me by phone this week.
The idea, he says, applies to more than just clouds. It reminds us that we all have different perspectives on life, and that’s OK. “It doesn’t mean that they’re wrong – it’s just how we see things,” he says.
As a kid, Burdine says he visualized entire kingdoms in the clouds. In second grade, he remembers his mother calling his father as they drove to school on a foggy morning.
“He said, ‘Sally, tell Matt if he wants to touch a cloud, to stick his hand out the window right now,’” he says.
Burdine earned an MBA degree from Ole Miss in 2010. After five years as a rafting guide and ski instructor, he took a solo paddling trip down the Mississippi River to raise money for breast cancer research. That’s when he got the idea for the app.
“Spending six months in a canoe, you can build stuff in your head,” Burdine says.
After the trip he hired a company to design the app he’d dreamed up. The Ahaa! app costs $1.99 in the Apple store. A Google Play version is coming soon.
“It’s just a way to reconnect with the natural world, the outside world, and our surroundings,” Burdine says. “It’s about waking up our imagination, and a way to remind us to look around more.”
And now that we’re stuck at home because of the pandemic, it’s an easy way to engage with friends and family.
“We’re craving interaction, and it’s hard to do that right now,” he says.
I tried the app, which allows you to pull photos from the camera roll in your phone, or snap a new picture. It’s easy and quick, and a good way to get kids involved.
As Burdine told me when our call ended, “Keep your head in the clouds.”

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