Student Developed App is an Instagram Game Changer

Millennials might need to put down their avocado toast for this news: BYU computer science student Candice Lusk has developed the perfect solution for 20-somethings posing for Instagram photos as they courageously backpack through Tibet and Thailand.

“The real idea for the [app] came when I went to Japan for a research conference with my husband,” Lusk said. “Anytime I asked somebody to take a photo of us, they would miss what I wanted.”

Lusk remembers a specific incident when she and her husband asked someone to take a picture of them in front of a herd of Nara deer—wild ungulates that roam the city of their namesake.

“We were standing in front of these stone statues and the deer, and I asked somebody to take our photo. They moved the camera so you couldn’t see any of the deer!” Lusk said. “It’s a problem I’ve always had—where the person who is taking your photo is actually being very nice by taking your photo, . . . but you also want a good picture because you care more [about it] than they do. I just started thinking that my phone should be smarter; there should be a way to mediate this interaction.”

Lusk’s solution was Cake Cam: an app that that allows users to take a picture of the exact positioning and background they want in a photo before handing their phone over to a helpful stranger. They can then step into the desired frame, ensuring they get the photo they planned on.

“I came up with the idea of having the user take a picture—the one they wanted—and then have the camera guide the other user into taking the same picture using [crosshair] marks,” Lusk said.

Cake Cam is a manifestation of Lusk’s thesis on computer-mediated collaboration (improving interaction between humans through the use of computers). According to Lusk, humans constantly encounter asynchronous “caring situations”—asking for directions, ordering food, taking a picture—where there is a high discrepancy between two individual’s investments in a situation.

“The app creates a unique interaction where one side cares a lot [about the photo] and the other side doesn’t,” Lusk said. “So how can you mediate that situation so the person who cares a lot can quickly communicate their goal to the person who doesn’t care?”

Lusk was persistent in developing an app that was user friendly and intuitive, facilitating concise communication between the two parties.

“I knew that the interaction needed to be very quick because you can’t explain to somebody how to use the app. That’s just as bad as explaining how you want the picture taken,” Lusk said.

So far, reactions to the app have been nothing but positive. In October, Lusk entered Cake Cam into MobiCom’s (Annual International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking) app competition at Snowbird Ski Resort in Utah. She took first place.

“I think I won at the competition because I basically got up, explained my app, and then I said, ‘Okay, I’m just going to demonstrate it for you. Can someone come and take my picture?’ I didn’t show them a single screen of the app until I asked a stranger to use it,” Lusk said. “I didn’t even walk them through the app. I just handed [a person] the phone, and he was able to do it.”

Lusk is now submitting her app to BYU’s Student Innovator of the Year Competition as well as its Mobile App Competition. She knows Cake Cam is the solution to a common problem people deal with, especially millennials.

“My target audience is probably 18- to 35-year-old travelers who post on Instagram. It’s people who care about and want to share their photos,” Lusk said. “My ultimate goal is to get a huge user base . . . and then get someone like Apple to incorporate it into the standard camera. . . . It would be that easy to use.”

Lusk plans on submitting Cake Cam to the iOS App Store in 2018.


By James Collard Posted on