NASA and the Cloud Appreciation Society’s Crowdsourced Gamification App for Research

NASA and the Cloud Appreciation Society’s Crowdsourced Gamification App for Research

NASA CloudSpotter App

CloudSpotter Crowdsources Research About the Sky

It’s become quite clear to all sorts of businesses and organizations that adding an element of gamification to their interactions with their customers can be a real asset to them.  Even NASA is taking note of the success of gamification, and working to use it to their advantage.

NASA’s CERES system is set up on three different satellites that use an assortment of instruments to measure the amount of sunlight reflected back into space from the Earth and how much heat it emits.  Cloud-covered areas reflect back a different amount of light than areas with clear skies, but it’s sometimes difficult for CERES to tell whether it’s detecting clouds or the Earth’s surface.  It’s particularly difficult for CERES to get an accurate reading if the clouds are passing over a snow-covered area, or if it’s difficult to tell what type of cloud it’s looking at (since different types of clouds have different densities).

NASA’s solution is an app called CloudSpotter, created by the Cloud Appreciation Society. Users take pictures of the sky, which are tagged by the phone’s GPS system, and then answer a number of questions about the clouds to determine what type they’re looking at.  Pictures are sent to the Cloud Appreciation Society to be checked over, and the data is then sent to NASA.  Users can earn points and level up by accurately identifying different cloud types.  NASA then coordinates the data so that it can more accurately calibrate CERES.

NASA has been crowd-sourcing cloud data from school students since 1997, but CloudSpotter enables it to source information from a much broader collection of users.  The combination of crowd-sourcing and gamification makes for a powerful asset for any organization, whether science or business-oriented.

The CloudSpotter app joins NASA’s growing list of gamification initiatives like Starlite and Moonbase Alpha.


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  1. Dear Kevin, we really appreciate you featuring our app, it is however important to note that CloudSpotter was created by The Cloud Appreciation Society, not by NASA. We are actually collaborating with NASA, please read the details on our website at and in the Guardian article at We would be grateful if you could change the copy above to reflect this accordingly. Many thanks, and feel free to get in touch with us if you have any further questions.