Archive for category Work on Project

News of the World!

newspaperWalking Through Time was featured as a full page news story in the Scottish national newspaper The Sunday Herald. On page 5 too!

check out the online version here:

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/education/latest-iphone-app-lets-users-satnav-through-time-1.995767

it seems to have captured the publics imagination.

Published on 3 Jan 2010

“Time travelling used to be an expensive, clumsy business.

According to TV shows and films such as Dr Who and Back To The Future, would-be explorers of the fourth dimension need at least 1.21 gigawatts or a large blue police box to get anywhere. But a new iPhone application developed in Scotland could simplify the whole process.

Walking Through Time is a new app created by academics at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA). It applies the satnav technology used by Google Earth, but instead of pinpointing where the user is on a current map, it shows where they would have stood two centuries ago.”

, , , , ,

No Comments

User Participation

User Participation

Dave and Chris have previously blogged about the test-run with the Historical Society, which was largely unsuccessful due to a series of problems from the outset. Despite not being able to fully access the application (but having seen several demo’s on Chris’s computer), both Robin and Andrew seemed very enthusiastic about the potential for the application, which was really encouraging. Both seemed to grasp the concept and methods of navigation well, despite admitting to not being particularly computer literate or owning a mobile phone!

Shortly after (following some trouble-shooting) were the test runs with staff and Diploma students from college. The first was with Vicky, from the conservation unit. Having never used an iPhone before, she found the application fairly straightforward to navigate, although concern was expressed at the size of the buttons along the bottom of the main screen – there were a few occassions where the wrong menu was selected, and due to signal problems it often took a long time to return to the main screen.

01


A quick run-through outside Old College

Generally, this round of testing went without too many hitches. Remembering to turn 3G on makes a big difference. I’m not particularly iPhone savvy, so had to be instructed by Peter over the phone on how to switch it on – I’m not sure if it’s safe to assume that other iPhone users would know to (or how to) do this?

02

On the move….and walking through time!

Figuring it would be a popular route for future users (sightseers, students, historians etc.), we walked from Chamber Street to the bottom of the High Street. Although the maps loaded pretty quickly, Vicky found the naming and filing to be quite confusing and frustrating, and suggested that there should be an option to list all of the maps chronologically, rather than just by scale or name (i.e. ‘Edinburghshire’).

03

Vicky in the 18th century…

At the time of testing, the conservation students had a project site in Aitchison Close, so we paid a visit. It was really great to see Vicky get excited by selecting and tagging the different maps! She was really positive about the benefit the application could have on projects and site visits. Her only suggestion at this point was that perhaps it would be worthwhile considering photographs of former streetscapes and buildings (either through markers or as a seperate option in a chronological list similar to the maps). We discussed the concept of the markers a bit more – I thought perhaps this was where the answer could lie, but Vicky felt that it would be better to have the images already available rather than hoping that someone else had uploaded them (or having to track them down and upload them personally).

04


We walked back up the High Street towards Chamber Street, and hit a few minor glitches along the way – despite a full signal, on several occassions Vicky’s screen went white then sent her to the start-up screen to log in again. Thankfully this seemed to be shortlived! Before returning the iPhones to Peter and Petra we both created routes using the markers we had created. Again, this was something that Vicky was enthusiastic about – like the team, she felt that pre-existing routes laden with information (as well as the users ability to create their own) would be a valuable and interesting learning tool.

Later in the same week I went out and about with Feng, Klas (both students) and Ian. We walked from Chamber Street to the Castle Esplanade, then through some of the nearby closes where Ian knew there had been several radical changes.

05


Klas, Feng and Ian discussing their finds on the Edinburgh Castle Esplanade

Again, the application ran smoothly, with the only draw back being the length of time it took to load some of the maps. This seemed to be largely due to the poor (or non-existent) signal we got in the closes and courtyards. It’s annoying that this hinders it so much, but even more annoying is the fact that it’s outwith our control.

Everyone was really excited about the application, especially Ian – we got an amazing commentary from him as we walked around, which gave a great insight into how adding all this information (via markers, routes etc) could greatly enrich the users experience of and interaction with the city.

Having already discussed the previous feedback from Vicky, Robin and Andrew, the group had little else to add, other than comments about the occassionally disappointing 3G signal. From the esplanade we walked back towards Nicolson Square before heading to Chamber Street (with no signal problems!). Klas (an M.Phil. student) is interested in the relationship between people and the city of Edinburgh, and was encouraged by the potential for the application as a research/design tool.

All in all, the application got a huge thumbs up from all who tested it, which was a great result for us.

Thanks to everybody for volunteering – your feedback has been much appreciated and greatly valued!

07

, , , , , , ,

No Comments

Walking Through Time Project Summary - Development

In the spirit of Chris’s post on SWOT’ing.   I thought I would give a similar post from the development side.

Strengths

Web Application - After some initial wobbles we were set on doing a Web Application which paid of for us in many ways.  We originally thought that we would have to create  a bespoke application for a particular mobile application to access the GPS features of a device.  Chris had originally put us on the iPhone track and we looked into Objective C but as neither Petra or I were Apple developers, we got lucky and the geoLocation object came out for both mobile safari and desktop browsers; which solved that problem.  This small turn of fate turned out to be the ultimate strength of the Application.  The original goal was to create a field work tool but in making a web application we were able to open it out to a wider audience.  We were able to quickly turn around changes via the Web App - just using HTML and Javascript.

Java - Petra’s decision to use java on the backend also paid off.  As she is a much better Java programmer than me, she was able to quickly get a flexible framework up and running without too much fuss.

Creativity - Working with the Art College for the first time was a real breath of fresh air for the project team.  Working on an application which was both creatively and technically rewarding was a very pleasant side effect of working with our colleagues.  The team from the Art College were able to provide both help in terms of technical ideas  but also the much more conceptual ideas of what the project could offer.  This is a fairly rare thing to get when working directly with a customer, one I found particularly rewarding.

Design - We were able to explore some rather radical ideas which; didn’t manifest but we were able to use tools like Balsamiq to articulate these ideas quickly and easily to the other members of the team.

Weakness

Mobile Platform - The platform of the phones as a real issue.  Screen size and speed were the 2 biggest factors.  We were able to overcome a lot of the issues but it meant that we were spending a little longer than we would have liked looking at solving speed issues rather than coming up with features.

Workload -  I for one certainly was working with a number of other projects while developing this and Petra was developing this full time, and I was not able to spend as long on it as I wished to.  Also we were perhaps a little ambitious in scope, I for one was keen to try some rather odd things which perhaps were shooting a little too high given the time.

Opportunities

EDINA - we were able to work with EDINA for the first time which was very rewarding.  Our colleagues there were extremely helpful in getting us started and providing solutions.

Agile - we were able to explore working in a very Agile style way with this project.  We deliberately tried to work with the customer to get as many ideas from them as possible, we also gave ourselves fairly strict schedules to accomplish our “work packages”, dropping or adding features as time would allow.  This was a very developer centric way to work - which for us as developers is great but it would be interesting to explore this in a slightly more controlled situation.

Mobile Devices Development - This was  a great exposure to work with mobile devices and explore what is possible.  This is not something that we would have been able to explore without the funding.  To have some time to do this with some leisure has been a great learning experience.

Threats

I am not sure that I can really add any threats to the project from a development perspective after the fact but I think I can easily say that when we started we had no idea how to do this.  It was based on some ideas, scraps of paper and some bits of code.

Well that’s a very brief round up of some of the development process of this little prototype

, , , , ,

1 Comment

This Happened - it happened even if I wasn’t quite ready for it

I was a little less than prepared (I blame last weeks knee injury) but I presented at This Happened last night.

We opted for a little bit of tech presentation and I tried to make it as accessible as possible but I did find myself rambling a little bit (during a 10 minute presentation is not a good idea).  The audience response was very kind and people asked some great questions.  So thank you everyone who attended and listened and for Chris for arranging.  Also I forget to thank Petra for all her hard work during the project but the timer was scarily ticking down to zero and I was really quite keen to get finished.

Michael Salmond - had some interesting links to ours in trying to view the city in different ways from a double decker bus and the juxtaposition of ideas of colonialism and cultural diversity.

Paul Rodgers and Ewan Winton -  might be of interest to some of our colleagues on the JISC RI funding programme, as it explores the connection between the tools of social media and the actual use in the creative industries.

Anab Jain - her talk was about a project see undertook with 8 people to explore the idea of the future and peoples desires, needs and expectations of the future.  It’s a really interesting project exploring the aspirations and consequences of a group designing for the future.

Sarah Drummond and Laurie Currie presented mypolice which is quite simply a really brilliant idea.  Allowing anyone  to engage with the police in both formal and informal ways using social media.  The idea being that people can celebrate interactions with the police where they have had positive experiences, to reinforce good work.  It also allows a dialogue when the service has been less than brilliant, allowing people to have a democratic voice to highlight flaws but also get some feedback to hopefully feel they are being listened too.  The work came out the Social Innovation Camp in Glasgow, which unites nerds and non nerds to produce interesting work in 48 hrs.  It’ll be really interesting to see how they bring the idea to market.

Twitter discussion

, , ,

No Comments

A little bit of Cache goes a long way - a win

Petra enabled some of the compression and caching on the tomcat server and too great success.

Petra and my tests have been against a 3GS and Chris loaned us a 3G to do some testing.  A little bit of pre-caching of some images and the site now flies along.  As the data is not changing a great deal (it is historical after all) we can have a long cache time on and well it works.  Don’t know why we didn’t think of it sooner (well I didn’t and Petra did)

,

No Comments

Web App fail?

The first round of testing that Karlyn performed was a resounding… well, fail to be honest.  I received a phone call bright and early one morning with the results of Karlyn’s testing.

To be honest it just didn’t work for her.  After a fairly disappointed chat we figured out what the problem was - is - might be?

Our testing has been done with WI-Fi and with iphone 3gs’s, and whenever we have done tests they are under lab conditions with the watchful eye of Petra or myself.  Outwith those lab conditions it turns out that the world of mobile and web apps is a bit fraught.

The main issue was getting a consistent and reliable signal at 3g - without this our application doesn’t work so well.  This is probably true of almost all mobile applications that need an internet connection but particularly for us as we are getting back data from a couple of sources and presenting it.  One web service call and another direct HTTP connection but that is for each tile, so we are basically sending a whole lot of HTTP requests and over GPRS this is not so good.

We came up with a couple of ideas on how to solve this - 1) try the Google Maps 3 API which is a little more mobile centric 2) some caching

, , , , , ,

1 Comment

lack of blogging - must mean we are busy

Since getting back from the JICRI conference we have been very quiet on the blog.  This doesn’t mean we haven’t been up to much (quite the opposite) but we have been a bit busy with other project commitments but I thought I better get blogging.

First of all thanks to everyone who spoke to us and voted for us at the JISCRI event.  Our cheeky little nerdy gag about Deloreans found a home.  We were able to hold our heads high as second place in the 20 second pitches, even after Pat’s rather brilliant phone based pitch.

So I thought I would do a couple of short posts on what we have been trying and what were up to as we have our prototype wandering into the users hands.

,

No Comments

Cross Platform?

One of our goals was to try and produce something which worked cross platform.  We recognised this was a bit of a steep call but our lofty goals haven’t stopped us this far.  As a lot of our earlier work was focused on exploring navigation techniques and ideas we got a little swept up in iPhone mania (I blame Chris personally) but worry not…

android Video

I gave it a spin in the android simulator and well … it works …

Kind of, a lot of the functionality which we are relying on api’s for doesn’t seem to work in the emulator but what does work is the very basics of the application - which is really, really encouraging

Please excuse the crudely put together flash video but I was so excited that I a) got the emulator to work and b) the application worked, I felt a need to share…

, , , , , , ,

1 Comment

Testing Times Ahead!

Chris is going to have good play with the version 1 of the application.

So we have produced a very quick summary of the available functions in the first phase of testing

, , ,

1 Comment

Work on the Basics

With our recent successes in prototpying our next step is to get the basic functionality agreed:

Create Database Model -> 1 day
follow the user - > poll position - 1 day
Navigation across the top - to change the map layers - Fixed - 0.5 day
Query and display of markers - API - 2 days
Simple Route - 3 days

This is what we are looking at for our first bigger release of the software.  Our prototype at the moment is running away quite nicely at the back of the room but we are looking to build in the database functionality as our next big step.

In the loose set of requirements we identified for next bigger phase, include the following:

Routes Administration
Edit Landmarks
Settings and displays of application
Adding Notes to Landmarks
View by Notes - Using the Notes against a landmark to drive the navigation in terms of tagclouds etc
View by Landmarks - Sizing of the landmarks with the time period relating to size.
Make the routes more complex - changing the layers as the user progresses through the route.

,

1 Comment