Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Talks For Computing Teachers - Mobile Software Engineering

Professor Rod Murray-Smith Speaking at the first Glasgow University Talks For Computing Teachers

Not just mobile phones but can include arrange of devices including technology such as RFID. The Glasgow research group and course looks at aspects such as ubiquitous computing and mobile HCI.

Mobile Internet becoming increasingly important, for example in 2008, mobile broadband overtook fixed broadband connections. in the developing world, the difference is even more pronounced. It is a rapidly moving area which makes it difficult to keep up with the pace of change. For example, Android OS for phones came from 0% to 25% Market share in a ridiculously short time.

What makes developing for mobile technology different? One key aspect is context. Mobile technology tends to be used in areas where there a many distractions (e.g. noise) and where you cannot give it your full attention. Battery life is also a problem. You may be able to develop a stunningly useful application but if it hammers battery life it is likely to be rejected. (Battery life seems to be the weak link. Processing power and memory are growing but nobody sees a huge leap in battery technology in the near future.) Data charges can also be problematic and mobile applications should aim to be parsimonious in relation to downloading data.

Important not just to try and replicate desktop application. Mobile applications need to be simpler and more focused on the key information. (Compare for example a standard web page with a mobile web page.) Other constraints on programming for the mobile environment are limited memory and large fingers controlling small screens. Current generation of programmers have learned to program in an environment that effectively has infinite resources. It can be a good discipline therefore to learn to program in the restricted environment of mobiles.

Impact on human life. Worth reading Natural Born Cyborgs by Clark. See also Microsoft advert - Really?



Mobile technology is increasingly using sensor based interactions using accelerometers, GPS, cameras, proximity, etc. For example, Shoogle, developed at Glasgow to provide a way of interacting with email.

Talked about Anglepose, a method of calculating angle and orientation of the finger used to control a touchscreen. Shows how you can create "virtual sensors" which opens up new possibilities in how we interact with devices, e.g. your finger could be used like a joystick.

Augmented reality - building a digital overlay on the physical world. Example was given of the difference between vehicle navigation (where audio directions are highly desirable) and pedestrian navigation (where audio directions are generally unwelcome), so other methods of giving directional information is necessary.

Large number of videos from Glasgow University that shows what their students are doing with mobile technology. A useful resource for schools to show pupils what Computing Science is like. The jobs Market for mobile developers is booming. Tools are available, such as Flowella that allows pupils to crate interactive prototypes without having to code the mobile device.

Mobile browsers are now based on WebKit. This allows you to develop rich mobile web applications which give cross platform development possibilities.

Interesting possibilities exist in the area of mobile devices interacting with other devices in the environment. Cheap devices, such as the Kinect, also open up interesting possibilities. Augmented reality applications, such as BuildAR make it easy to develop virtual reality applications. App Inventor from Google is also a tool to support mobile application development.


{Comments: Really interesting night. The talk filled in detail on, and gave examples of, current and future developments. Also some great ideas for classroom work, e.g. BuildAR and App Inventor. Really interesting to hear the contrast with the car industry where it can take seven years for ideas to find their way into cars. In contrast, mobile phone developers are building the future and can see their ideas in action within months. - DDM}

3 comments:

Mobile Application Development said...

If you want your app to be successful then you really need one that fits the needs of the customer. That's why I really like augmented reality apps that actually help people's real lives.

David said...

Hello There

I was really impressed with the BuildAR tool

Sonu Gupta said...

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