Area of Research Interest 2014
Application invention platform for cloud-sharing programming modules and final creations, offering limitless digital interface customization and further possibility for adaptation of physical products
We are seeing a great change in the way humans interact with the technologies that we own. More precisely, we are seeing a shift in our ability to modify, personalize, and customize these technologies to suit our individual needs.
Whereas once we purchased devices according to their pre-set functions and applications, or selected software and mobile applications in order to benefit from the pre-programmed service they provide, we are now demanding that devices be increasingly adaptable according to our requirements and lifestyles. Moreover; we want to be able to make these adjustments on our own.
Several application and technology developers have already caught on to this snowballing trend. There are many recent, fascinating explorations into the potential of ‘customizable’ technology and software.
IFTTT - combining the functions of two available applications
Projects I find to be of particular interest include IFTTT, a platform that allows users to combine specific aspects of multiple mobile applications in what they call a ‘Recipe’. Using building blocks called ‘Channels’, which work to produce an end result through a simple trigger-action format, users of IFTTT can explore various options for the customization of their smart device.
In this way, smart device users become, to some extent, the developers of their own software – calibrating and combining features of existing products to create something which satisfies a more specific need.
152 channels are currently available (Application companies which have an agreement with IFTTT)
Users follow a 'if this, then that' flow for the creation of a new 'Recipe.' There is currently a limit of 2 Channels per Recipe
MaKey MaKey - turning household objects into digital interfaces
MaKey MaKey, the brainchild of two MIT Media Lab graduates, also allows technology users to become inventors through the use of any household object to create a computer mouse or keyboard. MaKey MaKey blurs the boundaries between non-technological and technological devices, as foods, drawings, materials – anything – can become a digital interface.
Little Bits - modular computer engineering and prototyping
Another interest of mine is Little Bits. Rather than the software modules we see in IFTTT, Little Bits is a collection of electronic modules, which can be ‘snapped’ together to create brand new hardware. The potential number of possible hardware creations is limited only by the imagination of the creator.
60 modules are currently available, enabling milions of potential combinations. Little Bits is easy to learn, prototype, and onvent
Scratch - creation and sharing of digital narratives
Scratch, developed by MIT Media Lab’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group, is a platform which enables people with even the most limited of computer programming knowledge to create interactive digital animations and narratives and share them with an online community.
Appinventor - easy-to-use customization of mobile applications
AppInventor is a blocks-based platform created by MIT’s Media Lab which enables the creation of new mobile applications via an easy-to-use web service. Again, the aim of this platform is to bring basic web programming and the customization of applications and user interfaces to a mass market.
AraPhone - customizable Smartphone hardware
AraPhone, currently being developed by Google and set for launch in 2015, aims to allow users to decide upon “exactly and only what functionality goes into” their smart device, as they are switch and change hardware add-ons as and when they are needed.
The Module Developers Kit (MDK) defines the Ara platform for module developers and provides reference implementations for various design features
Future App Store?
Although different in concept and format, all five of these projects have one thing in common: they allow even the most novice users of technology to delve into a world of programming and new media configuration. Furthermore, users are able to design and create products which fulfil a particular purpose.
Potential for innumerable customization is, I think, going to be an overriding feature of upcoming technological developments for the mass market. I imagine a world in which everyone is their own programmer; a world in which we own the tools to limitlessly mold and manipulate our smart devices.
At present, there are options in terms of combining elements of existing applications in order to create a new interface ‘activity’, such as through IFTTT. I wish to look at developing a platform for combining countless modules and parts of programming language that would enable every user, regardless of their level of computer literacy, to customize their own digital interface easily. The platform would also be a place for module sharing between users via the Internet and cloud software, creating what could theoretically be a space for the limitless creation of new applications by the consumers themselves. This customizable digital gadget could also be combined with a similarly customizable physical gadget.
Three specific areas I wish to explore are:
Possibility for sharing via big cloud slices of programming language, as opposed to parts of existing applications or branded interfaces
The use of crowdsourcing and big data to configure interface design
Development of a visual platform through which to arrange and organize these modules in a way accessible to mass market
Platform will run with mass data base available on Internet
Grid provided to users as 'canvas' (size can be chosen)
Users may search for, find, and share modules or parts of existing applications to create new application
Module category-sorting mechanism and displaying design requires development
Upon clicking a module category, all module parts available via cloud sharing are shown
Users visually piece together their application by simply dragging and dropping modules onto the grid canvas
Users may choose organization of module placement within grid
Newly created module combinations and applications may be then shared and used in any devices
User wishes to combine certain parts of Snapchat, camera, and map applications
User may find desired modules via narrowing of module categories among the available function parts of applications (In this example, Snapchat's 'dissapearing' function, the camera's 'lens,' 'shutter,' and 'album' functions, and finally the map application's 'GPS' function are chosen by the user.)
To begin, user must choose a grid size in accordance with the proportions of their smart gadget
Then, the user must drag the chosen modules onto the desired grid location
Visual applications may then be placed onto the grid. Functions will be synchronized with the running device's information, with connecting algorithms of the fuctions created by artificial intelligence and big data from the Internet. (In this case, the purpose of this application could be to take a picture of the user's parked car, to save the GPS information of the car's location, to navigate back to the car's location, and to set a time for when to automatically erase the image having successfully navigated back to the parked car.)
Unnecessary grids are automatically removed, and the proportion of newly created application will be also automatically formed within the running device by the platform.