All items about iPhone


The Mobile Radicals Research Group, from Lancaster, UK, today presented their paper “Harnessing creativity to broaden the appeal of location-based games” at the HCI2010 conference.

Kate Lund from the group highlighted the limitations of the few location-based games that have reached the public attention. For example Foursquare and Gowalla have very simple actions and very limited gameplay. The group had took inspiration from geo-caching, noting that is is inclusive and easy to do, but has limited appeal.

They re-invented geo-caching as a game for families and children, creating a new mobile game called “Free All Monsters”. Children can use their creativity to draw monsters, these monsters then get transplanted into the real world, where they and their friends can then use a “Magical Monstervision Machine” (a Nokia N95 running special software) to detect and find monsters in the real world. The display overlays the sensor information and monster pictures onto the real world, much like Layar and other augmented reality applications:

The game reinvents geocaching in a creative, understandable way. For example, the strength of the GPS fix is represented as a “Captoplasm” gauge – you can’t capture monsters if you haven’t got enough. The game reinforces creativity throughout. Children’s monster creations are added to a “Liber Monstorum” (book of monsters), which is used to populate the game world – personalizing the game to the players.

Players also have a “Monster Spotter’s Guide” (which helps encourage teamwork) and have a set of thought-provoking questions for players to answer for each discovery, like “What does this monster dream?” or “Where would he go on holiday?”

The game is also designed to keep players focussed on the real world (which is why the camera augmentation approach is chosen) and favours teamwork and fun over speed and competitiveness.

The game has been used successfully on a small scale at a number of outdoor open days, and will soon be released for use anywhere in the world as an iPhone application (early video here).

There’s more about the group and their research at


Apps without Programming

The new App Inventor takes Google’s “do what you like with your gadgets” approach one step further, by enabling anyone – even those who have never programmed before – to create their own apps with drag and drop ease.

App Inventor is a simple user interface for creating applications for the Android mobile platform, working in a similar way to Visual Basic – you drag buttons onto your screen and attach actions to them.

It’s interesting because in an age where there is fierce debate over whether you have the right to reprogram your device and customize it for your own use (consider Apple’s iOS vs Google’s Android), this presents a third option – by equipping ordinary people to develop exactly the functionality they need, without having to go outside the bounds of a controlled environment. Might we see Apple offer something similar for iPhones soon?

It’s also interesting to consider that if MySpace, Facebook and blogs took the idea of people creating websites and web content into the mainstream, what could happen if the capability to create software became equally mainstream? It would be sure to spark a total revolution in the way we think about computers…

Read more at CNET.


Is Zynga’s break with Facebook a sign that software developers, feeling trapped by the platforms on which they grew, want to down the garden wall?

The biggest app maker on Facebook may want to break up with the social network site. Flash and Apple have divorced, citing irreconcilable differences. We’re moving past the days of net neutrality, into those of app neutrality. Are the garden walls of social networks and mobile devices ready to crumble, just as rigidly controlled online services gave way to the Web fifteen years ago?

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There’s such a thing as TOO open

From the Register, by way of Broadsight, it seems that Google has patched an issue with Android that interpreted text you type as commands. So you can type “reboot” and reboot the phone.

Really? Really?

I mean, I’ve heard Android is supposed to be an open platform. But if the tale is true — and there isn’t some kind of double-backflip configuration knob you have to fiddle with to make this work — it’s a big deal.

Consumer electronics don’t like to be open. Openness breeds complexity. The iPhone is criticized for being closed, but it’s usable (despite this post to the contrary) in part because it’s locked down. The button-bar iPhone resembles nothing so much as the old Compuserve menu. It took us years to move from consumer adoption of buttons to comfort with the open web.

If you let humans play with the guts of things, they tend to break in new and creative ways. Social engineering is the new hacking; now that many operating systems are patched and scanned, hackers exploit human weaknesses to send drive-by malware links to Facebook users. (Good thing the bad guys are after Warcraft passwords, then.)

But back to Android. Apple locks it down; Google opens it up. One approach delivers a seamless experience, the other so much flexibility you can hurt yourself. Apple assumes people will use its devices on a busy New York subway, jostling for handholds and bouncing in purses. Google assumes people will hack together scripts and plug-ins, finding new ways to use tag clouds and APIs. Apple partners with monopoly-scale carriers; Google lobbies for free spectrum.

The two philosophies couldn’t be more different. It’ll be fascinating to see whether integration trumps flexibility, or vice-versa.


Human 2.0 is the Next Big Thing

We’re about to upgrade the human race. It’s more than a technology shift, it’s a cultural one. And it’s perhaps the first step on the singularity. This is most of what I’ve been thinking about lately. We’re sliding into it day by day, without noticing. I firmly believe it is the most significant change the human race faces, and it’s going to drive a tremendous amount of business and fuel wide-ranging ethical discussions. Most of the other technologies we cover here and elsewhere are simply building blocks for Human 2.0.

This is the first of many posts on the subject, and it sounds a bit muddy. Hopefully we can clarify that in the coming months. But if you’re willing to wade through some still-addled thinking, read on.

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