Mattias Rost, Nicolas Belloni and me just released Spotisquare. Spotisquare is a mobile web app that adds music to places by combining Foursquare, the location-based service, and Spotify, the music streaming service). Connect a Spotify playlist to a foursquare venue, check-in and listen! The mobile app, also usable as a regular foursquare client, is accessible via m.spotisquare.com. More info at www.spotisquare.com. (And a big thank you to foursquare and numerous Twitterers for picking up on both Spotisquare and φ²)
Beyond just building a cool service, this project explores locative media and the opportunities and challenges in combining commercially available services for research purposes. From a research perspective we’re for example interested in how limitations in rapid development of mobile services affect both the user experience and research results.
Lars Erik Holmquist, whom I’m working with at Mobile Life’s mobile 2.0 group, has just posted a vision piece as a guest writer on TechCrunch! The piece embeds our recent work on mobile mashups within a historical perspective on UbiComp research. It also provides a very nice outline of the issues we’re looking at right now in our group, such as rapid development of mobile services and wide distribution of research concepts. Check it out.
Our Mobile 2.0 intern Sebastian Büttner just released his Android scanner app to check-in using barcode stickers to foursquare at http://phi2.mobilelifecentre.org
φ² is a project we’re doing at Mobile 2.0 exploring different ways of physical check-ins for location-based services and the connection between ‘the visible and virtual’. φ² Scanner is a mobile Android app that checks you in to foursquare by scanning 2D barcode stickers. If you want to generate your own barcodes for your favorite venue, use the φ² Barcode Generator.
Beyond just building cool apps, we actually have some bigger research goals as well. While location-based services have been around in research for a long time, they are just now booming as commercial services for ‘people on the street’. So, how do people use them? What does it mean to share your location with others? Which design dimensions affect their experience? How do location-based services change people’s experience of space and place? We’re doing user studies on how existing services (Foursquare, Gowalla, Latitude, Brightkite, etc) are used, we also develop new concepts for location-based services (such as making hidden services visible at physical locations, and physical ‘check-ins’).
We’re organising a workshop on Research in the Large: using app stores, markets and other wide distribution channels in research at UbiComp2010, Sept 26th in Copenhagen, large.mobilelifecentre.org (associated special issue for IJMobHCI)!
When we test mobile or ubiquitous computing apps as researchers, by reasons of ‘necessity’ we usually test on a small group of test users. However, we now have huge opportunities to actually reach large groups of test users – people, out there, in the real world…People’s mobile phones are more and more likely to run very advanced applications and be equipped with interesting sensors. They also have access to app stores and markets; both lone developers and large research and development teams can now relatively easily reach wide audiences.
It seems like we no longer have any excuse not to take advantage of this opportunity for both iterative development and research. BUT: simply ‘throwing an app out there’ is too easy. Wide distribution requires marketing and getting your app noticed, so how do you make sure your PR doesn’t affect your results? (can you?). How do you deal with the comments you’ll get from ‘the real world’ who just want a cool app and not deal with your pesky research questions? How can you make sure that your research data is valid? Who are actually using your app? Which ethical concerns arise when you decide to put your app to the market?
Yes, we need to take this opportunity, but we also need to make sure we get a better sense of successful strategies and ways to overcome the challenges inherent to wide deployment in a research context. Together with Mobile Lifers Mattias Rost and Nicolas Belloni and Frank Bentley (Motorola) and Didier Chincholle (Ericsson) I’m organising the workshop at UbiComp2010 to do exactly that. Go check out the workshop call, send us your position paper and/or contribute to the associated special issue of the Int. Journal of Mobile HCI.