Research in the Large 3.0

Launching mobile research apps? Digging through big data from mobile services? Want to share experiences, methods and techniques? Join us for our third Research in the Large workshop at MobileHCI’12 in San Francisco!

Submit your app and/or data experiences: large.mobilelifecentre.org. Deadline May 25th, Workshop Sept 21st.

Also, our Research in the Large 1.0 special issue in the International Journal of Mobile Human Computer Interaction has been out for a while. (Preface here, all articles after the break)

Continue reading “Research in the Large 3.0”

Why do you check in?

After our interviews earlier this year, location mashups and our ongoing studies into different ways of checking in, we’re now gathering more data to understand how people use location-sharing apps.

Gowalla & Foursquare users, why do you check-in and share? Help us out by filling out our survey.

Update: This survey is currently closed, thanks everyone!
If you’d like to participate in Mobile Life’s future studies on location-sharing or try out new location-based apps, please contact me via henriette AT mobilelifecentre.org. We’d really appreciate it!

Photo sharing, with restrictions


The last week of summer, Mobile Life’s Mobile 2.0 crew has been hanging out at Ung08. The crew was handing out Most Wanted, a mobile photo sharing app with a slight twist to bring back the preciousness of giving someone a physical photo print. To collect pictures you have to meet people in real life and they have to decide you’re worthy of sharing. You have to be close and you cannot ‘pass it on’ and you have to hang on to your collection.

The Ung08 festival is organised every last week of the Swedish summer holidays and it’s Europe’s biggest festival for 13-19 yr olds. At the Most Wanted tent they can have their mugshot taken, have the mobile app installed to share their picture with, show their picture on their Facebook profile and take a physical print. The atmosphere at Ung08 has been great and I’m loving the mugshots and sign poetry.

Interestingly, the Ung08 festival was started about 15 years ago as a way to ‘keep kids out of trouble’ during the last unruly week of their vacation. Even while the reason for its inception seems slightly cynical, it it actually quite inspiring to see the Stockholm approach to ‘youth issues’; rather than cracking down on the negative, you can inspire and have people enjoy themselves instead.

From a ‘research in the large’ perspective distributing an app at a festival to teenagers by allowing them to have their picture taken is quite interesting. What happens if you treat your app as a ‘product’ instead of just a research endeavor? iPhones, Droids and dataplans might be cool, but most teens are on a budget. If you don’t want teens to spend money on data traffic and use a local Bluetooth app, you have to convince them to spend effort and return to show who they’ve shared with. And how will they actually use the app? Or is it actually all about the old-fashioned photo print? Lots of lessons learned there already and there’s definitely not one size fits all solution. The follow-ups interviews are underway, now let’s see what we’ll learn about photo sharing, collecting and being cool…

φ² scanner released! Physical check-ins for foursquare


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’).

Research in the LARGE! Using App Stores & wide distribution in research

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.

Moved to Sweden

sicsMLlogoAs of November 2nd I’m a post-doc researcher at SICS and the Mobile Life Centre in Kista (Stockholm), Sweden!

I’m very happy to be on the receiving end of an ERCIM post-doc fellowship and will be working closely with a.o. Lars Erik Holmquist and his excellent (and fun!) group of researchers. The research here revolves around  mobile interaction, human-robot interaction,  ubiquitous computing and physical and affective experiences, all from a user-oriented design perspective.

Diadem project at MobileHCI’09

Oldstyle!This week we’ll be at MobileHCI’09 in Bonn, presenting a poster on our research within the Diadem project. One of the main goals of the Diadem project is to detect potentially hazardous airborne pollutants in urban-industrial areas using input from both a distributed sensor network and people through their mobile phones. In the proposed interaction model, a semi-autonomous system will use sensor data to detect abnormal situations, while people in the affected area will be requested by a mobile service to report additional observations, such as chemical smells (which may not be the easiest to describe).

This raises quite some interesting issues.  Continue reading “Diadem project at MobileHCI’09”