Author Archives: dot

Insights into Android Wear

When the first smart watches started appearing on the market about two years ago (yes, they did exist before Apple’s entry into that market), I wasn’t sure I’d ever use this new form of mobile experience.

Since mid August, however, I’ve been an owner of a Moto360. It’s not the newest watch but the decision was made after long considerations, weighing off size, weight and support for new features. It seemed the right size, looking good and up for the task.

How’s my experience so far been ?

Well, quite positive, actually.

To provide some background, let me say that I haven’t used a watch for many years. I don’t use its time function and placing a watch on my wrist feels somewhat weird. So any smart watch had to provide some useful functionality, more than just being pretty in looks.

Notifications, however, were never enough. A Pebble watch has been providing such function for years now. And recently, I tested another watch, aiming at providing simple notifications, apart from looking great.

So what other functions do I end up using on my Android watch?

First of all, I extended the Storica application towards Android Wear support – quite easy to do since Android Wear is essentially a full blown Android with specific design guidelines. Now, I can annotate events and my mood right from the watch. That’s great and saves me time but also encourages me to annotate more – an extension that increases the usefulness for my watch. I can also measure my heart rate, although the watch sensors are inherently unreliable and often show no result! Last but not least, I can stop recording without taking my phone out.

A second usage is for store cards. Instead of taking my phone out, I can use my watch to have various store cards scanned for loyalty points. Slightly geeky but always a good smile in a store. It works surprisingly well!

Other usages are still notifications. Not just seeing what SMS or hangout I got but sometimes even responding with preset short responses. Voice dictation works on and off, not really a serious alternative yet.

There are a few other things that could be interesting. For instance, Google Translate allows for net-assisted translation, even turning the responses on their head, allowing for conversing with somebody via looking at your watch. Funny but will need to wait for roaming charges to decrease (one of those services which would benefit from the EU’s plans to curtail roaming charges and therefore enable more digital services abroad).

Will I continue to use my watch?

I sure will! It’s got its usages and I got used to wearing a watch again. But it needs its usefulness beyond being the latest gadget!

Enjoying your Vacation? Wish you recorded it all in detail?

Are you reading this blog somewhere away from home? Going away soon or is your vacation already over?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could recollect this splendid time through rich multimedia experiences, re-walk that track during your explorations in that small village you loved so much? 

I have been using AIRS and Storica as a travel diary to have answers to these questions. It’s been a great experience to relive my travels at any time, right on my mobile! Tracks are visualised through fly-over maps with each trackpoint showing an individual context panels after being clicked on.  These panels show you more information on light, noise level, people around, programs used on your mobile and much more. The use of Google Maps guarantees that the maps are detailed and accurate.

What I enjoy most, though, are the digital stories of my travels; stories told by Storica through teasing out meaningful events from my recordings, these events around social comms, pictures taken or the annotations I added through AIRS (including my mood when I saw that amazing painting in a museum). I can personalise these stories by choosing location-dependent backgrounds (which I usually associate with my own snapshots from the places I’ve been to). Small maps, again, show you where the event occurred and I can filter events chosen in order to focus certain days.

Wish you had used AIRS and Storica for yourself? Wait, it gets better!

TecVis, the company behind AIRS and Storica, have announced their Kickstarter project, which extends the mobile solution towards the desktop. This effectively extends your personal diary towards that family diary you have been looking for! Not only can you include recordings from your desktop directly, e.g., on application usage, web usage etc, but you can also enjoy your digital stories and detailed maps on the bigger screen. All this is based on the WordPress blogging platform so that you can extend your recordings with own annotations as blogs while being able to personalise the blog to your liking (e.g., putting that great picture from your last trip as a background).

As a person who is very concerned with my own data, the policy that “Your data is Yours” is really appealing to me. The mobile recording platform AIRS only stores recordings locally on your device. Any transfer off is done by myself to my own devices – nothing is stored in the cloud just to use it. The desktop version, to be done through the Kickstarter project, also stores data only locally on your device with the software only processing and visualising locally. The subscription for the desktop version only covers the ability to add new data at any point; when stopping the subscription all data remains my own! That is a significant departure from the many web-based tracking tools out there!

Is Storica the right thing for you? If you have ever looked for an answer to the questions at the beginning of this post, then Storica is your answer! To make it happen, the Kickstarter projects needs backing though, so head over and pledge!

Lifelogging with our AIRS and Storica apps

For the last year, I’ve been using our mobile apps AIRS and Storica for lifelogging, i.e., recording a large variety of mobile-centric data for experience and lifestyle purposes. With the increasing power and storage in modern smartphones, the times seem right for creating your own personal history!

AIRS is the recording part, securely storing the defined data in an internal SQlite database, while Storica allows for processing and visualising the data right on your mobile.

You can decide what to record and how (AIRS provides a lifelogging template that you can use if you don’t want to bother configuring it all yourself). TecVis (the provider of AIRS and Storica) provide web pages with tips for recording as well as an online manual for AIRS to better tune the settings to your liking. It can record location (GPS-based), WiFi around you, BT devices, ambient noise level, all internal sensors (even the latest ambient humidity of the Galaxy S4), attached sensors such as the Zephyr HxM heart rate sensor, and many more (65 pieces of information are supported, according to the website). Widgets are supported for capturing own annotations during the day (e.g., what you are doing, what annoys you, …) or your mood (through emoticons).

The Storica app allows for experiencing your recordings right on your phone. Location tracks are visualised using the Google Map v2 with fly-over maps of your daily track. Meaningful events (such as social comms, annotated events or calendar appointments) are gathered and visualised as ‘stories of your day’ with personalisable backgrounds based on spatial information and a context panel which shows you important context information at the time of the event (such as noise levels, light levels etc). A media gallery enriches your snapshots with context information similar to the stories. Overall, Storica is really cool for recollecting where you’ve been days or weeks ago, what happened around you, what did you annotate at that time, etc.

Given the vast information gathered, AIRS is free and open source so that you can inspect the gathering modules. No data leaves your device unless you specifically copy a backup (or sync, e.g., via Bluetooth)! The data remains yours, which is very important to me. Storica is free, too, for short-term memory recollection, i.e., looking back no more than 7 days at any point of time. Longer-term recollection (e.g., looking through your recordings from Christmas) can be purchased through in-app billing.

How’s battery life? Recording like this does cost battery. I’ve been using AIRS now for almost two years and its battery usage has constantly improved. When executing the lifelogging template (which comes as standard), my battery consumption per hour increases from ca 1% (Galaxy Nexus on Android 4.2.2) to about 3.5% to 4%. If you use adaptive GPS and often hang around in places you marked in AIRS, this consumption goes down to 2.5% in those places (e.g., at work or at home). Hence, I can record all day without absolutely depleting my battery – and I often top up the battery in any case, even without recording.

Where is this all heading to? With many apps doing location recording, such as Saga or MyTracks from Google, AIRS goes one step further by widening the pool of information being recorded. It’s hard to say where it will go. Is it useful? I do think so since I enjoy the recollections enabled by it, the evidence you can gather for yourself (e.g., pinpointing noisy situations and the stress impact it had on you) and the simple fun of having a fly-over experience of your last holiday ;-)

Updating Storica with more features

Storica has been updated frequently since its initial release earlier this year. We have expanded on the available views, the graphics, added monthly views as well as support for multi-device viewing.

We develop the application under the banner of TecVis LP, our consulting company that is dedicated to the area of information-centric architectures with applications in lifelogging, self-awareness and self-monitoring. On the TecVis website, we frequently blog about updates but also selected features of Storica for your information, such as how to use our location label feature in Storica.

So head over to the TecVis website and check out the latest news about Storica! More importantly, head over to the Playstore and download Storica!

Take a look at “Storica: Experience your life”

I’m proud to announce Storica, available in the Google Play Store.

Storica is a companion to AIRS. While AIRS allows for recording various aspects of your life, Storica lets you experience it. Storica supports maps with flyover effects and a context-enriched gallery. But most interestingly, Storica support the engaging stories that Dana Pavel developed in her research. It is quite lovely to see these presentations on a mobile screen.

So go, check it out. Experience your life

Future Internet event – A Glimpse at the Future of Free Access to Come?

I am at one of these Future Internet events, organised by a European research project. The agenda looks interesting but nonetheless there’s an issue that occurs often at these events, which makes me wonder.

While this event is about the ‘future of the Internet’ to come, the situation at the organising venues makes me wonder how this future is going to look like. Internet access is controlled (as standard nowadays) through a landing page, needing an individual (per device!) access code. There aren’t enough of these codes around here. I was lucky enough to get one (for certain reasons I won’t get into), finally getting to the Internet.

Is this the sign for the future? Internet everywhere but gated and restricted? The mid of the past decade saw a wave of ‘free Internet’, which seems to have faded. Business interests even in the very edge access seems to have overpowed this wave. While major content clearly is charged (often more than once), it is even the plain access that is controlled/charged/restricted.

When I got into Internet research many years ago, I hoped that the free access to the Internet would become the norm in a few years. We are going in a totally opposite direction, it seems, by restricting the pure access more and more, regardless of the content you want to access. It is a shame that so-called ‘Future Internet’ events are presenting a stage that continues this trend. I would have loved to see different.

AIRS featured in Cambridge University news

AIRS and the wider work on Dana’s MyRor system to visualise the recorded information through a story-based interface are featured in the Cambridge University news.

Check it out to understand the potential usage of AIRS through engaging interfaces within lifestyle management scenarios – or simply just for looking back on your life for self-reflection.

AIRS now provides heart rate measurements

Since v2.2.9, AIRS provides heart rate measurements using the built-in camera and flash of a compatible phone. How does this work?

First, you will have to place the AIRS heart rate widget on your launcher screen. Then, you will need to subscribe to the IH sensor in local recording. When pressing the widget on your launcher screen, a window will now appear that shows a camera preview and Start/Cancel buttons.

Using the camera and the built-in flash, AIRS grabs the current preview and calculates the changes in red color, caused by the pulsing blood in your finger (assuming that you indeed placed the finger over the camera lens, also covering the flash light!). These changes are averaged over 10 seconds of recording, after which you can see the estimate of your beats per minute in the upper left corner of the window. You can take up to 3 measurements before AIRS switches off the measurement in order to spare your flash light from burning too long.

Sure, the measurements are not as accurate as using a proper heart rate monitor (such as the one supported by AIRS, namely the AliveTech ECG monitor). However, these values will hopefully provide approximate insights into your heart rate for scenarios such as stress monitoring. Given that the flash light is used, it is not meant for continuous monitoring!

Enjoy this new feature!


Presentation on AIRS at Mobilware 2012 Conference

A paper on the design and implementation of AIRS has been published in the proceedings of the Mobilware conference. The presentation that I gave at this conference can be found here. The presentation gives you some insight into the design of AIRS, including the background on some extensions such as the widgets for annotation. More information can be found in the conference proceedings.