Fort Vancouver Mobile - A video overview

Courtesy of: Research Assistant Aaron May of Washington State University Vancouver's Creative Media and Digital Culture program. Produced in 2011.

Video highlights from the apps (36-minute version)

This montage provides a sampling of some of the video media in the Fort Vancouver Mobile apps. This app is much more than just a video distribution system, but these videos show the variety of content, from expositional segments to new journalism to those intended to prompt the development of interactive narratives.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Phone Gap / HTML5 switch

This could be a really long post about the decision Joe Oppegaard, Nick Hill and I made a couple of weeks ago to drop a 90 percent complete Android (Java) app and rebuild the entire program, plus a lot more, in JavaScript using Phone Gap, a HTML5 app platform. But I will stick to the condensed version, and if you want to know about anything else specifically, just post a comment, and I'll respond.
To begin with, when we started the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, app building required the programmer to work within the native language of the phone (Java for Android, and Objective-C for the iPhone). Working with those languages, as you might guess, is not easy, and working with both is like learning French and Japanese at the same time. So we were engaged in the very laborious project of writing an Android app in Java, and then, through a porting process, basically rewriting the app entirely in Objective-C. We did not even bring up the Blackberry and Windows7 users in any serious discussion, because of the additional resources it would have taken to write the same app in those languages as well.
So, as we approached the soft public launch of the app on June 18, we still were wrangling with some of the technical issues of both platforms, when we learned of new HTML5 developments, including Phone Gap, that (and this is the new and exciting part) allow access to the phone's hardware, such as the GPS locator (our app would be essentially worthless without a GPS location element). HTML5 is a great improvement on HTML, of course, but HTML5 with a wrapper platform like Phone Gap, suddenly gave us the opportunity to code the app in one language, JavaScript, that our programmers were professional adept at, and also for that app to work with the mobile hardware across the four main platforms in the U.S. today: Android, Apple, Blackberry and Win7. In the long run, we think this is going to be very, very good for the FVM project, reducing programming time and increasing consistency across platforms and enabling leading edge technology, including slicker interfaces. In the short term, this has been like taking two steps back to take three steps forward (sorry for the cliche, but that's an apt location-based media metaphor for this situation). There have been some glitches in this transition. But we still have faith in the strategy. Our first test was with the R.A. Long High School students (see earlier blog post). We are working on a large-scale demo in three weeks with WSU Vancouver's Creative Media and Digital Culture's Mobile Tech Research Initiative. We want this to be on the Android Market and the Apple App Store in time for the open testing at the fort's Brigade Encampment on June 18. Will keep you posted on how it is going here.

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