Tech R&D: Objectives

The City Strata project aims to explore and demonstrate rich mobile experiences mediated through Cinemap - one slice of what could eventually be a geo-located, multi-layer and multimedia overlay over Bristol. Calvium's role in the project is to provide a technology platform enabling the discovery, delivery and experience of Cinemap media. This will require a research and development activity which seeks to evolve the existing AppFurnace platform in new and technically challenging directions. Given the resources available to the project, our objectives are to demonstrate the feasibility of the new platform and characterize its limitations and requirements rather than to deploy a fully working and robust system.

In thinking about this work, we have been using the following user scenario:

Jane is walking down Whiteladies Road. Suddenly, her phone pings to let her know she is in a hotspot from the Cinemap service she recently joined. She gets out her phone and taps “Play” on the dialog on the screen. The Cinemap app fills the screen and starts playing a short video about the old ABC cinema that used to be on that site. When it finishes, Jane flicks through a few of the related images and stories other Cinemap users have added. She notices that there is also a richer “Cinemap Walk” available for that area and adds it to her favourites for when she has a bit more time. Having spent ten minutes in the world of cinema memories, she smiles to herself and carries on to her office.

We can pull out a few features from this description:

  • her phone pings to let her know she is in a hotspot - the implication here is that the Cinemap app is monitoring Jane’s location in the background even though it is not actively running on the phone. We will explore how well the relatively new GeoFencing capabilities of iOS and Android serve that goal.
  • the Cinemap service she recently joined - we assume that there is an online service that allows hotspots and associated media to be created, managed and delivered to the Cinemap app. The challenge is to scale the delivery channel to support a nationwide service that contains far more content than can be sensibly held at any one time in a mobile app. We will explore a combination of local caching of hotspots, on-demand content and pre-fetching to meet this challenge.
  • starts playing a short video about the old ABC cinema - in general, we want to be able to support short, multimedia experiences (10-15 minutes) combining video, images, text, audio and small interactive elements such as quiz questions. The Know Your Place database can serve individual images and text but we may need to augment that with a repository for AppFurnace-created media bundles.
  • related images and stories other Cinemap users have added - the intention is that users can contribute memories in the form of images, text (audio and video?) to the Cinemap layer directly from their mobile phones. After mediation, these are available to other uses as part of the bundle for that hotspot.
  • there is also a richer “Cinemap Walk” available for that area- a collection of hotspot bundles linked by segues. These may be implemented as multimedia objects in the Cinemap layer itself or as links to standalone apps in app stores.

 

With that backgound, we can now identify four objectives for the research and development activity within City Strata: 

  1. Characterize key enabling technologies such as the new GeoFencing capabilities provided by mobile and online platforms.
  2. Investigate approaches to extending the AppFurnace platform to support:
    monitoring of a set of local hotspots drawn from a larger online database.
    - download of media for a hotspot on demand, including pre-fetching to reduce latency.
    - upload of images, text, audio and video to Know Your Place and other online services.
  3. Provide experimental vehicles for project partners to undertake user studies.
  4. Demonstrate a prototype, end-to-end Cinemap system and characterize its benefits, limitations, opportunities and required development.

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