MSc and UG Project Ideas

Chris Greenhalgh, 2015-05-22

I am interested in:

Most of my current work is in mobile and ubiquitous computing (including mobile games and cultural experiences), and I have done a lot of work developing mobile applications on Android as well as web applications and collaborative systems.

Most of my projects combine (to varying extents) software development, interaction design and user studies.

I'm happy for you to propose your own projects, ideally related the above themes.

Here are some of my own current project ideas.

Evaluations/Extensions of Existing Prototypes

THe following projects are primarily evaluations of existing prototype systems, although some technical extensions may also be required.

Wototo Postsorter

Postsorter is a WordPress plugin (linked to OpenSharingToolkit Wototo, below) that allows anonymous posts to be reviewed and selected on a shared public screen. It is intended to support collaborative group activities, e.g. creating content or souvenirs from face-to-face workshops or events. The goals of this project is to conduct one or more user studies to evaluate this prototype. Some bug fixing and extensions are likely to be required, as well as designing, conducting and analysing the study(s).

Micro-Enterprise Web Dashboard

The Dashboard is a WordPress plugin/site intended to help micro-enterprise to get online and to start to make more of their online presence, with very little technical expertese. The goals of this project is to conduct one or more user studies to evaluate this prototype. Some bug fixing and extensions are likely to be required, as well as designing, conducting and analysing the study(s).

OpenSharingToolkit Kiosk Download

The Kiosk is part of the OpenSharingToolkit (below) which makes files and web apps available for download to nearby users with smartphones, on or off the internet. The initial version has a number of features which are intended to ease the download process. The goals of this project is to conduct one or more user studies to evaluate this prototype. Some bug fixing and extensions are likely to be required, as well as designing, conducting and analysing the study(s).

[and a project to develop & test other mechanisms]

[and a project to create  a multi-display interactive kiosk/demo]

Open Sharing Toolkit Extensions

For many people in the world today their first, and often only, access to computing technology is a mobile phone. In principle this gives access to a plethora of digital content and media, such as documents, videos, speech and music. However realising this access in practical everyday situations can be very difficult: network access may be unreliable, unavailable or prohibitively expensive, content may be incompatible with a particular handset or may be too slow or awkward to use with that particular kind of device (e.g. display size and quality, device performance, storage size, speed or nature of input), it may be hard to locate specific content of interest or relevance, and so on.

A number of research project have begun to look at supporting this kind of "grass-roots" content sharing (and creation). For example, StoryBank (Frohlich et al., 2009) allows multimedia presentations to be authored on Android smart-phones, shared via a dedicated tablet device, and downloaded to other others or uploaded to the Internet. BigBoard (Maunder et al., 2011) allows feature phone users to "post" and shared digital media on a small smart-phone-based server embedded in a physical noticeboard.

The OpenSharingToolkit is a similar project which I have started to create a set of tools to make mobile phones and tablets (especially Android ones) more useful for everyday sharing of content, information and resources. The first development target has been to create a "kiosk"-type device using an Android tablet (opensharingtoolkit-kiosk), initially for distributing selected content on and off the Internet.

The second development has been a Content Management System (CMS), Wototo (opensharingtoolkit-mediahub), for creating simple HTML5-based web apps. Several of the early users of the OpenSharingToolkit also use WordPress blogs or sites for their web presence. Wototo has been partially ported to work as a WordPress plugin, allowing users to incorporate content (text, images, etc.) from their WordPress site into their Wototo web apps.

The following project suggestions are all extensions to the current OpenSharingToolkit elements. There are lots of other things you could do aswell...

Improved WordPress Integration

While the Wototo web app editor has been ported to WordPress there is scope for greater integration. In particular, the web app could provide ways to submit comments, ratings, etc. that would be uploaded back to the main WordPress site; the web app could incorporate elements of the WordPress site theme (currently it has a fixed theme/style); and other possibilities...

Support for Co-located Collaboration

The goals of this project are to design, implement and do initial evaluation of one or more extensions to the kiosk and/or editor that support collaborative creation and sharing of content in a face-to-face (co-located) situation. For example, this might be a creative group activity, a workshop, a meeting or a classroom. Particular consideration should be given to how the collaboration is supported, for example through the use of one or more large shared screens, in addition to whatever mobile device(s) participants may have with them.  

Support for Rich Interactive Experiences

The first version of Wototo, the OpenSharingToolkit web-app editor, supports simple "passive" content, including text, images and simple audio playback. The goals of this project are to design, implement and do initial evaluation of one or more extensions to the editor and the web-app framework that allow more interactive experiences to be created, such as simple games or quizes. The aim of the project is to balance simplicity of authoring content and experiences (in general by non-programmers) and the richness of interaction that is supported.

Support for Events

The first version of Wototo, the OpenSharingToolkit web-app editor, supports simple "passive" content, including text, images and simple audio playback. Many events, such as concerts, festivals, open days and tours, have similar characteristics: they comprise potentially many timed activities spread over potentially many physical location and featuring potentially many topics and artists/presenters. The goals of this project are to design, implement and do initial evaluation of an extension to the editor and the web-app that provides specific support for events of this kind. In particular it should be simple for the author to specify an event schedule, while the web app should allow the end-user to browse, search and organise the schedule in a range of different ways (e.g. by time, location and subject).

Support for Souvenirs

During a visit to a cultural site or other experience someone might use an app created with Wototo and/or other digital tools and services to support their on-site experience. They may also want to take away with them some form of souvenir or momento of their visit or experience. The goals of this project are to design, implement and do initial evaluation of one or more extensions to the toolkit that will allow digital souvenirs, in the form of customised web apps, to be quickly and simply created, based on the digital traces (logs, etc.) generated during the visit.

Support for Creating Installable Apps

Wototo currently generates HTML5 web apps that can be viewed in a standard mobile browser. The goals of this project are to design, implement and evaluate an extension to Wototo that generates installable apps rather than web apps, i.e. apps that can be distributed via a standard app store. A promising technical approach would be to use Apache Cordova/PhoneGap.

Support for Feature Phones

The first version of the OpenSharingToolkit Kiosk targets smart phones with HTML5 support and WiFi as end-user devices, and assumes that the kiosk device will typically be unattended, for example in a visitor information centre or reception area. The goals of this project are to design, implement and do initial evaluation of a version of the Kiosk that is specialised to support content distribution to feature phones over Bluetooth. This may also require automated ways of converting content to a suitable format.

Local Servers

A range of small embeddable computers are now widely available (e.g. raspberry pi, cubieboard). These can be set up to run a range of embedded services and be accessed over a local WiFi connection.

Interacting with Invisible Local Servers

Such local servers often have no directly connected display. The goal of this project is design, prototype and evaluate different means of managing, discovering and interacting with this kind of "invisible" service within a specific physical location.

OpenSharingToolkit Support

The goal of this project is to explore the best ways of making WordPress/Wototo work on small embedded servers. This  considers not simple system administration and service (e.g. database and PHP) hosting, but also appropriate forms of user interaction and patterns of use. For example, there such a server is brought to a workshop or event to support a particular activity.