Ingress

So there has been a bit of buzz recently (mainly about how to get a invite) about a new game from the Google NianticLabs called Ingress. It is a AR game where users do battle for one of two factions in a virtual world overlaid on top of the real world.

Ingress Logo
Ingress Logo

The game is still in closed beta at the moment and only open to people with invites, you can apply for an invite here. You can also submit Ingress inspired art work to Google Plus and tagging Brandon Badger, Brian Rose, Anne Beuttenm├╝ller and +Joe Philley and hope they are impressed enough to let you in.

The premiss is that the work at CERN hunting for the Higgs boson has caused the release/discovery of something called Exotic Matter (XM). This XM seams to be capable of influencing human behaviour, especially in the creative and scientific direction. Following this discovery those that know of it’s existence fall in to two factions, the Enlightened who believe that XM is sent to help humanity and the Resistance who believe that XM is part of a slow insidious invasion. As well as XM there are portals which seam to be related. Portals can be captured and things called Resonators added, with these three or more portals can be linked together to create fields in the enclosed space. These field allow the Enlightened or the Resistance to try and influence the public to their way of thinking. The battle is to create the largest fields and influence the most people.

If you happen to live in an area with no portals you can add new ones to the game by sending geo-tagged photos of “interesting” locations to Google via the app, but they take between 2-3 weeks to be added. That seams a long time for somebody to maintain an interest if they are in a area with little or no existing portal, I’m still waiting for any of mine to appear, but I’ve managed to stay engaged by playing around the 4 portals up in Winchester.

There is the start of a strong social aspect to the game as well, you need to arrange for other members of your faction to coordinate attacks on portals (especially the higher level version)in order to capture them back from the opposition and you also need their help to upgrade portals to higher levels to enable longer range links.

There are plenty more detailed discussions about the game online so I won’t go on any more about that here. What is more interesting is the potential this sort of platform has. The combination of crowd sourcing and gamification may well lead to something like the game Spooks, from Charles StrossHalting State. I’m not suggesting any thing as sinister as Spooks, where the EULA turned out to be a click through copy of the Official Secrets Act, and the whole thing was being run by MI5, but it’s important to remember that Google are not running this game for fun, to start with it’s a way to get more people to volunteer more location data and also a nice way to collect a bunch of geo-tagged photos from the portal submission process. I’m already signed up to Latitude so it’s not a problem for me to send my location to google again as part of the game but I do wonder how many other players are aware of the trade they are making to play the game and what else they may need to trade as the game continues.

I’m also sure that Google have a bunch more plans for the project. Thinking about how this could be extended leads to any number of avenues, what could you do with a large enough group of people for the promise of some notional in game reward (at little to no cost to the host)? Things that come to mind:

  • Set tasks to submit photos of new buildings/locations to keep things like Streetview up to date.
  • Have users walk new roads/paths to update mapping data
  • Taking it a step further, with the right mechanisms built in to evaluate trust could you build a cheap/free delivery service having players deliver packages across a city?

These are just a few that came to mind as I was putting this post together, I’m sure there are many more. I’ll be keeping an eye on how it develops and of course capturing portals for the Resistance.

developerWorks Days Zurich 2012

This week I had a day out of the office to go to Zurich to talk at this years IBM developerWorks Days. I had 2 sessions back to back in the mobile stream, the first an introduction to Android Development and the second on MQTT.

The slots were only 35mins long (well 45mins, but we had to leave 5 mins on each end to let people move round) so there was a limit to how much detail I could go into. With this in mind I decided the best way to give people a introduction to Android Development in that amount of time was to quickly walk through writing reasonably simple application. The application had to be at least somewhat practical, but also very simple so after a little bit of thinking about I settled on an app to download the latest image from the web comic XKCD. There are a number apps on Google Play that already do this (and a lot better) but it does show a little Activity GUI design. I got through about 95% of the app live on stage and only had to copy & paste the details for the onPostExecute method to clear the progress dialog and update the image in the last minute to get it to the point I could run it in the emulator.

Here are the slides for this session

And here is the Eclipse project for the Application I created live on stage:
http://www.hardill.me.uk/XKCD-demo-android-app.zip

The MQTT pitch was a little easier to set up, there is loads of great content on MQTT.org to use as a source and of course I remembered to include the section on the MQTT enabled mouse traps and twittering ferries from Andy Stanford-Clark.

Here are the slides for the MQTT session:

For the Demo I used the Javascript d3 topic tree viewer I blogged about last week and my Raspberry Pi running a Mosquitto broker and a little script to publish the core temperature, load and uptime values. The broker was also bridged to my home broker to show the feed from my weather centre and some other sensors.

Tracks2Miles 2.0

I’ve been working on a near complete re-write of Tracks2Miles over the last couple of weekends months. It’s taken so long for a couple of reasons, when the weather was good I just wanted to be outside running/cycling and for the (larger) period when it was grim out just not wanting to spend any more time writing code after doing it all day at work.

Small screen view

A number of major changes have been made, but the one that is likely to be most noticeable is the move to using Fragments for the layout of the GUI. This means that I’ve been able to create some layouts for devices. There are now 3 layouts:

  • Small size screen
  • “Normal” size screen
  • Tablet size screen

I know that a tablet layout for Tracks2Miles may seam a little strange since it started out as just a way to upload routes recorded by My Tracks and the image of a guy out jogging with a 10.1″ Galaxy tab strapped to their arm is a little stupid. But since adding the ability to view the timeline of workouts and to manually enter workouts it has started to make some more sense. That and the stats* says there are at least 31 tablet (running Android 3.1/3.2, there may be more on 4.x+) users already out there. Hopefully this new layout will pull in some more tablet users as (IMHO) looks a lot better than the phone view scaled up.

The other big change is the move to using the built in sync mechanism to drive the collection of new timeline entries. This means you can now have Tracks2Miles pull in new workouts, comments and routes on a regular basis in the background. A side effect of this is that I’m going to have to drop support for Andriod 2.1 as the syncing API had some improvements that make this a lot easier at 2.2. The same stats that showed the total number tablet users show there are only 39 users left on 2.1. The older releases should continue to work for them.

Android notification showing number of new workouts in timeline

This use of the syncing API means that I the timeline can be updated at regular intervals in the background so you will always have the latest workouts when you open the all and allows me to add alerts for when there are new entries.

A feature requested by Brian O’Donovan was the ability to sanity check speeds for different workout types, I think this mainly came about because of the distance conversion feature when the units are changed. I’ve added some options to the beta settings menu that allows you to set a min and max speed for a few of the workout types. If you enable this checking a toast message will pop up if the average speed for a workout is outside these ranges. You can access the limits under the beta section of the preferences screen.

At this point I think I’ve pretty much exhausted the capabilities of the current Dailymile API but hopefully there should be a improved version due soon. In the mean time I suppose the next step would be to look at translating Tracks2Miles to some other languages. The Google Play stats suggest that Germany might be a good first choice.

I cut what I hope to be the final beta today and after hearing back from the testers I’ll push it to Google Play as an update.

* Up until v2.0 I’ve been using the built in stats that come with the Google Play, but for this release going forward I have also included the Google Analytics library so I should get a much clearer picture of what the spread of devices running the app are.

Tracks2Miles v2.0 beta testers


Now I’m back from my amazing holiday in Yellowstone it’s time to put in a final push to get Tracks2Miles V2 out the door.

I have all the core functionality working now and I just need to finish off some of the new value add features.

So with that in mind, if you would like to beta test v2 leave a comment here and I’ll send you an email with where you can grab the apk

Tracks2TitanXT with My Tracks v2.0

After having to update Tracks2Miles to work with My Tracks v2.0, Erik from TitanXT asked if there was anything that needed doing to make Tracks2TitanXT work as well. It turned out that no changes were needed but the route through My Tracks had changed enough to make creating a new walk through video worth it. So here it is.

My Tracks v2.0

This is a real quick post as a heads up. The My Tracks guys have just shipped a pretty major update to My Tracks. This update has changed a load of things including how you export tracks for Tracks2Miles to upload them to Dailymile.

I’ve just pushed a real quick update (I hope I’ve not broken anything) with a fix for an interface that changed, without the fix Tracks2Miles will crash when you try to export a workout with the new My Tracks.

I was hoping to ship Tracks2Miles v2.0 at the same time My Tracks v2.0 shipped but I’ve been really busy with work so not been able to get it finished in time. I hope to get it all done over the next few weekends so I can get it out soon.

Exporting workouts has got a little bit more convoluted with the new My Tracks so I’ll try and do a new walk through video as well.

Tracks2Miles 1.1.16

I pushed a new update to the market at the weekend.

It should hopefully fix a problem where Tracks2Miles would complain it could not access My Tracks data even when sharing was allowed. This looks to be down to a change in the My Tracks API with the My Tracks 1.1.15.

I’ve also tweaked the “Like” handling a little to only work for posts that are videos or pictures as this seams to be the only type of posts this works.

Recently a college has been having a look at the code to see if there are some things he wants to add. Hopefully I should have something from him soon.

Tracks2Miles 1.1.14

Finally got round to spending some more time on Tracks2Miles.

This release is an attempt to make use of a lot of what is left of the API.

New features:

  1. New Workout types:
    • – Commute
    • – Spinning
    • – Rowing
    • – Cross Training
  2. Support for multi-media posts, Uploaded Images and links to Youtube and Vimeo are now shown in your timeline
  3. Like your friends workouts
  4. See when you get Motivational comments
  5. Added pull to refresh support to the timeline
  6. Slightly improved look and feel, the white background looks better

All that plus a couple of bugs I spotted along the way.

There is a new introduction video with a walk through of all the features

As always you can get the very latest version from the Android Market here: https://market.android.com/details?id=uk.me.hardill.dailymile

The next version should have better support for tablets and ICS devices that support Activity Fragments to make better use of large screens. I’ve also managed to arrange to borrow a Sony Ericsson X10 mini to see about trying to improve the UI for those of you with really small screen devices.

Tracks2Miles 1.1.10

Just a quick update while I’m still working on a 2.x release*.

This release has 2 updates:

  1. A small update to the import code to make use of the patch I managed to get included in the latest (1.1.11) release of My Tracks
  2. A new setting in the preferences to block uploading GPX data with a workout imported from My Tracks. This was a feature requested to help people with privacy concerns

You can download Tracks2Miles here: https://market.android.com/details?id=uk.me.hardill.dailymile

* The plan is for 2.x to have a updated UI making use of fragments for tablet and ICS devices.