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.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Building a partnership with the Texas Tech Usability Research Laboratory

I am in Lubbock, Texas, meeting with the Texas Tech Usability Research Lab's director, Dr. Brian Still, about the mobile usability testing we will be doing on the Fort Vancouver Mobile project, as part of a partnership funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Start-Up Grant. The Texas Tech lab has a national reputation for its rigorous usability tests, usually for corporate clients. We are hoping to work on our testing project in the fall. I will post details on this later, but our goals are to create tests that not only inform this particular project but also have external value with other projects focusing on mobile place-based media, or net locality.

Paul Kane module in process

The lead designer of the Kane's Wanderings module, Brady Berkenmeier, and his animation partner, Allen Anderson, have sent some updates of the piece, including a storyboard, and a brief sample of what this animation might look like. Here is a progression of developments:

I'll start posting the top on the top, from here, with the gradual progression pieces below:

NewestKaneBadAudio from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

Here are the changes, from start to just before this last one:


The end of the first segment of drafts, from about a month ago:

The next generation, first draft:

Kane Prototype Animation from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

TNG second draft

Unfinished Kane Animation from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

Another segment completed:

KaneRoughDraftBadAudio from Brady Berkenmeier on Vimeo.

A preview of the module should be ready in time for the June 18 soft launch at the Brigade Encampment.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

FVM app in the two big markets, Android and Apple

Thanks again Nick (and project manager, Joe, of course) for getting the FVM app through the Apple App Store process.

Here are the initial screen shots for both the Android and Apple versions of the app:



To download these, just go to the market and search for "Fort Vancouver," or you also can use the links on this blog in the upper right. Still a lot of work to do before the soft launch at the fort's Brigade Encampment on June 18, but this has been a major step and should really make beta testing much more efficient. Congrats, again, Nick and Joe!

FVM app accepted by the App Store!

Nick Hill just let me know that the Apple version of the FVM app was accepted by the App Store last night, so the Apple submission process, despite the dire warnings of the length of delay, was six days. Not 16 hours, like the Android Market took, of course, but six days is not a terribly long time to wait. Our next test regarding the submission process is to see how long it takes to update the app. We'll try that in about a week, once we get another big batch of media coded. The FVM app should appear in the App Store, Nick was told, within 24 hours. We'll keep an eye out for it, and post the URL as soon as it is available.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Kanaka walk-through

I am publishing this as a separate page as well, to make it easier to find, and updates will be posted there. But I thought I might as well put it in the main stream, too:

The "Kanaka" module, focusing on the Hawaiian influence in the cultural development of the Pacific Northwest, has led us through the evolutionary stages of this FVM project from the proof of concept to the prototype to the start-up phase, which we are in now. It tells the story of a Hawaiian pastor, William Kaulehelehe, who was lured to the site to proselytize to fellow Hawaiians. His experience, though, becomes much more complex, as he gets involved in an international dispute between the Americans and the British over territorial boundaries, a tale that includes aspects of colonialism and imperialism as well as the harsh realities of life as a pioneer. The walk-through is here (spoiler alert: that document will show the media embedded at the site; I recommend that you go through the piece first at the fort, if possible, to experience the work as intended, with the physical relationships to the place, and then coming back to this for deeper examination; the videos from this walk-through also are posted below; those, too, were built to align with the physical space but are here for remote examination):

Shifting the perspective from expositional to narrative:

Introducing the Hawaiian story:

William Kaulehelehe arrives at Fort Vancouver

Missing his media connections, Kaulehelehe writes a 19th century letter to the editor

Kaulehelehe's long and loyal service to the Brits in this area ends, when the Americans arrive

Friday, May 13, 2011

FVM Android is on the market!

The Fort Vancouver Mobile app now is on the Android market. Just open the Android market on your phone and search for "Fort Vancouver" to get to the download page. Even though this is just the bare bones beta version of the app, with a few bugs still to fix, we wanted to get it on the market for easier testing on site during the next few weeks before the soft launch (so we can have users directly download the app and use it on site). It's a very exciting moment for us, and I want to make sure Joe Oppegaard gets the credit he deserves for all of the behind-the-scenes work and coding labor on this. Thanks, Joe! ... He has toiled for many, many months now, and essentially created the app twice (once in Java, and now, in JavaScript, incorporating Phone Gap). He also is a co-owner of the rapidly growing Seattle-based web design firm Montana Banana, so he has been incredibly busy and gracious to include this in his schedule. Within a few moments of this FVM app being posted, it already had been downloaded 50 times. This step is going to make the app much more accessible, and it should help us start the summer on another positive note. ... Nick Hill, by the way, has submitted the app to the Apple App Store as well, which can be an extremely challenging process. I will post any updates on that part of the process as soon as I get them.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Village opening videos are pretty much wrapped up

Jon Nelson and Forrest Burger are doing the final edits of the Village Opening module, which documents the opening of the new area of the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site as well as gives users behind-the-scenes access to the fort's archaeological collection. Hope to post some samples soon.

FVM app submitted to the Apple App Store / Android Market

Nick Hill just wrote to say that he submitted the FVM app to the Apple App Store tonight. Joe Oppegaard is doing the same for the Android Market. It's a big day in FVM land. Thanks, guys!

VancouverArtsLive coverage of FVM at the WSU Vancouver Research Showcase 2011

Brady Berkenmeier and I are given some screen time in this VAL segment to talk about the FVM project:

We are at about the 20 minute mark, through the 23 minute mark.

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.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sam Robinson of the Chinook Tribal Council gets a FVM demo

Sam Robinson, vice chairman of the Chinook Tribal Council, spent Wednesday afternoon at the fort, beta testing the FVM app. Robinson and I have been talking about ways to include the Chinook stories and perspectives in the app, and this was a great initial step in building a potential partnership. He seemed particularly excited about the potential for using the app to revive and teach Chinook Wawa, the primary language spoken in The Village in the mid-19th century.   

R.A. Long High School beta test is complete

Several students from R.A. Long High School, chaperoned by teacher-librarian Joan Enders, took some time out of their Fort Vancouver National Historic Site field trip schedule on Tuesday to give the FVM app a beta test. This was the first time we had tested the iPhone version of the app with members of the public, and it also marked the debut of the Android version using a new underlying mobile framework called Phone Gap. In fact, both versions are now using Phone Gap, in an effort to broaden the accessibility of the app to not only Android and Apple users but also, eventually, to Blackberry and Windows7 users, too. I will post a separate entry on this significant backend switch, but, going back to the beta test, the Phone Gap versions demonstrated a couple of major programming issues to overcome in the next few weeks: 1. The Android version did not load and play the video segments properly. 2. The iPhone version did not geolocate the media properly. 3. Because the iPhone version required the devices to be prepared as provisional testing devices (as part of Apple's heavy use restrictions), and because the students hadn't done that before arriving, and because there is no WiFi in the area we are testing (to do that on site), we were unable to install the iPhone version on the phones of the students who had those models.
So, Apple developer Nick Hill, is going to go ahead and submit the beta app to the Apple App Store, in an effort to allow us to get the app on iPhones for more testing at the site, without having to go through the contortions of testing on devices provisionally. Android developer Joe Oppegaard, in turn, is going to submit the Android version to the Android market as well, just to get both of these into places where we can easily get the apps on the phones of users in a timely manner. To compensate at the time, research assistant Brady Berkenmeier heroically led the iPhone users around in a cluster, allowing them all to experience the app on Nick Hill's prepped device. A couple of the Android-using students reverted back to the original version of the app, which was written in the native Android language and tested on Android devices, and they essentially formed a second cluster, in which those students were able to see a representative presentation of the app at this point. Afterward, many of the students said they will be eager to come back and try the app again, in its more polished form, and added their names to our email mailing list.

Equipment kit is ready, case has been built

After many, many months of raising funds and talking about specialty equipment and comparing such equipment, and getting a custom case built, we finally have collected the basic audio/video kit for FVM productions this summer.
That kit includes a Canon XF100 camera, a Sachtler tripod, a boom mic, two lapel mics, a mixer, a separate audio recorder, a cart and a variety of other accessories that should raise the quality and efficiency of our audio/video media. We bought the first batch of equipment from B&H Photo in New York but used a local vendor for the second batch, Pro Photo Supply, in Portland, Ore. B&H was fine, but there were a couple of mistakes with our orders, and the shipping back and forth to fix those was a hassle. ProPhoto not only let us handle and test the camera before buying it, which, of course, B&H would never do, but it also beat B&H's prices and made our buying decisions easier to manage, because we could use first-hand experience.
To help to protect and organize the equipment, we also had a custom case built by Bauer Cases of Vancouver. This, too, was a great experience with a local company. Here is the image Bauer gave us of the case before it was built:

And here is what it looks like built:

This case actually holds all of our Stage 1-2 equipment, except the cart and the tripod, which should make organizing the audio/video productions very easy. We'll find out more about this organizational approach in action this summer. The next phase of equipment purchasing is the lighting system. Will post more about that, as the needs develop.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

FVM featured in the Northwest Cultural Resources Institute report

This quarter's Northwest Cultural Resources Institute report features the Fort Vancouver Mobile project on its front page:

Thanks, NCRI!

A belated mention of Doug and Rory Futz

Last fall, Doug Futz, a doctoral student in landscape architecture at the University of Colorado, made a major side trip (of several hundred miles) to drive to Fort Vancouver with his son, Rory, and check out the Fort Vancouver Mobile project. Doug was working on the development of augmented material within his program, and within his field, and wanted to talk to us about what we were doing. We had a great conversation and spent the day together, including lunch with Chief Ranger Greg Shine. Doug even made a short cameo in one of our video clips as the boom mic operator. Rory also helped with an off-screen prompt during filming of another piece. I just realized today that I hadn't written any of this down on the blog, and Doug had sent me a note a while ago saying that he was changing direction on his dissertation, because of the difficulties in fitting this kind of work into his field (not his interest in it). I suspect that augmented reality eventually will be welcomed into landscape architecture and many other fields that today might be hesitant to open arms to it. I hope Doug eventually gets his chance to study AR in this context, because the ideas he shared with us were thoughtful and compelling and certainly would interest a lot of people, if published.  

WSU News Service tries out the FVM app

Matthew Haugen, a video journalist for WSU News Service in Pullman, came by Fort Vancouver last week to give the FVM app a try and to create a video story for the news service about the project.
Matt seemed surprised and pleased when the app actually asked him to participate in the experience, rather than just pushing him along some predetermined trail. He asked about the media we created -- again, this is virtually all original media, video, text, images (minus a few interwoven historical pictures) -- and the integration of WSU Vancouver students. Research assistant Brady Berkenmeier was helping with the tour, and that gave him a chance to talk about the project from a student's perspective (thanks again, Brady!). I'm not sure how long the process will take for Matt to produce the piece, but I'll post it here when it's on the wire. Thanks for your interest, Matt!