The use of mobile devices such as smartphones is increasing exponentially as they become cheaper and more flexible to use. The communication technologies are now widespread throughout the developed countries. People don’t need to be seated in front of a desk to work anymore. The desktop paradigm is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Nowadays with services like Flickr or Facebook people do not need a computer to store their pictures or talk with friends. The information is spread all over the internet. The reality is that people are now more connected in every possible meaning.
The content available on the internet is reaching dimensions that wouldn’t be imagined a few years ago. Twenty years ago, during the analog era, people were used to take a couple of photos from their vacations. Today they and their friends take hundreds of photos. However, despite the increasing number of content the human capacity remains the same. People still have limits regarding the number of memories they can process and keep.
The goal of the project is to focus on new ways of enhancing the browsing experience by filtering and revealing implicit relations between content. The working domain is media content which is available on the internet. The medium are mobile devices. The development of new visualization and interaction methods on this kind of small computers must be the next step. More often, people have a busy life which means they don’t want to waste time dealing with technology. They expect to find the information they want as fast as possible in the most simple way possible.
The developed solution is a visualization software module that can be integrated within a mobile application as a browsing tool. It uses the hyperbolic tree visualization technique as the main starting point. It is aimed for hierarchical information such as graphs and is capable of giving both context and focus views. It employes a fish-eye distortion over a set of nodes, showing nodes in different sizes depending on their selected level of detail. This technique is known for an optimal ratio between content displayed and screen area usage. This is specially useful on mobile devices which have very limited screen sizes.
The platform of choice for the prototype development was the iPhone. The visualization module was integrated with two applications for the iPhone. TinDI is used to upload photos and videos to a private storage service. KleinerExpresso is a pure visualization tool of services such as Flickr, Facebook, Picasa and Twitter. In both applications the goal is to prove that the developed visualization is useful and innovative in the mobile market.
The prototypes showed are early examples of what might become a commercial product. The priority was the visualization and graphics development. They were not taken under exhaustive usability or performance tests. The overall feedback from empirical test was mainly regarding interaction issues, meaning that additional work needs to be done in this fields.
The concept of using the hyperbolic tree to explore and visualize media content on mobile devices leads to other techniques that also apply distortion to content mapping. This work laid out a new way to design and develop visualizations and hopefully many more will follow the same principle.
Author: Luís Ferreira
Type: MSc thesis
Work done at: Faculdade de Engenharia da Universidade do Porto