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Users becoming-designers-begona pino


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How users have more power to design the apps they want thanks to software and development tools that make it very simple

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Users becoming-designers-begona pino

  1. 1. ITASD -Valencia 2012 Users becoming designers B.Pino (APNA - SPAIN) We propose here that the ease of use of IT Tools has increased in such a way that it allows users, formerly passive consumers of software and web content, to became not only active participants in design processess but actual leaders of IT projects. In particular, parents and professionals who work with individual with autism, are generally very keen to gather information and resources to help the very specific needs of their children, taking it as far as to create the resources they need. We realised that there was a gap between what was being developed and the end user. As reviewed extensively at Pino (2006), there are a few research projects specific to autism and technology that have searched into robotics (Weir & Emmanuel, 1976; Dautenhahn, 1998; Werry et al. 2001), artificial intelligence (Lehman, 1998), virtual reality (Cobb, Kerr y Glover, 2001; Herrera et. al., 2005) and more. They are fascinating and expensive projects that, unfortunatelly, do not reach mainstream. On the other hand, there are several applications that are more accessible to the public but not so well supported by research. This is not to say that they are not valuable, just, that they cannot be used instead of professional intervention. furthermore, we consider more important the use we make of it than the technology itself, and there are several ways of using everyday software that empower people with autism (Pino 2006b). It is probably in this group where most of IT use in autism falls. Also, "design for all" is the concept behind accessible design that has been pushed into the developers world for a while now. It implies to get users involved into the design process, to get their opinion about usability and functionality issues, improving the accessibility of the final product. We go a little further asking for the accessibility to be 'built in' mainstream products, so people with autism can use what everybody use, both as an equal rights issue and ease of access, since searching and testing adaptations requires time, knowledge and resources (Pino 2010). However, the principle is essentially 'bring the users in'. Even though things have become so much better to the point that users are asked for their needs before deciding on any developement, the lead is in the developers. It is clear that individuals with autism, parents, teachers, psychologists, and all sort of professionals deal every day with the dif4iculties of this condition. They know what they need, and we believe that if they know what is available in terms of technology, they will use it. Four years ago we presented a workshop at Tecnoneet 2008 to give some basic understanding of technological language to practitioners in order to equip them with the ability to communicate their ideas to technologists. We wanted professionals to take the lead of technological projects. In the early days of technology only programmers had the skill to develop software. Then, when there was the boom of the internet, only web programmers had the knowledge, and it would take a lot to create a static website. Then things started to change: web 2.0 and the tools that came with it, such as blogs, content management systems, etc, made it easier for the regular user to have a space on the net that they could easily create and update. There is an active online autism-friendly community using blogs, and social networks to exchange information and share interests. At the same time, conventional software became more usable and powerful, and whereas long time ago you needed very expensive and complex software to edit video, now there are very simple video editing tools that are fast and easy to learn. In fact, you may not need dedicated software anymore, since the last version of Powerpoint allows you to do
  2. 2. ITASD -Valencia 2012 some basic editing with video. It is now possible to create a simple animation movie using Powerpoint transition and animation features. Although this is just an example, we mentioned because we have a student with autism very fond of animations and it is an easy way for him to create his own, instead of having to rely on somebody else to do it for him. It gives him a sense of control. Also, parents or teachers who want to prepare a child for an event, or create a social story, can now do so without having to install and learn a new tool, considering windows is the most extended operating system and that almost every one uses MS Office. New interfaces As reported at Pino (2010) Videogame industry has afforded some groundbreaking interfaces. Started with Nintendo Wii, which uses a control, the wii-remote, to follow the players movements, and it was followed by competitors Sony and Microsoft. Playstation Move looks very similar to the Wii-remote but more precise, and together with a camera that recognises faces and movements it would have the advantage of interfacing with better graphical games. Microsoft Kinect uses cameras to learn where the user is, representing his or her movements by means of an avatar. Steinberg (2010) observes that most of the games for Kinetic are similar to the Wii's, but other applications seem promising: browsing menus with a flick of a wrist or play with virtual pets. The pc drivers for Kinect are now available and there should be several kinect-based projects in the near future. There are many other input devices such as switches, gloves, haptic systems or voice recognition. Vocal joystick, (Bilmes et al., 2006) is a system that maps vowel sounds to spatial directions, which allows a user to control a computer or another system using his voice. Also new systems use brain waves to control videogames: Neurosky checks relaxation to control a few toys, whereas users can play Gran Turismo with SmartBrain Technologies system which makes the game to slow down if attention wears down (Chapman, 2010). And then tablets (iphone, ipod touch and ipads to start, then all the others) came along bringing not only a new interface but an affordable communication and entertainment center all in one device. Dedicated systems cannot compete in cost and versatility with a device that can play movies, music, and endless games, as well as serve as agenda, augmented communication system, bring access to the internet, and execute all sorts of specific applications. In the new device the input is done by a finger and the effect is right in front of your eyes, exactly where the finger is. This is one of the most basic actions for humans: pointing, and essential for communication. It is mastered a lot earlier than using a mouse, that require more sophisticated motor skills and the conceptual challenge of moving a mouse in one place, which is represented by a cursor on the screen, so the eye and the hand are in different places. -We had children with autism as young as 5 playing with computer games using mouse without a problem, but there are babies under a year of age using a tablet... Although the list of apps is growing so fast that it is difficult to keep up with them, is an extensive review website where a user may want to check if there is an app that meets his or her needs. It is also important that parents and teachers can get their hands on personalised solutions the easiest way possible. They have found that if theres is not an app, they can create it. If we consider important to validate apps, it is also important to be able to use small apps that entertain or help children with autism in their tasks. Programming without programming
  3. 3. ITASD -Valencia 2012 Professional apps, with complex programming in native operating systems, or graphic intensive work: 50-100.000€. There is the 'do it yourself' option, programming in iOS for example. Having a programming background and attending a 40 hours training course into iPhone programming, we have only grasped the essential concepts of iPhone programming, so this would not be the way to go for fast and easy programming of apps. However, there are a lot of simple games, sequences, agendas, and similar apps that do not require sophisticated design and that can be easily delivered either by using some of the tools in the market, which are a lot more affordable. For example, frameworks such as Corona SDK cuts down development time by five times, uses a simple language called LUA, and, after submitting your code to their servers, delivers the apps for iPhone (iPad) and Android. To show how simple it could be to learn and use, there is a tutorial online on how to build a game in 8 minutes. In our trial, it took more than an hour to follow the tutorial, but just that game alone is simple enough to manipulate so to change the object that bounces on the screen that we could 'tune it' to our specific child very easily. Gamesalad is another tool we have tested and allowed us to build a game in 20 minutes. It is for desktop computers but it is free. Considering that there is almost a computer in every home and classroom, it is an almost cost free option for those who cannot afford a tablet. There are several tools (Kendo, Rhomobile, Phonegap, Appcelerator, Unity, and many more) that work similarly using different languages: HTML, PHP, Ruby, Javascript, Python. There are also tools that do not require a single line of code (Whoop, Taplynx, MobDis), although they are a little bit more limited. And finally, there are companies that will produce the idea for a big part of the profits. Furthermore, it is possible to skip development altogether, or, in other words, to have an app without having to create and upload to the app store of whatever operating system we choose. This is only useful for a very basic functionality: showing a sequence, or similar. Taking an iPod touch as target device, if you wanted to show a sequence of steps in order to prepare a child for an event, such as a visit to the doctor, going to the movies, etc., or build a social story, it is very simple to design a slide show in Powerpoint (or any other editing tool), save all the slides as images and upload them through iTunes to your device. Similarly, you can save a document as pdf and view it on the device, up. Although there are many limitations to this approach, it allows the user/designer to create personalised material with minimal technological knowledge and hassle. In general terms, once you are familiar with the possibilities afforded by technology, it is possible to start from an educational goal to plan a technological project. When you know whom it is for, which goals it intends to achieve, and resources availble, you have the constraints to define specific tasks and technologies. Such technology may be a simple videogame, a tablet app, or an interactive environment. In particular, the reasons to develop your own app could be that you cannot find it, and now you can create it. If you want the app you need for a specific goal with specific requirements, it is unlikely you will find it in the app store, specially if it involves a very unusual 'special interest'. And, if you have a clear idea of the app, knowledge is not an issue, since there are companies that will do it for you, for a part of the profits, or services that simplify the coding required. Tu sum it up, the steps to develop your own app could be like this: 1. Define the audience 2. Define the goals 3. Define requirements 4. Take inventory of your resources: knowledge (are you a programmer?), time (to invest in the project, to deliver the app), money (to pay someone to do it). These
  4. 4. ITASD -Valencia 2012 factors will define the course of action: do it yourself, pay someone or partner with a company to do it. 5. Develop, test, evaluate. References Bilmes, J., Malkin, J., Li, X., Harada, S., Kilanski, K., Kirchhoff, K., Wright, R., Subramanya, A., Landay, J., Dowden, P., and Chizeck, H. (2006) "The Vocal Joystick," IEEE Intl. Conf. on Audio, Speech and Signal Processing, Toulouse, France, May 2006 Chapman, G. (2010). NeuroSky lets gamers use their brains. Reviewed 26/06/2010. brains-20100620-yoa7.html Cobb, S., Kerr, S., & Glover, T. (2001). The AS Interactive Project: Developing virtual environments for social skills training in users with Asperger's Syndrome. . Workshop on Robotic and Virtual Interactive Systems in Autism Therapy at the University of Hertfordshire, September 2001. Dautenhahn, K. (1998). AURORA - Autonomous robotic platform as a remedial tool for children with autism. Department of Computer Science. University of Hertfordshire. Web publication: (Ref Date: May, 2000). Herrera, G., Alcantud, F.; Jordan, R.; Blanquer, A.; Labajo, G.; de Pablo, C. (2005). “Development of Symbolic play through the use of Virtual Reality tools in children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders: A two case study”, Autism: an International Journal of Research and Practise Pino, B. (2006). El potencial del ordenador en la educación de habilidades de interacción social de personas con autismo: investigación actual. TECNONEET, Murcia Pino, B. (2006b). El ordenador como herramienta para la educación de las habilidades de interacción social en niños con autismo: Aplicaciones prácticas. TECNONEET Murcia. Pino, B. (2008). Entornos Interactivos: diseño y aplicaciones pedagógicas especiales. TECNONEET Cartagena. Pino, B (2010) Interactive videogames: Accessibility wish-list - AEGIS (Sevilla) Pino, B. (2008) “Taller de Diseño de Proyectos Interactivos para No-tecnólogos”. TECNONEET 2008. Steinberg, S. (2010). My first impressions of Microsoft's 'Kinect' Reviewed 06/07/2010 Weir, S. &Emmanuel, R. (1976). “Using LOGO to catalyse communication in an autistic child.” Technical report, DAI Research Report No. 15, University of Edinburgh. Werry, I., Dautenhahn, K., Ogden, B., & Harwin, W. (2001). “Can Social Interaction Skills Be Taught by a Social Agent? The Role of a Robotic Mediator in Autism Therapy.” The Fourth International Conference on Cognitive Technology: INSTRUMENTS OF MIND- University of Warwick, August 2001. In Springer Verlag, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, Sub series Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence.