Usability Extensions for the INFEX Information Exchange Framework

Type of Thesis: 
Master Thesis

While electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, digital cameras or laptops are already widespread, we can see the rise of other categories of electronic devices including smart watches, fitness trackers or even digitally enhanced toys that might soon be used on a regular basis too. Nevertheless, as stated by R├Ądle et al., "We are witnessing an explosive growth of the number and density of powerful mobile devices around us. However, their great majority are still blind to the presence of other devices and performing tasks among them is usually tedious". For example, when we want to transfer an image from a digital camera to our smartphone, we are required to use a computer to retrieve the image from the camera, sometimes using vendor-specific software, and manually place it on the phone. 

 

To address this issue we have developed the INFEX framework, a general-purpose framework for transferring information between different kinds of devices. The framework supports different kinds of communication carriers and protocols (e.g. WiFi, Bluetooth, FTP and RESTful APIs) and acts as a mediator and translator so that information can be exchanged between devices that might otherwise be incompatible, without the need for running dedicated software on the devices themselves. In order to be truly generic many of the components that form the INFEX framework can be extended or replaced. For instance, one component is responsible for detecting devices that want to participate in the information exchange and is implemented by using one or more detection plug-ins, for instance by using RFID, fiducial markers or pressure on a touch-enabled surface. Furthermore, the protocols supported by the framework are also implemented as plug-ins allowing us to support a wide range of devices. Finally, the user interface responsible for capturing user input and visualising the actions that can be done with each device is also an replaceable component allowing a lot of interesting use cases. For instance, the following image shows an INFEX-based application that uses computer vision to detect devices placed on an interactive surface, and content can be dragged from one device to another or can be dragged to an empty space for further inspection. In this case the phone's contacts are retrieved using the Bluetooth PBAP but can be copied to any other device using their respective communication protocol. The use of a tangible as an interface to a remote FTP server is also shown.   

 

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In this thesis you will implement some extensions and use cases that focus on the user experience when transferring information. This could include, but is not limited to:

  • the implementation of additional protocol plug-ins to support additional devices and media types
  • the implementation of new user interfaces to capture user intentions and visualise content
  • the implementation of a GUI to make setting up new devices easier for end users

Depending on what is achieved during your thesis, a user study might be needed to compare your implementation to current methods for information transfer.

Contact: Reinout Roels (rroels@vub.ac.be)

Background Knowledge: 
  • Java
  • Web Technologies (JavaScript, CSS, HTML5, ...)
Technical challenges: 
  • the implementation of additional protocol plug-ins to support additional devices and media types
  • the implementation of new user interfaces to capture user intentions and visualise content
  • the implementation of a GUI to make setting up new devices easier for end users
  • a user study might be needed to evaluate your work
Academic Year: 
2016-2017