I’ve not been so good with my blog posts of late. It’s a sign of being busy.
Looking over my last few posts, I think I left off at the point where I was only just coming back from the verge of giving up on making an iPhone application for this project thanks to various technical difficulties. Since then I’d say I’ve had something of a turnaround in my technical fortunes, with much progress made.
I’m fairly confident that I now have (or at least very nearly have) a working iPhone application. There’s still a few bugs to be ironed out, but on the whole it does what I want it to do.
What I’m working with now is actually the second version of the app. The first version worked, but I felt there were too many usability issues. With the first version I made this mistake of basing it too closely on the code I wrote for Processing; namely carrying out all the Flickr searches when the app is launched and then storing all the information in an array until it is needed later. Building the app, I realised that by doing this the loading time was far too long; I shouldn’t be able to check Twitter or giggle at funny gifs on Tumblr while I’m waiting. I suspect that anyone trying to use the app would just get annoyed and quit before it was even loaded.
I found it was much better to just start the app and only perform a search when a marker is actually detected. I don’t even bother to store the results in a vector, I simply parse the XML for the address, tags, etc as it comes in. This means that there’s a few seconds wait between scanning a marker and an image displaying but I feel that it’s a much more acceptable wait - more what people would be used to with an iPhone app.
The main reason for having all the images stored in an array ready to display was so that as soon as a marker was detected, the photograph would be drawn on top of it. At first I was reluctant to include a requirement for the user to do something in order to scan the markers (in the case of the iPhone a double tap on the screen). It just feels a little too close to how you take a photo with the phone, I’m still not sure it makes sense. However, technical necessity has in a way forced my hand in this case.
The iPhone, while having a lot of processing power packed into a small device, quite simply does not have the same power behind it as a desktop. Constantly running the AR detection and drawing the video feed was frankly a bit too much for it to handle. I was annoyed at first, but in a way it forced me to think about alternatives.
The way it works now, the user scans a marker by double tapping the screen, a search is carried out on Flickr and then an photograph returned and displayed full-screen (as opposed to drawn on top of a video image). Working in this way, I thought it might be interesting to relate how the iPhone is handled to a physical photograph, utilising the accelerometer as well as the touch events. I was thinking particularly about the backs of the photographs, where names, dates and locations are often written. All this kind of data is available from Flickr and I wanted to incorporate a way to display that. Originally I was just going to use a touch swipe but I’ve now written it so the user actually has to rotate the phone; not quite like flipping over the back of the photograph but a close second.
With the bones of the application now in place, I’m beginning to flesh it out a bit. I’ve written in a case where occasionally, rather than an image from Flickr, the original photograph will be displayed. Flipping the iPhone over, the user will see a modified quote (like the second image above) from a writer such as Roland Barthes or Susan Sontag. My plan is for every modified quote to be from a recognisable writer on photography, but one who wrote before digital cameras and social media became commonplace. By modifying them to relate to digital images I hope to highlight the shifting nature of the medium.
Words are important to this project. It is through words, in the form of search tags, rather than sheer chance that every image displayed is found. I think it’s important for me to think very carefully about what I want these modified quotes to say, as if I’m using more words I need to ensure they are the right ones.