mscape, is an application that uses context (usually location) to create interactive experiences for education, games, tour guides etc. mscapes could be made using software tools found at www.mscapers.com. mscapers was developed by Hewlett-Packard Laboratories(HPL) in Bristol . The tools had an active user community who uploaded mscapes to the mscapers site for free download. The community was supported through forums and mscapefest an annual mscapers conference. The summary of some of the good and not so good points of the mscape capability is given below:
- The software was free for non-commercial use
- There were uploaded mscapes that you could try or use as templates
- The software was relatively easy to use and deploy on mobile devices
- There was an active community of users to offer help and guidance.
Not so good
- It was only available for Windows Mobile devices
- There was no commercial channel
Unfortunately, the mscape software development under HPL came to a halt with the closure of the Pervasive Computing Lab. This was followed by a notice on the mscapers site:
“As the research phase of the mediascape program is coming to an end, we will be shutting down mscapers.com on March 31, 2010. On this date, access to your mscapers account, mediascapes, forums and blogs will discontinue.
For a limited period of time after discontinuing mscapers.com, we will continue to make available “as is” the mscapers toolkit from the HP Labs website http://www.hpl.hp.com/downloads.”
Bad news for anyone hoping to create commercial material using future versions of mscape.
Fortunately there is a silver lining to this cloud, Calvium. Calvium is a new company that has been formed by a number of former HPL employees. There are creating a new architecture delivering authoring capabilities on-line that are at least as easy to use as the ones mscapers offered. Ben and I managed to have a quick chat with managing director, Phil Stenton.
The new application will not be a continuation of mscape, rather a completely new architecture. With this opportunity to start over again, Calvium are taking a different approach which should address some of the issues the mscape user community highlighted.
The big difference is that the software will not be restricted to Windows Mobile devices. There should be versions for iPhone, Android and other popular smartphones. This should make the application more accessible. Calvium also understand that, if this is be a successful education tool, schools may not have access to smart phones, and will include sim free devices in the list of clients. The new software will allow developers to make use of new sensors such as the compass or accelerometers as triggers to enrich the user experience.
Calvium also hope to allow users to interact with each other while they are working through a module. This could be through txt messages, pictures or sounds allowing people to share experiences as they move through a module.
The process of creating and deploying the modules would change from its current format to an entirely web based interface for authoring. All editing would be done over the web and completed modules would then be exported to the platform-specific format deployed on the chosen client device.
Pricing and licensing has yet to be decided but Calvium say they are dedicated to making the software accessible to the education sector. Whether the application format will be open is unclear, but this did seem to be the long term goal of the Calvium team.
So, it seems that Calvium are going to improve on the mscape functionality, make a cross- platform compatible service and enhance the usability for both the developer and the end user. Through the course of our mobile scoping study we have spoken to a number of mscapers at the University of Nottingham and the University of Leicester, who believed that the mscape concept was easy and accessible. The direction Calvium are taking is encouraging and will hopefully enable these groups to continue making geo-enabled, interactive leaning modules.