Friday, 30 April 2010

Computers show up finally

We made good progress today. Mark spent the whole day at NIIT in south Delhi assembling the mechanical parts, while Abe spent his time in a PC rental place in west Delhi trying to see if we can rent an appropriate machine. I went to the British high commission first to discuss the visit from them and then joined Mark at NIIT.

One outcome of my visit to the high commission is that the Director of the British Council and/or the Deputy high commissioner might come and visit us one of the schools on Wednesday along with some Media folks. We are also looking forward to a possible visit by the high commissioner next Friday - fingers-crossed.

Abe had a really hard time trying to find a machine with the appropriate configuration to work for us. Just when we were getting worried about the problems with renting another computer the DHL guys showed up at about 3pm with package from Bristol.  I have no idea what the customs charge was but we were all delighted to see the white Dell PC that we shipped from Bristol.

It looks like Azita and Don (our camera people) had a really interesting day capturing all these hurdles we faced on film.  

Mark looks really exhausted and has decided to skip dinner to get some sleep. I hope he will be OK for tomorrow - we are really dependent on him to get the tables ready for tomorrow. But if all goes to plan he can be a tourist for most of the remaining days in Delhi.

We need to make an early start tomorrow morning (we have to be at NIIT at 7:30 AM) to get the two tables ready so we can start running some experiments. 

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Hitting the ground running...

In Delhi now. The weather is balmy but funnily it also rained a bit in the evening. Customs was a breeze. I thought we would have a hard time and we cleared it in 30 seconds flat! We went over to NIIT almost immediately. The PCs are nowhere to be seen yet. So we went shopping for PCs in the Nehru Place area. The shopkeepers seemed a little confused at our approach for asking a specific config and not listening to their rehearsed sales pitch. And best of all.. there are no PCs with Firewire ports... it is an extra PCI slot install... Tomorrow, we try another option. Let's see what happens. Apart from a squished! aluminium bar, rest of the stuff seems to be ok though. Time to sleep.

Videos of Tasks

Together with Science teachers from the local schools, we developed two types of applications: spider diagram and classifications/grouping.

1. Spider diagram.
* Produce a spider diagram based on the elements given for a
particular topic.
* Topic : Plants and Photosynthesis
* Video :
2. Classifications/grouping.
* Classify the objects and their respected characteristics
according to its group.
* Topic : Animals (Vertebrates)
* Video :

Various interaction techniques incorporated designed to engage user in a fun and rich collaborative experience:

1. Multi-touch
2. Pantograph (like using a trackpad on a laptop, the actions on the
trackpad is magnified on the screen)
3. Drawing line
4. Deleting line
5. Objects manipulation: rotate, scale and move.

We can easily use the same task template (i.e. spider diagram or classification) and change it to a different topic as required by the teacher/user.

Topics are based on the Key Stage 3 National Curriculum syllabus.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Rifleshot testing

We had fun today doing the rifleshot test. I was surprised that no one on this side of the Atlantic knew what 'rifleshot testing' meant. Apparently they thought I was going to do a William Tell with a rifle :-)
So anyways, we got a bunch of PhDs and to-be PhDs to become teenagers again and try break the apps. First off it started bad. Cam recording software turned out to be a memory hog. So we took it outside, behind the shed and shot it. Then the 'kids' had fun running stuff and trying to break it.
The quick inputs were that we didn't want the images to grow too big and the debug text from Touchlib needed to go away.

Much to Izzy's dislike we removed the pink blobs and replaced them with blue ones. Yippie!

Hope the customs issues are resolved and we have the PCs to run the app in India.

Package still in Customs awaiting penalty

Finally spoke to someone in DHL who seemed to know what's going on. The good news is he knows what's happening.
The bad news is that the package is marked for penalty and it can take upto 1 week to clear it.
It is frustrating that DHL have sat on this package for more than 1 week without sending it or customs clearance even though we made it clear that we don't mind paying the potentially 300% customs charge. We really need this machine by Apr 29 for us to be able to move forward with our project.

Looks like we will have to shop for some pcs in India :(

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

T-23:00 to Take-off

It's almost time to get going. Looking forward to 10 interesting days in the nation's capital. Last few days have been really hectic. The development of the app brought back old memories. I was dreaming code again after a long time. For a change it works. Hope that it behaves on the field. I was Tom Swayer-ed into doing the painting job on the compliant surfaces and they are looking fine now.

Things I am looking forward to:
2 weeks of holidays@home after the visit.
Meeting up with friends whom I haven't seen for more than 6 months (and upto nearly 5 years!)
Alu-parathas and G-Jams! :-)
Staying in a 5-star hotel in India for the first time.
Flying Virgin Atlantic for the first time.

Things I am not looking forward to:
Hidden bugs in the code that decide to surface when the experiments are running.
40C heat that Delhi is currently experiencing.
Customs at the airport, I am carrying too many things (which are arguably research equipment, but try telling that to them)
7 am school time. I hated it as a kid, hate it now and probably definitely even in the future.

Things I am queasy about:
Being back in India again. It changes too much everytime I pay a visit. Has been getting more alien each time.
Going to schools and interacting with kids. Haven't been to a school for over a decade now. Do remember that it was a jungle out there back then. Don't expect it to have changed much now.

Lets see how the things turn out....

Package still stuck in customs

The pcs we sent to Delhi on Apr 17 via DHL are still stuck in Indian customs. Its not clear what is causing the delay - DHL are authorized to charge us any import duty & we've sent them the customs invoice. Its been in this situation for 4 days now.

I hope the package arrives in NIIT before we reach delhi.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Recent volcanic activity affects us

We were initially a team of 6 visiting Delhi from Bristol but today I received news that Kenton O'Hara a member of our initial team will not be able to join us as he is still trying to make his way back to the UK from a recent trip to the US to attend CHI 2010.

We are still hoping Azita Ghassemi will be able to join us. She too has been affected by the recent travel disruptions.

Welcome to the Blog

The purpose this blog is to document the process of building a multi-touch table and evaluating its use in schools in India.

This project is an initiative of the University of Bristol (U.K) in collaboration with the NIIT University and Hole-in-the-Wall Education.

The aim of the project is to investigate how the interactive table helps widen student participation and improves outreach. We will be carrying out field studies in two different locations in Delhi to compare and contrast student participation and communication styles within various locations in India and between India and UK.