Entries tagged with “Android” from Computer Science Department News

In the Fall 2011 semester, Prof. Guanling Chen offered a project course on developing Android apps, to prepare our students on programming skills for the fast-moving mobile industry. The course attracted many interests and accommodated 15 undergraduate and 14 graduate students. The students formed four teams, each working on a different group project.

The first half of the course covered the basics of the Android programming, and then students started to work on their projects for about 10 weeks. To meet the challenges of the diverse student background, each project group consisted of both graduate and undergraduate students and had at least one person who did Android programming before and owned an Android device.

The goal of the group project was to deliver a non-trivial app by the end of the semester. To manage the project development, the class adopted a mini-version of agile programming method that had three project iterations, each lasting three to four weeks. The idea was to make a workable app first and then grow it more feature-rich incrementally. For each iteration, each project group had to specify clear goals, the tasks to be completed, and who was responsible for which task. Each group delivered twice-a-week meeting minutes, daily progress “burn-down” charts, and a workable demo at the end of each iteration.

Through this software engineering process and the peer support of the groups, the students successfully completed four exciting projects with the theme of “doing good to society”:

  • The YouMath team produced a fun sports game that teaches kids math skills with different difficulty levels.
  • ThumbsUp took a different approach educating kids by creating a series of mini-games that tests math, logic, and memory skills.
  • The ParentGuard team aimed to help parents block certain apps on their kids’ devices, so they can ban age-inappropriate apps and won’t get surprising bills.
  • Tractivity team went after the goal of encouraging people to be more physically active by developing an algorithm to monitor the number of steps the user has taken (leveraging the built-in accelerometer) and integrating incentives, such as virtual walks.
The teams delivered their final projects and accompanying presentations during the week of December 5, 2011.

The full presentation slides, videos, and downloadable APK files for the apps are available at http://sites.google.com/site/umlandroidclass2011/.

Presentation from YouMath team. The playable Android app binary and similar presentation materials from the three other teams are available here.
On November 15, 2011, Computer Science graduate student Derrell Lipman successfully defended his Master's thesis, entitled “LIBERATED: A fully in-browser client and server web application debug and test environment.”

Lipman’s research focused on addressing the challenge of developing client-server web systems.

He observed that traditional web-based client-server application development is accomplished in two separate pieces. There is a front-end portion which runs on the client machine, and a back-end portion which runs on the server machine. Typically, the front-end component is coded in HTML and JavaScript, while the back-end is written in PHP, ASP.net, or some another language that can interface to a database.

The skill sets required for these two pieces are different. Often, the front-end and back-end are developed and tested completely independently, based purely on an interface specification.

Lipman addressed this by developing his framework, LIBERATED, which stands for “Lipman’s In-Browser EnviRonment for Application TEsting and Development.”

In the thesis, Lipman proposed a new methodology for web-based client-server application development, in which a simulated server is built into the browser environment to run the back-end code.

This design allowed the front-end code to issue requests to the back-end in either a synchronous or asynchronous fashion, and single-step, using a debugger, directly from front-end code into back-end code, thereby completely testing both components with the desktop browser environment.

In Lipman’s system, that exact same back-end code, now fully tested in the simulated environment, is then recompiled and moved to a real server.

In the defense, Lipman presented the detailed design of LIBERATED, and described how he used it to develop the App Inventor Community Gallery, a web system created for users of Google’s App Inventor programming environment for Android phones to share their projects.

Prof. Fred Martin served as Lipman’s thesis adviser, and Dr. Mark Sheldon served as his thesis reader. Lipman’s research was supported by a grant from Google.

A copy of the thesis is available at http://search.proquest.com/docview/928125360.

Block diagram of the LIBERATED architecture. The programmer uses JavaScript and the qooxdoo framework to code both the frontend and back pieces of the client-server system. The backend runs in a simulated environment in the developer’s browser, and when completed, is moved to a separate server machine. The same backend code is run in both places.
On March 21, 2011, Alessandro Agnello successfully defended his Master’s thesis, entitled “Design and evaluation of an Android/Web based system for acquiring users’ physical activity with minimal interaction.” This work was supported by adviser Dr. Haim Levkowitz.

Agnello developed an Android application that tracks a user’s physical activity using sensors built into most Android phones (primarily, GPS and accelerometer data). The application then analyzes the collected data and verifies that the user is actually doing physical activity (e.g., identifying running vs. sitting in a moving car).

Upon ending a session (shutting down the application or user selection), the application communicates with a web server and sends the user’s current physical activity completed. A corresponding web site displays different measurements of the user’s physical activity (by week, month, or year). Additionally, the web site offers RSS feeds dedicated to help motivate the user to continue their physical activity.

As this is application part of a framework for what could be a complete solution, Agnello designed this project in a modular structure for easy porting.  The technologies used in the development of this work were the Android operating system, PHP, MySQL and HTML. Dr. Guanling Chen served as thesis reader for the project.

Screenshot of Agnello’s Distance Watcher web site that accompanies the project’s Android phone app.
On July 20, John Fertitta successfully defended his Master's thesis, entitled “Design and Evaluation of Dedicated Smartphone Applications for Collaborative Science Education.”

Fertitta’s work involved the development of a set of custom apps that were used in a high school physics classroom. Fertitta worked closely with a local high school teacher to conceive of the apps, and then implemented them and supported the teacher in using them in this classroom.

Fertitta's project extended the Engaging Computing Group's Internet System for Networked Science Experimentation (iSENSE), which Fertitta also helped develop. In his thesis work, Fertitta's apps allowed students to gather acceleration data on Android smartphones. These data were then uploaded to iSENSE, and then students collaboratively made sense of the data by overlaying views of their various data sets.

In one of the projects, students went on rides at the Canobie Lake amusement park, and used Fertitta's app to collect acceleration data. Then, back in the classroom, the students completed worksheets where they predicted what their graphs would look like. Finally, students viewed the actual data, and had to figure out which graph matched which ride.

In analyzing student work and in a post-interview with the teacher, Fertitta argued that in this case “smartphones were ‘far superior’ to other technologies” for data collection, and that the use of the iSENSE system, which easily allowed students to overlay each other’s data, “facilitated more in-depth discussion” than other tools.

Fertitta's thesis was advised by Profs. Fred Martin (Computer Science) and Michelle Scribner-MacLean (Graduate School of Education). Fertitta's work was supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (DRL-0546513 and DRL-0735597) and a gift from Google Inc. A copy of the thesis is online here.

studentprediction.jpg isensegraph.jpg
Student prediction graph (left) and actual data from the iSENSE web system. Also, interact with the visualization live on the iSENSE site at this URL: http://isense.cs.uml.edu/visdir.php?id=121
A third UMass Lowell Computer Science course this spring engaged students in developing mobile applications.

On May 10, more than 20 students gathered in Olsen 311 for the project demos from the course “91.650: Topics in Wireless Networking and Mobile Computing.” The course, offered by Prof. Guanling Chen, covered a variety of topics on both principles and practices of the state-of-art academic research and industry development on emerging mobile platforms and wireless technologies.

All 14 students showed their project demos. Examples included:

  • Anthony Biasella presented an Android-based adventure game called "The Legend of Adlez"
  • Beibei Yang demonstrated sentimental analysis of movies currently playing in nearby theaters, using data mashed from Twitter and Google services
  • Chris Dietsch showed his iPhone app for guitar tablature search based on the song currently playing by the iPod
  • Jesse Lucas showed his Android app for bar-hopping and pub crawl
  • Mehrdad Nourai demonstrated an iOS app for QRCode-based inventory control
  • Roger Dejean presented an Android-based app for car theft detection using motion detection
  • Zach Kissel showed an Bluetooth proximity monitor for office and home automation
At the end of session, the audience unanimously voted Beibei Yang's movie app as their favorite demo. This web app is implemented using HTML5 so it works across multiple mobile platforms. By first locating the user's position, this app uses Google movie service to find the titles of the movies being played at the nearby theaters. The app then pulls Twitter conversations about these movies and applies sentimental analysis algorithms to show how the movie is liked or disliked by Twitter users.

The project reports and some video demos can be found at the project website.


Two screenshots from Beibei Yang's “Twitiment” web service for geolocation mashups.
Prof. Fred Martin and five members of his research team attended the fourth annual Google I/O conference, held in the Moscone West center in San Francisco on May 10th and 11th, 2011.

In the conference, Google presented its latest technologies to the developer community, to encourage adoption of their APIs and platforms. This year, there was a special emphasis on the Android platform and the Chrome browser.

The event was a gala affair, attended by over 5,000 people and with highly produced keynotes by top Google engineering managers. Each morning led off with an hour-long keynote; the first day's focused on Android, and the second day's focused on Chrome.  Then there were 10 parallel tracks throughout the rest of the day. Attendees were treated well, with full breakfast, lunch, and snacks provided to all, and a Tuesday night party that included a concert by the alt-rock band Jane's Addiction.

In terms of technology, it was clear that Google is making a massive investment in Android. The operating system is no longer just for mobile phones; they gave details of the current “Honeycomb” release, which is optimized for tablets. There was a big presentation about developing for the Android-based Google TV platform.

In the keynote and a separate session, the Android Accessory Development Kit (ADK) was launched, which allows developers to interface their own sensor and actuators to an Android device.The keynote included a live demo done with the Lifecycle exercise equipment company—a bicycle that connects to your Android phone and where you play a game on the phone by changing the cycling rate. iRobot and other companies displayed prototypes using the ADK on the show floor. All attendees of the technical session on the ADK received a full kit to start developing their own attachments.

The other big push by Google, and the subject of the second day's keynote, was the Chrome browser and Chrome operating system. Google is making a serious play for the latest incarnation of the “thin client” concept—the idea that all data and applications should hosted in the cloud, and a simple client machine can dynamically load the applications needed to operate on users’ data, which is also hosted in the cloud. After announcing that the Chrome Web Store would only collect 5% of an app's sale price, Google showed the latest addition to the Store—the first desktop version of the huge hit game “Angry Birds.”  

Then Google announced the evolution of its trial Cr-48 notebook program—new “Chromebooks” that will be sold by leading PC manufacturers Samsung and Acer.  Google announced a program where businesses can adopt Chromebooks with a monthly subscription plan, including regular hardware replacement and back-end services, for a monthly price of $28 per employee. They also announced a $20 per month price for non-profits and educational institutions.To encourage developers to jump on the Chrome bandwagon, all 5,000 Google I/O attendees were told that they will receive a Chromebook when they launch in June.

The technical sessions were also excellent; each was led by a Google developer who was personally responsible for new APIs, tools, or other programming approaches presented. Prof. Martin and his team participated in presentations on:

  • Using App Engine to perform large-scale mapreduce operations
  • Developing large Javascript web apps using the Closure tools
  • Storing Android app data in an App Engine backend with the Google Plugin for Eclipse, which generates appropriate design patterns for both an Android app and an App Engine app in tandem
  • The ForPlay cross-platform game abstraction layer, which has output back-ends for HTML5, Android, Java, and Flash
  • Advice for building a startup, including getting support from VCs
  • Google's collaboration with the cutting-edge robotics development group, Willow Garage, on cloud robotics approaches—off-loading compute-intensive tasks like object recognition and mapping to cloud-based services
In all, it was an inspiring event. It is clear that web-based services are continuing to accelerate in importance in the computing field, and that Google is leading the way. Everyone at the meeting was friendly and knowledgable—it was definitely a high-level meeting among talented engineers and developers from across industry and academia.

See below for photos from the event.

Engaging Computing Group members pose outside the giant Google map marker before the gates open (L-R): John Fertitta, Michael McGuinness, James Dalphond, Mark Sherman, Prof. Fred Martin, and Chris Corcoran.

The third floor of the convention center was devoted to Android.

At the May 10th keynote, Google Product Manager Hugo Barra announced the name of the next Android release, to be called “Ice Cream Sandwich.”

Bo Yan, a doctoral student advised by Prof. Guanling Chen, will present his paper on AppJoy at the Ninth ACM International Conference on Mobile Systems, Applications, and Services (MobiSys). MobiSys is a prestigious conference on mobile and wireless systems with a low acceptance rate of 18% this year.

AppJoy is a service that helps Android users to discover interesting applications through personalized recommendation algorithms. It is available in Åndroid Market and has been used by more than 5000 users worldwide. For more information, see the AppJoy web site.
Professor Fred Martin has received a $50,000 award from Google's education group to create resources for users of App Inventor for Android.

App Inventor is a system developed by Google to allow novice programmers to develop applications for their Android phones with an easy-to-use visual programming environment.

With the award, Dr. Martin's group will develop a web site for App Inventor users to publish and share their projects.  This “Community Gallery” site is being modeled after MIT's successful Scratch site.

The project team includes faculty and students from Wellesley College, Mills College, Trinity College, the University of San Francisco, and MIT.

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