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Thursday, 17 April 2014

Viva the iClipboard!

From: Only Connect


Apple’s long-awaited announcement of its tablet device, the iPad, has been met with the usual blogosphere mix of scepticism and enthusiasm, perhaps leaning slightly more to the scepticism side than usual. Questions abound: how many will it sell? Will the lack of Flash support kill it off? Will it destroy or save publishing as we know it?

And what - if anything - will be the research impact of the iPad? To answer that we have to look at another of those big and thorny questions: how will people hold it?

Holding a roughly A4 size flat object with one hand and manipulating its surface with the other is not a difficult skill to master, though it’s been a good hundred years - circa the decline of slates in schools - since most people have had to do it. One group never lost the knack, though - face to face researchers and their clipboards. Think of the iPad as an iClipboard and the possibilities for research suddenly become rather more apparent!

I’m not being wholly frivolous when I say that tablet touchscreen devices might revive F2F research, at least as a premium niche. The devices will be easier for two people to use than a laptop or netbook, so collaboration between a researcher and a participant will become simpler. Touchscreen interfaces make certain kinds of survey question more intuitive and easier - even the much hated grids might become a good deal more tolerable. Once the devices come with cameras attached, augmented reality will enter the picture, and the larger screen makes “on the ground” tagging and annotating of pictures and views more feasible.

What about research apps for tablet users to self-complete? Here things start to get a little murkier - Apple’s device, at least, doesn’t support Flash, which means a lot of the “more engaging” survey apps being built at the moment won’t run on it. According to Forrester, we’re now entering the age of the “splinternet”, where unified standards and protocols and open access are replaced by walled content platforms (like Facebook), and device-dependent applications. Mobile researchers are having to wrestle with the near-impossibility of a one-size-fits-all solution: the rest of us may soon be in the same boat.


Readers' comments (5)

  • Brian Tarran

    Twitter has been quick to correct the assumption that 'engaging' web surveys would not be possible on the Flash-less iPad.

    @richshaw informs us that almost everything you can do in Flash you can do in HTML & Javascript, while @tcollins
    says there are workarounds for the Flash issue. See here:

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  • I think first and foremost, the iPad is a logical extension of Apple's new cash cow the App Store. The whole device is really aimed at this new casual computing aspect. Notice they didnt show anyone making calls on it or doing serious work on it.

    Its definitely going be a new playground for the inventive researcher, while it lacks fast text/script input as note taking tool, it could be used quite effectively for folks implementing methods of co-creation or participatory design- but as you say, with no flash (which is slowly dying the more HTML5 grows), researchers will have to resort to native ipad apps- which would be better to make to use the full capabilities of the device.

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  • hmm well it was last April I went to a meetup of research boffins . I suggested that building an iphone app equivalent to survey monkey might be an urgent and useful thing to do. Pat Molloy has I believe gone off and done this. So he's well placed. So is Siamack Salari with his follow or be followed iphone filming device for sharing short films. They leverage the growing user base of iphone users. And move straight onto the ipad as an interface device with more space for more subtle sorts of interaction.

    Put another way: I would draw an analogy with midi controllers. Which are now essential for live music performances. The regular crop are priced between £100-400 and feature various arrangements of buttons and knobs.Lemur sits above these as a programmable reconfigurable interface. Price £2000.

    Ipad becomes a hitouch reconfigurable interface which can be pioneered on the iphone and expanded on the ipad. the sdk is free remember.

    This sort of interface could cross boundaries between surveys and qual - not only because it could be used by researchers but because it could use the appstore platform to deliver the most engaging research exercises you have ever experienced. And all on your own ipad... not the scuffed battered one nervously proffered by an interviewer.

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  • It sounds like a lovely interface but sounds like it would rely heavily on cloud computing - no USB connection for a start.

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  • As one of the people I follow on one of my Twitter accounts said, the iPad is for consuming and not for producing.

    Does it even come with a camera?

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