Mobile platform

Earlier I wrote about deciding on a platform for my project. One of the reasons to go mobile was to engage a close relationship with the object. The mobile device would be moving towards the object. This way the interaction is directly the opposite of moving the object to the reader. The user is approaching the object instead of moving the object away from himself.

In the end I decided to go for a PDA with a CompactFlash-based RFID reader. It looked like building a fullscreen Flash application for Windows for Pocket PC was the way to go. With the new Flash Player 7 for Pocket PC .flv video files are also playable. Unfortunately no public standalone Flash Player is released by Macromedia. I could go for the Internet Explorer plugin, but at the top and bottom a lot of screenspace is lost because of the menu bars. Next to that it would be pretty distracting and ugly.

Werner Ruotsalainen wrote a great article describing the possibilities for Flash on Pocket PC. Bryht Flash Player looked like the way to go. It comes with a button bar (play, stop etc.), dissapearing when using the program fullscreen. The trial version was not that smooth, so I could not really test if it was worth the money.

To use the CompactFlash RFID reader in combination with Macromedia Flash a bridge would have to be created. Some readers like the Socket CF RFID Reader Card 6E come with keyboard wedge software faking keyboard presses. This solution would not win the beauty contest but would do the job. The Mobile Bristol Toolkit by HP Labs Bristol however provides a superior interface not just for GPS, but for RFID as well! It’s GPS possibilities were used by the 2005 EMMA group project iPACK. For RFID the toolkit should be working with the ACG CF RFID reader, which I hope to receive soon.

Using the Mobile Bristol Editor the software can be programmed to send commands to Flash upon reading a tag and losing connection with a tag. The client software running on the HP iPAQ is not a standalone Flash Player but is using Internet Explorer functionality. In fact, the client is showing an HTML page where a Flash object can be embedded. It is on the other hand able to display the Flash movie fullscreen!

A little annoyance of Pocket Internet Explorer for Pocket PC 2003 is the popup “Press OK to continue loading the content of this page.”. It was Microsoft’s way to work around a patent, explained here, and pops up every time a Flash movie is played. My project file would only be run once, so for me this is not such a big problem. There is a (commercial) client side solution though, called ‘PressOK‘. It quickly removes the popup but you will still be able to see it for a slight second. The Microsoft Knowledge Base article describes a few Javascript solutions to counter this problem. This is a serverside solution, perfect for my project, and also compatible with the Mobile Bristol toolkit.