Well, it has certainly been a pretty intense few months. I choose my project in the very first week and, while I had moments (or more accurately, a month) of doubt this semester as to whether or not my choice had been the correct one, I am glad I decided to undertake something that I knew would be challenging rather than the pursue the second strongest contender for my final year project, which I was something I was sure I could do. I can honestly say that while I knew that my concept was technically possible, I had only a vague idea of to implement it, and that was both terrifying because I essentially bet my future on it, and exhilarating because I enjoy exploring possibilities of what could be achieved.
Looking back, I might have spent a little too long in my research phase. While I always find speaking to potential users intriguing, I possibly didn’t really need to understand all of the different causes of visual impairment, which I spent precious time reading about. What I learned directly from the visually impaired gaming group was much more valuable and the considerable amount of time I spent in their company, not just questioning them, but participating in their games, provided both direction for the project and insights that I could never have gained any other way. It also provided something that I could not have anticipated: encouragement from their incredible determination to play these games which are so poorly designed from an accessibility point of view. Their improvised adaptations not only inspired me as a designer, but also make me proud to be part of a community of gamers – sighted and otherwise – who I have seen remarkable ingenuity from all in the name of gameplay.
In terms of coding, the first two prototypes were very straightforward because I was using simple tools. However, once I switched to Android Studio it became very challenging, which is why there are fewer posts on this blog from the last month. From a programming perspective, it isn’t too bad, but the Android Studio IDE has quite the learning curve. Everything seems counter-intuitive, but now that I am used to it, its just frustrating rather than problematic. Throughout prototyping in both App Inventor and Android Studio, it’s been surprisingly difficult to implement the swiping of specific areas of the screen down to activate an option and away to close (and in fact in App Inventor the behaviour must be faked using a canvas fling instead of an onSwipe event handler) – however I am pleased to say it has been a worthwhile endeavour to map the action taken to read a card to something approaching the physical act of card draw and the action taken to back out of a screen to something like discarding a card as it definitely enhances the user experience, and, as I’d hoped, supports and complements the physical experience of gameplay rather than supplanting it. On a less positive note however, I’ve had a persistent issue with a camera framework bug, which is unfortunately due to Android’s own security measures rather than bad code. To ensure that the prototype functions reliably on the day of the Viva, I may resort to faking the effect with a concealed NFC tag.
On the whole, fourth year has been an interesting experience which has offered the incredible opportunity to dedicate a significant amount of time to a project which I have come to believe in sufficiently strongly enough to pursue it beyond the Viva until it is a stable, viable app which makes a difference to other people’s lives.