Week Nineteen: Prototyping

I’ve jumped straight into exploring possible technologies to facilitate the identification of game cards as for my mark one presentation I would like to demonstrate the concept rather than the experience of interacting with it.
At the moment I am using NFC tags to identify Love Letter cards, and building the prototype in MIT’s App Inventor. This is essentially Scratch for prototyping native Android apps – it is frustratingly limiting in some respects, and while assembling code from draggable snippets is helpful for the beginner, its a little annoying if you’ve got any coding experience. However, if you’ve never tried to write an app that requires direct access to the sensors on an Android phone, its an extremely easy way to rapidly prototype anything that does just that.
Screenshot (366)
MIT App Inventor code screen. Easy, but not without bugs.
I have started with NFC because it is a very reliable technology and thus very suitable to demonstrate the idea of sight impaired players using their mobile phones to ‘read’ information on cards. However, I am not convinced that it is the best choice for the app that I will ultimately develop as a) Apple severely restrict access rights to the onboard NFC module on their phones, meaning an iPhone version is out of the question at the current time, and b) while initial costs associated with NFC are less than those for the PenFriend, after the first few hundred tags, the PenFriend system would actually be cheaper. This may not be a problem if the games to be tagged have few cards, but for games such as Dominion, NFC would ultimately become more expensive than PenFriend tagging, which is already prohibitively expensive for hobbyist gamers.

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