Here’s a roundup of some of our technology testing and progress lately.
First, reflections from our partners Dr. Jim Kisiel and Tamara Galvan at California State University, Long Beach. Tamara recently tested the iPad and QuestionPro/Survey Pocket, Looxcie cameras and a few other apps to conduct surveys in the Long Beach Aquarium, which doesn’t have wifi in the exhibit areas. Here is Jim’s report on their usefulness:
“[We] found the iPad to be very useful. Tamara used it as a way to track, simply drawing on a pdf and indicating times and patterns, using the app Notability. We simply imported a pdf of the floorplan, and then duplicated it each time for each track. Noting much more than times, however, might prove difficult, due to the precision of a stylus. One thing that would make this even better would be having a clock right on the screen. Notability does allow for recording, and a timer that goes into play when the recording is started. This actually might be a nice complement, as it does allow for data collector notes during the session. Tamara was unable to use this feature, though, due to the fact that the iPad could only run one recording device at a time–and she had the looxcie hooked up during all of this.
Regarding the looxcie. Tamara had mixed results with this. While it was handy to record remotely, she found that there were many signal drop-outs where the mic lost contact with the iPad. We aren’t sure whether this was a limitation of the bluetooth and distance, or whether there was just too much interference in the exhibit halls. While looxcie would have been ideal for turning on/off the device, the tendency to drop communication between devices sometimes made it difficult to activate the looxcie to turn on. As such, she often just turned on the looxcie at the start of the encounter. It is also worth noting that Tamara used the looxcie as an audio device only, and sound quality was fine.
Tamara had mixed experiences with Survey Pocket. Aside from some of the formatting limitations, we weren’t sure how effective it was for open-ended questions. I was hoping that there was a program that would allow for an audio recording of such responses. She did manage to create a list of key words that she checked off during the open-ended questions, in addition to jotting down what the interviewee said. This seemed to work OK. She also had some issues syncing her data–at one point, it looked like much of her data had been lost, due in part to … [problems transferring] her data from the iPad/cloud back to her computer. However, staff was helpful and eventually recovered the data.
Other things: The iPad holder (Handstand) was very handy and people seemed OK with using it to complete a few demographic questions. Having the tracking info on the pad made it easier to juggle papers, although she still needed to bring her IRB consent forms with her for distribution. In the future, I think we’ll look to incorporate the IRB into the survey in some way.”
Along the same lines of software updates kinda messing up your well-laid plans, we’re purchasing a couple of laptops to do more data analysis away from the video camera system desktop computer and away from the eyetracker. We suddenly were confronted with the Windows 8 vs Windows 7 dilemma, though – the software for both of these systems is Windows 7-based, but now that Windows 8 is out, the school had to make a call as to whether or not to upgrade. Luckily for us, we’re skipping Windows 8 for the moment, which enables us to actually use the software on the new laptops since we will still go with Windows 7 for them, and the software programs themselves for the cameras and eye tracker won’t likely be Windows 8 ready until sometime in the new year.
Lastly, we’re still bulking up our capacity for data storage and sharing, as well as internet for video data collection. I have recently put in another new server to be dedicated to handle the sharing of data, with the older 2 servers as slaves and the cameras spread out between them. In addition, we put in a NAS storage system and five 3TB hard drives for storage. Mark assures me we’re getting to the point of having this “initial installation” of stuff finalized …