I was so impressed with the work Max Braun and Rafael Spring did with their Enkin application that I enthusiastically requested an interview. If you would like to know more about them, what they think about Google’s Android and where they see location based services heading in the future then continue reading after the jump.
What are you currently studying at university and why?
Max: We both study Computational Visualistics at the University of Koblenz, Germany. The course covers mostly computer science but focuses on it’s visual aspects like computer graphics or image processing. It managed to provide us almost all the knowledge (esp. maths, computer graphics, software engineering, …) we needed to succeed with this project. However, unlike the MIT, we have no Android classes … yet!
Why did you decide to use Google’s Android instead of the other mobile phone platforms already on the market? What do you think of Android over all?
Max: The Android Developer Challenge was certainly a big factor. But also, other platforms simply lack some of the tools we used in Enkin, like sensor interfaces, a positioning system, or an open maps application.
Rafael: I think that Andriod has a great potential to refresh the mobile market. For having developers make cool applications for Android, the ADC was certainly the way to go. We hope that Google and the OHA members will bring us some good Android devices soon.
How long did Enkin take you to write, how many man hours would you say, how many lines of code?
Rafael: The overall project until now is almost five months of work. Man hours are hard to estimate, but probably more than 1000. It wasn’t all code, we also spent a lot of time creating web services for Enkin, discussing UI designs, making field tests, etc. Getting all the sensor data into Enkin (while not ruining performance) also wasn’t exactly a quick thing to do.
We won’t tell the exact lines of code but it’s more than the “lightness” of the interface might suggest.
What inspired you to create Enkin?
Max: When we heard about the ADC we immediately wanted to join. We didn’t have the exact concept back then, this developed during the process. At the time, some people in our labs at Osaka University were doing research with accelerometers and gyros and we were probably inspired by that.
Rafael: And I remember this evening where we were looking for a club in Osaka to see ‘The Shins’ playing and it was really small and hidden. We just had a sketched map, it was dark, and it was hard to identify the streets. So we thought how cool it would be if we had something smart on our mobile that would guide us. Maybe this was when the initial idea was born.
Rafael: We heard about Nokia MARA when we had almost finished Enkin. No doubt, the concept is very similar to Live mode and we wonder why it’s discontinued.
Max: But the concept behind Enkin already goes beyond that and there are still lots of ideas to implement and improvements to be made. What you will see on actual Android devices will be much smoother and come with more features than what the demo video shows so far. We have some really nice ideas in the pipeline. Concerning the future development of Enkin, we try not to focus on one of the modes but rather make them essentials of a unified concept. This will guarantee a smooth navigation experience while being fun to play with at the same time.
How important do you think the standardization of KML is to the future of how consumers create, share and enjoy maps?
Rafael: Of course, anything about sharing should follow a standard. And location-based content is definitely something that people want to share and which can really enrich people’s mobile experience. In future versions, Enkin will be able to share location-based content with other users or even applications. I think there will be various aspects of LBC that other applications are actually specialized on, so exchanging LBC would benefit all parties. Thus standardization is definitely an issue and KML a possible and useful solution.
If you win what do you plan on doing with the prize money?
Max: We try not to think about it until the first round of the challenge is over. We certainly hope that we’ll be one of the finalists and thus be able to participate in the second round to start developing for actual Android devices.
What are you planning to do after university?
Rafael: Maybe I will do my PhD then but, ok, that’s still university. I don’t make much long-term plans so it’s a simple: “I don’t know yet.”
Max: As for me, I’m aiming for an academic career in the long run. So the next step will be a PhD, too.
What are you looking forward to the most in the future of mobile telecommunications?
Rafael: GPS III and Galileo definitely rock. They will enable us to do really awesome stuff for Enkin.
Max: I like how more and more mobile devices are getting rid of the physical keyboard and use all the space for one touch screen. That’s the way to go, I think. Together with increasing computational power this will bring us great user interfaces in the future.
What phones do you have now?
Max: Right now, I am using my Japanese Sharp 880SH with it’s terrible UI. Back in Germany, I’ll go back to my old K610i, but I’m thinking about getting an iPhone because I really like my iPod touch.
Rafael: I just came back from Japan so until I get my new handset (which I haven’t ordered yet) I will use my old Sony “brick”.