Master thesis – Conclusions

This article presents an overview of my Master thesis. It summarizes the work by presenting the contributions to the research field and also the future work based on the already created prototype. The Breiny application is meant to support the Brainstorming process by using computers in a modern way – Natural User Interface. After creating the prototype, a User Evaluation was used to prove or disprove the theoretical hypotheses.

In the Related work is presented the relevant work on which my master thesis relyies on and the systems that are the basis for comparison with the developed prototype. It considers several already available collaboration and brainstorming systems and compares their features with the proposed Framework for analysis. As a conclusion of the chapter, none of the considered systems fulfill all the requirements from the proposed Framework.

Next article proposes a conceptual approach to achieve the goals set by the proposed Framework and discusses the architectural view of the prototype. Then, the general usecase is presented with the additional case in which small mobile devices can connect to the proposed architecture. The desired set of features are transposed into actors and their usecases and analyzed.  The chapter continues with the requirements elicitation, establishing a list of Functional and Non Functional requirements that should be implemented. It also takes into consideration the existing software development patterns that will ensure that the prototype meet the desired characteristics and ensure that the software produced is flexible, easy to extend, and maintainable.

In  Implementation the actual development of the prototype is presented. The challenges of this part of the paper started with the documentation of the framework, which was not always enough, especially that the hardware chosen was very new on the market when the development of the prototype started. Then, new challenges appeared when designing the User Interface, but they were solved through several DIA cycles. Each cycle’s Analysis stage, which was done with colleagues and the supervising Professor, helped in achieving the current state of the prototype. Another challenge was the transition from synchronous internet communication to asynchronous, required because in case of slow network connection the User Interface frozen for few seconds during updates. By moving to the MVVM pattern and asynchronous communication, this problem was solved.

In  Evaluation were presented the hypotheses that governed the development of the prototype and which were extracted from the Framework of Analisys. The prototype evaluation proved to be a real success, almost all hypotheses were proved true by the participants in Evaluation Sessions. This suggest that in a near future, when more researcher will get in contact with the prototype, the adoption will gradually raise and the user’s feedback will improve the knowledge and validate as true also the non-functional requirements (like responsiveness, maintainability, flexibility, extensibility etc.).

The novelty of this application is given by some of its key features, none of which implemented in the other systems proposed as a reference:

  1. Integration with other systems to provide helpers for idea generation – Twitter and Flickr;
  2. The ability to easily share the outcome of the Brainstorming session through use of integration with other applications;
  3. Addressing the physical limitation of the Surface by creating means for other small mobile devices to interface with the prototype.
  4. More input modes – voice, drawing and typing.

These features were the novelty brought with this paperwork and the users proved that they are required, desired and usable by validating them in the User Evaluation questionnaire.

Future work

During the evaluation phase, the users’s feedback was great in possible new features and interaction chances. They proposed new features which can be implemented on the prototype, which are presented below.
Larger screen / better resolution
The feature mostly desired by the users was to have either more space at their disposal or a bigger screen resolution. Because the system is a closed unit, it cannot be upgraded, and therefore this is possible with this device. Nevertheless, the second version of Microsoft Surface will have a diagonal of 40 in (108cm) instead of 30 inch (76cm) and the resolution increased from 1024×768 pixels to 1920×1080 pixels – full HD definition. In the my opinion, this will overcome the current situation.
More virtual keyboards
The second most important improvement would be to offer more keyboards at one time – but would this suffice? More software keyboards will occupy more screen space and make unavailable the content underneath them. This is a question to which a future thesis will hopefully respond.
Better microphone system
The voice recognition system used is the default Speech Recognition implemented in Windows Vista. It requires training in order to improve its recognition rate. In my opinion, training it extensively with more subjects would improve immensely the recognition rate. Possible is that there are other speech recognition engines available which can be better than the default one proposed by this paper.
Delete session
Another feature requested by the users was to be able not only to save and load session, but also to delete it. In the my opinion, since deleting folders is supported by the BSCW system, it is better and safer to be done from it. Safer because during the session, an accidental touch from many participants who interact simultaneously can destroy a valuable resource as a Brainstorming Session. But this can be part of a future master thesis – is might be valuable to bring more features from BSCW in Breiny, such that the users may use the prototype as a limited interface to BSCW?
Delete Brainstorming Item
This feature was proposed during the User Evaluation and can be proven useful. But it conflicts with the main goal of the Brainstorming process – don’t judge, create as many ideas as possible. I believe that if a staging mechanism would be implemented, to clearly separate the Adding/Editing phase from the Grouping/Relating, this can prove useful if this feature would be enabled only in the second phase, where some ideas which don’t relate with the main goal can be removed on a common agreement between the Brainstorming Session participants.