Better TogetherBetter Together is a plug-in based platform designed to disaggregate the components of complex services, allowing separate mobile phones to each represent and provide a single component of the overall interaction.
OverviewMainstream mobile interactions are focused around individual devices, with any collaboration happening via "the cloud". We carried out design workshops with emergent users, revealing opportunities for novel collocated collaborative interactions. Better Together is a framework for disaggregating services locally, splitting interaction elements over separate mobiles. This distribution supports both sharing of resources (such as screen real- estate, or mobile data); and, scaffolding of inclusive interaction in mixed groups (e.g., in terms of literacy or prior technology exposure). We developed two prototypes to explore the concept, trialling them with emergent users in South Africa and India. The resulting platform is plug-in driven and is able to disaggregate any service.
To try out Better Together, simply download the app from Google Play.
Developing your own plugin is the easiest way to add your own functionality using the framework. To get started, visit the API documentation on GitHub. A simple example plugin is also provided, giving a basic, fully-documented overview of how to develop a plugin.
If you'd prefer deeper integration, it is also possible to add Better Together's connectivity functionality to your own app. See, for example, Swarachakra keyboard, which enables remote text input in Indic scripts.
All aspects of the framework are open-source, licensed under Apache 2.0
Better Together disaggregates existing services over multiple devices. Left: a shopping website on a laptop screen, with the familiar lists of categories and products, and a site-wide basket. Right: Better Together splits core components of a service onto separate phones - in this case there are seven - allowing them to be arranged according to users' preferences and interacted with independently. In the example shown, different phones are used for categories (highlighted in blue), products (green) and the basket (red) of the same shop- ping website. Users touch the screens to perform actions such as adding to (or removing from) the basket, or selecting a category to show; and, flip phones to switch to the next item or category.
ShoppingThis plugin demonstrates how the components of a shopping website could be separated, allowing different devices to display either a single item for purchase, a category, or the shopping basket. Users interact with the system by touching the screen or gesturing with any of the devices. This functionality allows users to see products and categories laid out across multiple devices, and can be useful to allow multiple people to shop together.
VideosThis plugin separates the components of a video streaming service, allowing a group of devices to each represent a single component of the interaction. For example, one can display search queries and results, another the video screen, and another the controller. Additional devices can also be added to view related videos or comments. This functionality allows users to utilise the best parts of each device. For instance, if one device in the group is a tablet, this could be used as the screen, whereas if another had more airtime or higher quality speakers it could be used to provide these functions to the group.
KeyboardBuilt on the popular Swarachakra keyboard, this plugin allows you to enter text on one phone from any other connected device. Once connected, the controlling device can manipulate the keyboard in any other app, making it useful in many situations. Currently supporting both Marathi and English, the Better Together keyboard integration can be used to aid learning – for example, to help children with spelling or grammar. It can also be beneficial for those who do not speak a language (or have little to no written literacy) to get help entering text. Other benefits of the keyboard include being able to enter text remotely using a personal device, and providing the ability for multiple people to edit the same document at the same time using independent devices with no internet connection required.
For more information on Better Together and its plugins, please see its dedicated website: bettertogethertoolkit.org.
- Documentation flyer
- Better Together: Disaggregating Mobile Services for Emergent Users. S. Robinson, J. Pearson, M. Jones, A. Joshi, S. Ahire, published in Proceedings of MobileHCI 2017 (Article 44)