Thursday, August 30, 2018

Adding Instructional Support in SmartIR

Fig. 1
A goal of the SmartIR app is to provide basic instructional support directly in the app so that students, citizen scientists, professionals, and other users can learn what they can do with the incredible power of thermal vision beyond its conventional applications. This requires a lot of development work, such as inventing the artificial intelligence that can guide them through making their own scientific discoveries and engineering decisions. While that kind of instructional power poses an enormous challenge to us, adding some instructional materials in the app so that users can get started is a smaller step that we can take right now.

As of August 30, 2018, I have added 17 experiments in physical sciences that people can do with thermal vision in SmartIR. These experiments, ranging from heat transfer to physical chemistry, are based on my own work in the field of infrared imaging in the past eight years and are all very easy to do (to the point that I call them "kitchen science"). I now finally have a way to deliver these experiments through a powerful app. Figure 1 shows the list of these experiments in SmartIR. Users can click each card to open the corresponding instructional unit (which is a sequence of steps that guide users through the selected set of experiments).

Fig. 2
To do better than just putting some HTML pages into the app, I have also built critical features that allow users to switch back and forth between the thermal view and the document view (Figure 2). When users jump to the thermal view from a document, a thumbnail view of that document is shown on top of a floating button in the thermal view window (see the left image in Figure 2), allowing users to click it and go back to the document at any time. The thumbnail also serves to remind them which experiment they are supposed to conduct. When they go back to the document, a thumbnail view of the thermal camera is shown on top of a floating button in the document view window (see the right image in Figure 2), allowing users to click it and go back to the thermal view at any time. This thumbnail view also connects to the image stream from the thermal camera so that users can see current picture the camera is displaying without leaving the document.

These instructional features will be further enhanced in the future. For instance, users will be able to insert a thermal image into a container, or even create a slide show, in an HTML page to document a finding. At the end, they will be able to use SmartIR to automatically generate a lab report.

These new features, along with what I have built in the past few weeks, mark the milestone of Version 0.0.2 of SmartIR (i.e., only 2% of the work has been done towards maturity). The following video offers a sneak peek of this humble version.

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