26 October 2020

LOOKING AHEAD: WHAT’S NEXT FOR MIT’S APP INVENTOR

The App Inventor team has intentionally kept the tool as open ended as possible so that the audience and the things they create can emerge organically. Unlike some authoring tools that are specifically for making games or programming a simulation, a simulation, App Inventor purposefully provides building blocks that can be arranged for virtually any purpose or goal. The tool itself is an access point to all of the features in a mobile device. The building blocks of an App Inventor program are components like the camera, GPS, accelerometer, texting, contact lists, Near Field Communication (NFC) sensors, Bluetooth, the internet, local and remote data storage, and more.

App Inventor lets a user intuitively access all of the features in a mobile device so that they can create any combination of functionality into their app. App Inventor opens up the black box that many people perceive a computer to be. In December 2013, the team at MIT unveiled months of hard work in the form of App Inventor 2, an entirely browser-based version of App Inventor. Formerly, the Blocks Editor part of the tool had to be run as a local java program on the user’s computer. With App Inventor 2, the Blocks Editor was entirely rewritten based on Blockly10 a web-based block programming editor so that it no longer requires a local java installation.

This frees up users from having to struggle with administrator-level support for constantly evolving java software. It has also made the Designer to Blocks Editor transition much more intuitive for our users. Where they used to have to go between the web browser for the Designer and to the local java program for the Blocks Editor, the two are now side-by-side in a single browser window, making it much easier to navigate between them.

Never satisfied with current accomplishments, the MIT App Inventor team has several projects on the horizon. In addition to constantly rolling out new components, such as the NFC component, the team is looking forward to one day offering an entirely Android-based solution where you can program in App Inventor on an Android tablet, eliminating the need for a traditional computer. While no launch date has been determined, this is the next major milestone for the project.

In the meantime, MIT App Inventor continues to grow in popularity. Upon re-launch from MIT, App Inventor saw usage in the thousands. In February 2014 the number of unique users averaged 40,000 per week. People come from all over the world to use our tool to help them create. App Inventor will continue to make it easy to for people to develop a type of digital literacy that many believe should be accessible to all, not just those with advanced technical knowledge. Installing Software Development Kits and programming in text-based programming languages are no longer prerequisites for app development. People everywhere, from all walks of life, can become empowered to create the solutions that they need or want in their daily lives

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