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  • iPad/Chrome EV3 software is so disappointing...

    The EV3 iPad / Chromebook versions of the software is *so* much more responsive to use, but it's missing critical functionality (MyBlocks, sensor blocks, math blocks). It's fine if you want a string of move blocks and some simple logic, and works great for single-day workshops, but falls down quickly after that.

    Very frustrating. (Yes, this is just a mini-rant, it's fine to ignore.)

  • #2
    Re: iPad/Chrome EV3 software is so disappointing...

    Even if the app supported all blocks and features I think programming on a fairly small touch screen would be an aggravating experience. I tried programming LabVIEW using a touch screen and that tested my patience after 5 minutes. And that was on a 32" monitor. A stylus worked better (touch screens hate my fingers), but it wasn't as good as a mouse. Typing on a virtual keyboard to set input values and write comments wouldn't be much fun either. Probably not an issue for kids who aren't used to typing, or who usually only type for texting.

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    • #3
      Re: iPad/Chrome EV3 software is so disappointing...

      I can tell you that we'd happily be iPad-only, if all the capabilities were there. While I may have reservations about the interface, I can assure you the kids do not!

      Oh, well. Back to the laptop!

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      • #4
        Re: iPad/Chrome EV3 software is so disappointing...

        I was really surprised. Touch seems like a natural interface, but in practice graphical programming with a touch screen was pretty horrible. At least so far. Almost as bad as trying to text program using speech. For either to work you need to start from the ground up and design the language with the intention of using a particular interface. Graphical programming with touch is in desperate need of a different paradigm. You should have a spool of wire you can use for making connections, not clicking and dragging. You should be able to "walk into" my blocks to see what they do. It could really be cool, but right now it is barely useable.
        Last edited by Dean Hystad; 08-27-2016, 02:27 PM.

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        • #5
          Re: iPad/Chrome EV3 software is so disappointing...

          Judging this season I had opportunities to talk with several teams that did some or all their programming on an iPad. None of the teams were satisfied using the app as their primary programming interface. The main complaint was the small screen. If you resize the blocks to be easy to work with you can only see 3 or 4 blocks on the screen. Making the blocks smaller lets you see more blocks but makes it almost impossible to change parameter settings. The virtual keyboard is a virtual keyboard and typing comments is painful . This meant iPad teams used fewer comments than other teams.

          Of teams that used iPads and laptops most planned to only use the app but moved to a laptop when limitations of the app got in the way of doing what they wanted to do. The biggest limitation in he app is the lack of data wires. This prevents doing things like proportional line following that involve reading a sensor, computing a steering correction, and using the steering correction in a move block. Because there are no data wires there are no sensor or math blocks. These blocks are useless without wires for inputs and outputs. A less frequent complaint is no my blocks in the app. You can't even import a program that uses my blocks (or any of the blocks missing from the app). If you can't use wires there isn't much need for my blocks. There are so few interesting things those my blocks can do.

          This does not mean the app is worthless. I loaded it onto my Samsung S2 and I use it a lot. It takes less time to launch the app than it does to boot the EV3. Download and run is immediate. Every download is like the very first program you ran on the EV3. This is the big advantage of no my blocks, there is no need to download a bunch of files that might get used in your program. Right now it takes about 30 seconds to download my Animal Allies project. If I want to test out a tiny code snippet I usually launch the programming app and have the program written and running in less time than it takes to download my main project. You can get similar time savings by using two projects for development; one with all your code and one with no my blocks that is only used for testing code snippets.

          My biggest complaint is the cursor. Steve Jobs was wrong thinking a finger makes an adequate stylus. My finger works passably well for making a phone call. One in three times I can follow a link on a web page on the first try. I have a lot of "fat finger" problems using a touch screen and these are even more apparent using the EV3 app. I usually have to resize the screen to make blocks big enough so I can tap the block header to pull up the edit menu. I have a terrible time resizing or positioning comment blocks. I frequently mess up programs so badly just trying to drag a block that I start over.

          I think a two tier approach could make the app really useful, especially for teams that only have one laptop for programming. The app could be used for reading sensors and trying out attachments. We spent a lot of time this year optimizing "pumping" for the conservation model. The app would've been the perfect tool for this work, letting us program and test right at the table while leaving the laptop free for other programming. The quick download would cut testing time in half. We had a similar development cycle getting food from the refrigerator. There were a lot of tweaks to get the right rhythm of pulling and pushing the slider that produced good results in a short time. That could have all been performed using the app.
          Last edited by Dean Hystad; 02-12-2017, 03:31 PM.

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          • #6
            Dean: It sounds like slow download times are getting in the way of your team's development cycle.

            How are they running the program: start block (green arrow), download button in lower-right panel, play button in lower-right panel, or play button in parentheses in lower-right panel? During development, my team selects the part of the program they want to run, then clicks the play button in parentheses in the lower-right panel. This downloads and runs very quickly (a few seconds), even when their full program takes much longer to download (30-60 seconds?), because it only downloads the selected part of the program (transitively including any myblocks it needs).

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            • #7
              Originally posted by pmchen View Post
              Dean: It sounds like slow download times are getting in the way of your team's development cycle.

              How are they running the program: start block (green arrow), download button in lower-right panel, play button in lower-right panel, or play button in parentheses in lower-right panel? During development, my team selects the part of the program they want to run, then clicks the play button in parentheses in the lower-right panel. This downloads and runs very quickly (a few seconds), even when their full program takes much longer to download (30-60 seconds?), because it only downloads the selected part of the program (transitively including any myblocks it needs).
              The big time saving using a tablet is not that the download is fast. The big time saving from using the tablet is it frees up the laptop so some kids can write programs while other kids are testing attachments or just trying out strategies. By the time we get to writing and testing missions the number of download/run cycles has dropped way down and I sort of like the 20 seconds it takes to download and run. I see a lot of teams that do so many download and run cycles that they forget the analyze step and end up making their programs run worse. If you know you have to wait 20 seconds after you press the green arrow it makes you take another look at the code and think about what you are doing. Plus during the download you have nothing better to do than jot a few lines in your notebook.

              I worked at a tournament last weekend where the practice tables were constantly in use but most of the teams weren't making any real progress. I sat in with one team that was having lots of problems at the table, They ran a mission for me and it worked, but was just a bit off. They made a change which made it worse, and of course they didn't save what they were doing in the past or write any notes. After they change they made another change that made things even worse. After three cycles of this I pulled out a sheet of paper and a pen and we drew a picture of what needed to happen, verified we were changing the correct blocks of code, and thought about the changes that had been made and why they didn't work. Turns out the team didn't know what the steer control on the move block did, not really, and this was preventing them from changing the program they way they wanted. We spent some time talking about how the steer input controls the ratio and ran the robot with different steers so they could see that different steer values made the robot drive in different sized circular paths. Then we talked about how steer by itself doesn't control a turn, you also have to thing about duration. And sometimes when you change a turn you might want to leave the turning radius alone and just make the robot turn for a longer or shorter distance. After that that we adjusted the turn by their pit area instead of queuing for the practice table and they were ready to take on work on the next problem.

              However, all that said I am using run selected for my own work.
              Last edited by Dean Hystad; 02-10-2019, 05:45 PM.

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              • #8
                I'm new at EV3 and FLL, can I use only the iPad to participate in FLL?
                What can't I do?

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by jonasdoliveira View Post
                  I'm new at EV3 and FLL, can I use only the iPad to participate in FLL?
                  What can't I do?
                  FLL lets you use tablet/chrome book app or Windows/Mac software. Your choice.

                  If you are forced to use a tablet or chrome book (maybe because you are a school team and the school mandates what you can use) you have no choice but to use the programming app. The full featured programming software only runs on PC's and Macs. The app has two severe limitations:

                  1. No my blocks. This makes it really hard to write complicated programs.

                  2. No wires to pass data between blocks. This means no math and no proportional control. It is challenging to write a smooth line follower or gyro follower without using math.

                  I've never talked to a team that used both the app and programming software that said they preferred using the app.
                  Last edited by Dean Hystad; 02-15-2019, 07:55 PM.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by jonasdoliveira View Post
                    I'm new at EV3 and FLL, can I use only the iPad to participate in FLL?
                    What can't I do?
                    I would strongly suggest finding a way to get an old windows or mac computer (if you can't get a new one), install Lego Mindstorms and wipe out everything else. It will make a huge difference, as Dean explained above. You can probably find someone to donate an old computer to your team if you ask around. Many businesses would see this as contributing to education and would be happy to do this.

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                    • #11
                      Thanks for the answers!
                      Yes, it is in a School that have iPads.

                      I Will create a FLL team, then I'm checking If only using the iPad It is enough to compete in FLL in a high level to complete the challenges.

                      Or If It could use the iPad and a notebook at same time in a way to develop good codes.

                      Could you exemplify cases that will not be possible by using the iPad?
                      ​​

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                      • #12
                        Many teams want to use line following to solve mission. In order to line follow, you will need sensor blocks that allow to to query a sensor (a light sensor in this example) to see how much light the sensor is seeing. That's how the robot will figure out if it is in the right spot. Too much black, and the robot will need to turn to the light. Too much light, and the robot needs to turn to the black. Without the sensor blocks, and without "data wires", this is impossible. "Data wires" are how the robot programming environment take data (such as a sensor reading) from one place to another.

                        A team could of course solve missions other ways. They would be at a serious disadvantage. But even more important than that, they would be missing out on one of the most important parts of the robot programming experience. Understanding the logic of how a single value can be move around in a program is a big part of the challenge.

                        Furthermore, the tablet and chromebook do not allow for "MyBlocks". If you know what a function is in computer programming, then you will understand what a MyBlock is. You can take a section of code and reduce it to a single block, just like a programming function. Understanding how to think abstractly like that is another key learning concept and a big part of the programming experience.

                        I personally would strongly encourage you to put as much effort as you can into convincing whatever decision makers you have to work with to understand that Chromebooks and tablets are simply not appropriate for FLL. I totally get it that some teams just cannot make that happen, which is unfortunate, but it is reality. Only you can tell what the appropriate amount of pressure is. School politics and budgets are reality. If you have no choice, then go ahead and make a team and use the tablets/chromebooks.

                        Let us know if there is anything else that we can do to help!
                        Norfolk, Virginia, USA
                        FLL Coach and Regional Tournament Head judge since 2014

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                        • #13
                          It is easy to do line and gyro following with the app. It does have sensors, they are part of the switch and loop blocks. You cannot do proportional control, but many teams follow lines without sensor blocks or data wires.

                          I would say 80% of the FLLprograms I see could be written using the app. You can compete using the app, but it would be harder and take longer, be less fun, and you would learn less.

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                          • #14
                            Yes! It is proportional control that you can't do. I remember a couple of years ago my school toyed with the idea of using ipads/chromebooks. I remember trying to make a line-follower, and my team was already using proportional control. I couldn't recreate that. It's been so long that I even forgot there are other line following options out there that don't use proportional control.

                            Yeah, you are probably about right with your 80% figure. I have done robot design judging and most programs I have seen from other teams are just a long string of green move blocks, which is 100% doable with an ipad.

                            I guess it comes down to your estimate of what your team will be capable of. The tablet/chromebook will only take a team so far. Advanced teams are going to be looking for more options and more capability. My team would be crushed if they were told they could not use data wires or myblocks. They'd make it happen, but now that they have had a taste of the good life, they would not be happy to fall back in that way.

                            The OP was asking for an easy-to-understand characterization of what can and can't be done. I think we have answered that, but ultimately the decision will be up to him/her. Maybe tell us a little more about the team members?
                            Norfolk, Virginia, USA
                            FLL Coach and Regional Tournament Head judge since 2014

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                            • #15
                              Thanks a for the answers! I really is helping a lot! I understood that I will loss many of the fun, good read and other functions on tablets, but it is still possible.

                              What do you mean by "proportional control"?

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