16 August 2010

When Adobe released ActionScript 3.0 with the Flex 2 SDK, the rich-media design and development community embraced the language upgrade with nervous excitement. Developers who had "grown up" with ActionScript, JavaScript, and other similar client-side languages, were unsure about the change to a more Object-Oriented and verbose syntax. Many of my colleagues teaching at the Art Institute were among the eager early adopters of ActionScript 3.0, because we could take our students and class projects in so many different directions. Rich-Media Shopping Carts! Multi-Platform Texting! Rapid Prototyping for Game UI’s! Mashups, Mashups, and More Mashups!


At the start of 2009, I was lucky enough to hire Marlin Dolinsky, a former GIS Project Lead and Chief Architect from ESRI*, to teach a Special Topics course on Flex and Rich Media. With the newest AS3 features in the Flex 3 SDK and Flex IDE, we were able to start branching into some exciting projects like mobile devices and GIS Mashups. Most of the current GIS data deals with buildings and locations and is commonly found powering GPS devices.

My students partnered with ESRI to enhance their existing UC Route Finder application for the San Diego Convention Center. The Flex-powered wayfinding application was initially launched in conjunction with the ESRI 2008 Conference in San Diego. The UC Route Finder exists on the Web and as a Touch-Screen Kiosk application at the Sand Diego Convention Center. The application is unique because it’s moving GIS information and concepts to the INSIDE of the building (Since the application provides point-to-point routing throughout the San Diego Convention Center, conference attendants can get a realistic distance and time for walking from hall to another.


My students were challenged to explore and develop many different methods for enhancing the existing capabilities of the UC Route Finder. Two of my students, Marsee Smith and Bart Welt, created a companion site that routes SDCC conference attendants to nearby restaurants (The application utilizes the Tweener class library for ActionScript 3.0 and Flex’s MXML to serve XML data in an intuitive application.) It was launched for the ESRI 2009 conference and can be seen online. That experience has allowed Art Institute students to think about other digital wayfinding applications for shopping centers, sports arenas, even Las Vegas! Recently, Rodolfo Godinez, a former student, partnered with Marlin, taking the same application to the Long Beach Convention center. It can be seen online as well.


Our campus is now leveraging the Flex SDK, the Flash IDE, and the Adobe Device Central to create projects across multiple screen platforms like Flash-enabled mobile phones, the Nintendo Wii, and the Sony PlayStation 3. Some of the Web Design and Interactive Media students have even found ways to take dynamically generated data, images, and video content to the iPhone, without using the iPhone SDK.


Our Students and Professors have also integrated Flex throughout multiple products within the Adobe CS4 Master Collection pipeline. Video content created in AfterEffects, Premiere, or Encore can now use Flex to encode metadata. At our campus, both our design-minded and developer-minded students are really excited about the new Flash Catalyst and the upgraded Flex Builder (aka Flash Builder) beta products. Designers who are more comfortable in Fireworks, Photoshop, or Illustrator can hand off rapidly developed prototypes to their developer counterparts, who can merrily code away in MXML and AS3.

*ESRI (Environmental Systems Research Institute) is a leading Geographic Information Systems service provider and current Adobe Partner.