I never thought much about MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) until now – just a way to send pictures to phones and email addresses, right?. But after playing with it over the last couple of days, I think this may have a lot more potential for Mobile Voices.
First, sending a picture is just the beginning of it. Each MMS can contain multiple parts: a subject, a picture, a voice recording describing it, and a text field to add tags or other information. The several phones I tried (Samsung, Nokia, Motorola mid-range phones) can create MMS’s that contain several such ‘pages’ or ‘slides’ – each with a picture (or video if the phone can do that), a sound recording, and a text message. The result can be a mini slide show with commentary and tags. They’re a bit cumbersome to produce on a phone, but not that difficult.
It’s unclear how large the whole MMS can be. At least 300k it seems (on AT&T/cingular), but that apparently depends on the phone as much as the carrier. And there seems to be multiple ways to increase the limit. Cell phones typically produce half-way decent pictures and sound clips in the 10k-50k range, so 300k isn’t bad – enough for three or four narrated slides.
Second, while carriers typically charge about $0.25 per MMS (both on the sending and receiving end), most offer message packages that are much cheaper. For example, on ATT’s pre-paid GoPhone plan, you can buy a 1000 MMS package for $10 – that’s 1 cent per MMS.
Phones that receive an MMS usually have an option to “Play” them – watch the slides as you listen to the commentary. When sent to an email address, MMS’s arrive as multiple attachments (from ATT: wav sound files, jpg pictures, 3gp videos, and txt files). It’s not clear whether they include metadata that says which sound file goes with what picture. If so, it should be possible to configure mailhandler on our drupal site to receive the various pictures and sounds, and display them as an embedded slide show (maybe such a plug-in already exists?)
This suggests a few possible activities/research projects for the VozMobClass:
- Produce MMS MultiMedia Stories with your current phone, and get a good sense of what can actually be done.
- Collect discarded camera-phones from colleagues and friends. GSM/TDMA phones are probably the easiest to re-use: unlock them, get a (free) pre-paid SIM card from an ATT store, load it up with $25 – and you have a phone can send over 2000 MMS’s during the next 3 months. If we could get a dozen of these and make them available at one of the IDEPSCA centers, that would be terrific.
- Work with the programming team to develop a drupal module that can receive and display these MMS’s. We’re half-way there with the ability to embed pictures and sound files sent as attachments.
(it also looks like the mailsave module does some of this, and I see Mark has been involved in fixing some pbs with it… so that’s probably on our radar)