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The Smartphone Revolution in psychological science: OpenSesame mobile

Recently, Sebastiaan managed to port the OpenSesame experiment builder to the Android operating system. Since then, I've spent some time working on adapting OpenSesame so that it can be used to create and package experiments that participants can download from the Google Play Store like any other app. When the participant has finished an experiment on his/her tablet or phone, the data are automatically sent back to the experimenter over the internet.

So far, I have designed and uploaded a simple reaction time experiment to test this idea, which I would be grateful if you could take a few minutes to download and try.

The app consists of a few questions about the phone you are using, a prototype of a new on-screen keyboard feature, and 32 trials of a basic reaction time task. If, for whatever reason, the app doesn't work as expected on your phone or tablet, please leave a comment below or on the forum.

The Smartphone Revolution

Viva la Revolución

The spread of smartphones over the last few years has been phenomenal, and for the first time a huge proportion of the young adult population (who psychologists have traditionally relied upon as subjects anyway) carry powerful computers with touchscreen interfaces with them wherever they go.

Smartphones also offer a number of features not seen in the average lab computer, including an accelerometer, one or more cameras, vibration feedback, and in the future even eye-tracking technology. The potential of smartphones to revolutionise behavioural research is discussed in this review, this research paper, and this particularly thorough talk.

The end goal of this project is to incorporate the code used in the test app into OpenSesame's graphical experiment building enviroment, so that researchers, with little or no prior programming experience, can design, package, distribute their experiments to, and collect data from, this huge population of participants.

Helping the project

The most important thing that the project needs at the moment is your help! We need Android users who take two minutes to test the app on their phones and tablets. For now, we want to know which phones can and can't run the software, and so the test app has been kept simple. In the future, more advanced features will be introduced (sliding scales, tap-and-drag icons, accelerometer support, etc).

Like the rest of the OpenSesame project, this software is created by volunteers, and is, and will remain, free and open source. If you would like to contribute to the development of the project, we would particularly welcome the following:

  • Python programmers to develop Android and touchscreen functionality of OpenSesame itself.
  • Someone with a little artistic flair to help with visual aspects of the software.
  • Anyone willing to polish the rudimentary HTML/PHP/SQL used to send and store the data.

I will be uploading the source code for the project so far in the next few weeks. In the mean time, if you would like to contribute, please leave a comment below, or post on the forum.

Finally, the project really can't move forward without more testers. If any readers are willing to promote the test app on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and the rest, I'd be very grateful indeed. I've also set up (but not yet found time to add much to) a Facebook page to keep people up to date and to announce updates of the test app. Also, you can send an e-mail to to sign up for a newsletter.

Viva la (Smartphone) Revolución!
Eoin Travers