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Designing and evaluating the usability of an API for real-time multimedia services in the Internet

Abstract

In the last few years, multimedia technologies in general, and Real-Time multimedia Communications (RTC) in particular, are becoming mainstream among WWW and smartphone developers, who have an increasing interest in richer media capabilities for creating their applications. The engineering literature proposing novel algorithms, protocols and architectures for managing and processing multimedia information is currently overwhelming. However, most of these results do not arrive to applications due to the lack of simple and usable APIs. Interestingly, in this context in which APIs are the critical ingredient for reaching wide developer audiences, the scientific literature about multimedia APIs and their usability is scarce. In this paper we try to contribute to fill this gap by proposing the RTC Media API: a novel type of API designed with the aim of making simple for developers the use of latest trends in RTC multimedia including WebRTC, Video Content Analysis or Augmented Reality. We provide a specification of such API and discuss how it satisfies a set of design requirements including programming-language agnosticism, adaptation to cloud environments, support to multisensory multimedia, etc. After that, we describe an implementation of such an API that has been created in the context of the Kurento open source software project, and present a study evaluating the API usability performed in a group of more than 40 professional developers distributed worldwide. In the light of the obtained results, we conclude that the usability of the API is adequate across the main development activities (i.e. API learning, code creation and code maintenance), with an average usability score of 3.39 over 5 in a Likert scale, and that this result is robust with respect to developers’ profiles, cultures, professional experiences and preferred programming languages.

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Notes

  1. Latest versions of the IDL files specifying the Kurento RTC Media API in the kmd.json format can be found at the Kurento GitHub repository at the following locations:

  2. Latest versions of the IDL files specifying the Kurento RTC Media API extensions in the kmd.json format can be found at the Kurento GitHub repository in different locations, including the following:

  3. Demos showing different Kurento applications created using the Kurento RTC Media API implementations are accessible at the Kurento YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFtGhWYqahVlzMgGNtEmKug

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Acknowledgments

This work has been supported by the European Commission under projects FI-WARE FP7-2011-ICT-FI GA-285248, FI-CORE FP7-2014-ICT-FI GA- 632893 and NUBOMEDIA FP7-ICT-2013-1.6 GA-610576; by Spanish Ministerio de Educación under project Reactive Media (TIN2013-41819-R); and by the Regional Government of Madrid (CM) under project Cloud4BigData (S2013/ICE-2894) co-funded by FSE & FEDER.

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Correspondence to Luis López-Fernández.

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López-Fernández, L., García, B., Gallego, M. et al. Designing and evaluating the usability of an API for real-time multimedia services in the Internet. Multimed Tools Appl 76, 14247–14304 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11042-016-3729-z

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Keywords

  • Media server
  • Real-time multimedia communications
  • Application Programming Interfaces
  • WebRTC
  • Multimedia processing
  • Multimedia tools and applications
  • Cognitive dimensions of notations