This week, Google divulged its latest conception for the Android world: App Inventor, which allows anyone to design their own app for the Android smartphone. The program represents an attempt by Google to increase the number of Android apps (still about half the number of apps available for the iPhone and iPad) and possibly to entice the public towards Android by putting the power of creation in their hands.
App Inventor does not require that its users know how to write code. Instead, inventors use “blocks” that correspond to app behavior thanks to inspiration from MIT’s Lifelong Kindergarten Group and Scheller Teacher Education Program, who have worked to develop codes and programming that allows kids to create technology. App Inventors choose such elements as the titles and background colors for the buttons of their apps. Google offers a series of four basic and three advanced tutorials that teach inventors how to make increasingly complex apps.
Google has also listed several sample apps to give people an idea of what App Inventor would allow them to do — like DrumKit, which allows users to play around on a virtual drum set and ParkIt, which allows users to relocate their car in a parking lot. Indeed, Google made a big point of advertising that App Inventor allows access to a GPS sensor that users can take advantage of.
A Google Group enables App Inventors to toss around their app ideas, ask questions about the program, and troubleshoot about usage. The group has 706 messages so far.
But though Google has tested the program on kids in classrooms and intends to make the invention process as easy as possible, actually getting started necessitates an extra step. Wannabe creators must submit an online form before Google grants them the ability to download App Inventor. But whether or not the program launches a new league of high-tech pioneers, App Inventor marks another attempt by Google to widen the scope of the Android Market.