My mate Lucy Tcherniak has just mastered her most recent piece of work, for consumer tech giants Philips and their Wi-fi enabled lighting range Hue – which are remote control light bulbs that can augment the mood of a room via your mobile phone:
Discover just some of the millions of ways to use light with Philips Hue. from helping you relax or concentrate to reminding you of that perfect sunset or bringing a bedtime story to life. it can even tell you if it’ll rain later.
Earlier this year, Ars Technica ran a piece on the Hue’s free to use API & SDK, which have expanded the usefulness of these genius devices through third-party apps such as IFTTT. The article describes the full spectrum of 16 million colours, indicated below:
Now, of the available 16 million colours, Lucy chose to feature just 16 in her film, which highlighted at least a few cool use-cases for the Hue range. For example, adjusting from yellow to white light to improve concentration while studying, or the reverse when settling in for a quiet night on the sofa, sampling the colours of a vase of flowers to suit the room they’ll live in, reminding you to take an umbrella in the morning, or making home media more immersive for the viewer.
I can think of a few more, such as adaptive to music streaming from my Sonos, or as an alarm system for a gradual morning wake up, or flashing blue when I have a Twitter mention during a TV show. Cool system, cool advert. Not sure when it will appear on screen but I think it might make it onto a few people’s Xmas lists. I’ll certainly be asking for one!
I’ve written about Augmented Reality extensively in the past, but since the days of immersing myself in the purely theoretical potential for the medium, a few key players have rooted themselves in a very commercial reality that is now powering the fledgling industry.
And while B2B-focused vendors such as ViewAR remain behind the scenes, the likes of Aurasma and Blippar have soared in notoriety thanks to some quite excellent packaging and an impressive sales proposition. They are the standard bearers, at least in the eyes of the public.
I like Aurasma. But I also like Blippar. So which is better? Well, let’s find out… Here are some provocations I’ve been toying around with. See if it helps you decide, and let me know which side you fall on in the comments.
[twocol_one][dropcap]A[/dropcap]urasma has more technological power behind it. They have (supposedly) incorporated academic research into their proprietary tech and have a heritage in pattern recognition systems – remember their core business though: integrating with business critical processes and then slowly ramping up prices. They do this across all other Autonomy products! Also consider they are an HP property, whose business is hardware, not software. I believe Aurasma are only using this period of their lifespan to learn what does and doesn’t work, get better at it, gain status, equip users to enjoy AR, and then develop a mobile chipset (literally, hardware optimised for AR) that can be embedded in mobile devices, making HP buckets of royalties. They are chasing install base, but not because they want advertising bucks: they want to whitelabel their tech (i.e. Tesco, Heat & GQ) and then disappear into the background.[/twocol_one]
[twocol_one_last][dropcap]B[/dropcap]lippar have a proprietary AR engine, but are listed as using Qualcomm’s Vuforia engine – which is free to use. They seem focused on innovations in the augmented layer. Reading their interviews, they speak of AR not as a tech, platform or medium, but as a kind of magic campaign juice: stuff that reveals they are extremely focused on delivering a good consumer experience paid for by advertisers, with them as connective tissue. To this end, they too are chasing install base, but ultimately they have a different goal in mind. Being Qualcomm-backed, their future is in flexing their creative muscles and helping make AR a mass market medium through normalising behaviour. Big rivals: Aurasma in the short term, but I imagine that one day, Aurasma will revert back to being a tech platform, and companies like Blippar will provide the surface experience: where good content, not tech, will be what sells.[/twocol_one_last]
Coming Soon: 3D computing. Well, it makes sense, doesn’t it?
My claim is that 3D is the next step in object-oriented user interface (OOUI), which is the way most of us interact with computers after someone (at Apple, I think) had idea that we’d store ‘documents’ in ‘folders’ rather than access them via a command line. Ever since, we’ve been using ‘object-oriented’ analogies to interact with our machines.
Now is the age of 3D screen technologies, with Hollywood fighting back from piracy with a new golden age for cinema, Samsung outperforming Sony to becoming the number one manufacturer of 3D TVs, and the Nintendo 3DS making use of prismatic 3D in it’s menus, and of course in-game (think I might be buying Ocarina again soon). Not to mention Microsoft’s Kinect, which changes the way we interact in the three dimensions of physical, as opposed to virtual space.
But before all of this, there were innovators trying to make 3D compliant with everyday use, such as TATMobile who, without the power to print prismatic screens, force a behaviour change through the use of 3D glasses, or sell expensive stereoscopic 3D projectors, had come up with a pretty cool lo-fi solution:
The video above demonstrates the use of a front-facing camera on one’s mobile phone to track the location of your eyes, augmenting what’s onscreen, allowing you to see ‘behind’ icons or onto different screens by peering around. Hopefully you can imagine how a 3D screen might alter the way you interact with your device, so it’s no wonder they were bought by RIM and are now developing UI for BlackBerry.
While we’re at it, also check out the work of Bumptop (sadly now defunct), Johnny Lee‘s Wii hacks, and even YouTube‘s foray into 3D video.
Another lo-fi solution to making 3D useful comes from Mozilla, outlined in this fascinating article. Their technology, called Tilt, is not a way to physically see in 3D (it’s just software at this point), but certainly nods towards the future 3D stereoscopy web content. You can test Mozilla’s Tilt plugin in Firefox with their beta plugin at that link, but here’s a demo:
All we need now is for computer, laptop, tablet & mobile screens to become 3D-enabled, and for vast swathes of web designers to optimise their sites for WebGL, and suddenly those social buttons become a bit more clickable.
In this post I’ll introduce you to my new pet project: an experiment in Twitter automation. The Strategy Bot (pictured) is ‘programmed’ to select & retweet key digital media resources, case studies or news items that provoke a higher understanding of the formation of good digital strategy.
Some context… I will typically have the odd side project on the go at any one time. Recent examples have included:
Recategorising all my RSS feeds for mobile, web & iPad
Linking up Instapaper / ReaditLater / Pinboard & Twitter
Testing Facebook ads to see if I can drive Twitter followers
Playing with XFBML, the new Follow button and Google +1
Sketching people’s Twitter avatars with my new stylus
All of the above would be worthy of a blog post, and that might happen for a couple of them, but there’s been one project I’ve been thinking about for a while that I reckon just needs to be shared, because, dear reader, I need your help!
I’ve been interested in getting the most out of Twitter for a while, and I’ve been certain there is some utility among the network’s parasites: the lowly twitterbot. I’d love to perform an autopsy on one to see how they really work, as there are some excellent cases of these automata being actually quite useful or cool. For example:
Spotibot – @replies suggested music based on your requests
Easy Joke – RT’s with “that’s what she said” on certain phrases
There are loads more listed on the Twitter Fan Wiki, and of course there are millions of spambots that behave in similar ways. But I wanted to make something that would be primarily useful to me, and that others might enjoy too.
The idea arose from the need to detect, share and archive truly excellent links, without cluttering my personal Twitter feed. Did you know you can automatically add Twitter links to Pinboard for archiving? It’s a bloody useful way to passively log the stuff that’s held your attention. And did you know you can create a self-hosted archive of all your tweets? I use Tweetnest to this end, where I’ve been logging my personal tweets here. Try searching for something!
Mr. Strategy Bot is just another way to add useful stuff to my own personal content library. But throughout the course of his life, I’d like him to be useful to everyone. Or at least, everyone that works in digital media (you gotta have a niche). So how should I automate him to this end?
In my attempts to pin down what makes these robots work, I found a number of approaches, typically making use of Twitterfeed (a pretty blunt RSS syndication tool) or the Twitter API (way over my head). I needed something that would let me ‘scrape’ the top links from a list of Twitter users, and automatically RT the top five links.
I have totally failed in my attempts, even after a whole evening spent in the depths of Yahoo! Pipes. For now, I’ve had to settle on the manual way. Yep, I’m manually RT’ing the links until I find a better solution, five a day, with a bit of prose each time to help round out his character.
I will continue to research means of automating his behaviour, as I think the idea of one’s own personal virtual pet social robot is a really powerful idea. Wouldn’t you agree?
[box]Please leave a comment if you can help create virtual life! Let’s give this guy his own A.I. existence out in the digital ether.[/box]
In the meantime, you should follow him on Twitter here.
He’s programmed to follow back!
I recently upgraded to a brand new phone, the Samsung Galaxy S2, and let me tell you, her beauty is a thing to behold.
This is my second Android device, my first being an HTC Hero, whom I loved like a little brother. But I love my Galaxy like she’s a sexy robot from the future, trained to be awesome.
Given I’ll be spending the next couple of years with her, it’s important that I maximise all that awesomeness. For me, that boils down to the following areas:
She needs to look attractive
She needs to let me do my thing
She needs to last ’til at least midnight
She needs to be constantly surprising
She needs to feel like she’s all mine
It’s quite possible to achieve these things from your Android device: it just requires a bit of time to work out your priorities, and sometimes the advice of a few well respected sources. Ultimately, it’s experience that leads to a happy relationship. By the way, yes, I’m still talking about mobile phones.
With all of this in mind, I think I’ve found my ultimate Android setup, the perfect relationship, if you will. So without further ado, I present to you my Ultimate Android Homescreen, a perfectly-tuned combination of sexiness, usefulness, battery life and entertainment.
At just three screens, she’s the most efficient I could conceive of – the product of several hours hard thinking!
The ‘Immediacy’ Screen – stuff you need right now
The ‘Entertainment’ Screen – stuff to feed your head
The ‘Productivity’ Screen – stuff to get shit done
A couple of things glue this all together: Tasker, and LauncherPro. I also advise JuiceDefender, but like all of the apps listed below, it’s not an essential. After all, this is more a ‘what worked for me could work for you’ article (like this one).
(click the graphic to view in fullscreen)
Whether you follow this exact recipe, or you choose to develop your own ultimate Android homescreen, I hope you’ll be very happy together, and I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Though I have a full blog post detailing my Android setup (composed for immediacy, productivity and entertainment) in the works, I thought I’d share details of one of my favourite apps: Autodesk’s SketchBook Mobile.
So it’s pretty effective, right? I’m no Picasso, that’s for sure, but the app is a very handy addition to my mobile armory, and it’s one I’d recommend to anyone with a powerful enough device. Here’s their full product demo:
Oh yes, almost forgot to mention – this whole post, except for formatting and adding links, was completed on my handset itself via the official WordPress app. Suck on that, Apple fanboys!
[box type=”note”]Attention, mateys! As of May 26th, AR! Pirates is available for free on the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad on the App Store. ARRR!![/box]
It’s a swashbuckling shoot-em-up game for Symbian devices (Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson) that uses a really unique marker-based mechanic: the coins in your pocket!
In AR mode, three coins laid out in a triangle become a desert island, and the surface they are on become the ocean. The idea is to stop waves of marauding pirates from stealing your buried treasure, so you must aim your device to blast the approaching galleons with your cannon, whilst avoiding their fire by moving (yes, moving!) out of harm’s way.
The more ships you sink, the more treasure you earn and the more power-ups you unlock. There are 30 levels in all, including battles with the Spanish Armada, drunken pirates and ghost ships. It costs 99p to download the full version, chargeable to your phone bill.
Here’s a video of the game in action!
As you’ve seen, the innovative approach that Optricks have taken with their markers mean it’s possible to play at any scale. You could use coins to keep the game small enough to play in the pub, or you could ‘upscale’ and use larger discs (like frisbees) to play with massive pirate ships. The best bit: the larger the markers, the larger the field of play, and the more immersive the player experience!
This is one of the best, most purposeful uses of AR that I’ve seen. There are too many use-cases where ‘the medium is the message’ – but in this instance the medium is what connects you to the content, rather than defines your experience of it. Great work Ian, Gavin, Marcus and Dylan.