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Updated: 1 hour 21 min ago

Busy Times Are Afoot

5 hours 23 min ago

Lots going on here in AppsLab land and in Oracle Applications User Experience (@usableapps). This here is a recap post.

Showing the Oracle Applications User Experience Roadmap to Oracle’s Asia Partners

At the beginning of May, Anthony (@anthonyslai) and Raymond joined a large contingent of the OAUX team in an two-stop tour of Asia. The first stop was Singapore.

Here’s the dynamic duo in action, setting up our demos to show to a large group of Oracle partners.

singapore

For a full download of the event, be sure to read Misha’s (@mishavaughan) recap post.

Laying out the Oracle Applications User Experience Strategy for Partners in Beijing

After Singapore, the team headed to Beijing for more partner events, and as you can, the turnout was phenomenal.

beijing

Misha has a full debrief of the Beijing leg of the tour as well.

IoT Hackathon in Guadalajara

Even though Noel (@noelportugal) was bummin he didn’t get to go to Singapore and China, his spirits brightened when Laurie (@lsptahoe) asked him to serve as a mentor for her Internet of Things (IoT) hackathon in Guadalajara.

noel_lab

That’s his happy face, as he sits in his mobile IoT lab. Check out his pet Amazon Echo there in the front. That case is full of goodies. Note the soldering iron.

Laurie has a full review of the event, and you can read about the AppsLab team’s entry here.

Coming Soon

We’ll get a brief respite, then come several conferences.

Next week, Thao (@thaobnguyen) and John will be attending Eyeo (@eyeofestival), as in the festival, not the Google conference (@googledevs). Anthony will be at that one, i.e. Google I/O, so look for his recap here next week.

On June 8, OHUG 2015 begins, and several of us will be attending, doing research and testing. Gozel (@gozelaamothhas a full rundown.

And hey, I’ll be presenting with Aylin Uysal (@aylinuysal); our session is called Oracle HCM Cloud User Experiences: Designed for Work Styles across Devices, and it’s Tuesday, June 9 at 1 PM. So, come by if you’ll be at the show.

In mid-June, Anthony and John head to the UK for the OUAB meeting, specifically to present and demo some of the team’s visualizations work.

Near the end of the month comes KScope 15 (#kscope15), and several of us will be going.  We have something special planned for ODTUG’s (@odtug) annual get-together. Stay tuned for details.

Consider yourself current.Possibly Related Posts:

Nymi Band Impressions

Tue, 2015-05-26 13:35

Editor’s note: Here’s the first post from Osvaldo Villagrana (@vaini11a), one of our AppsLab Mexico team members. Enjoy.

During last week I’ve been playing with Nymi Discovery Kit I got back in our AT&T hackathon participation, and here are my impressions as a developer for Nymi SDK point of view and as a user.

For those who don’t know, this band is wearable biometric identity device that let’s you use your heart’s unique signature (a.k.a. Electrocardiogram or EGC) to authenticate and validate your identity.

Main problem they want to solve is avoid user remembering all passwords, PIN numbers and security codes used in our daily basis.

First off Discovery Kit includes the band, Bluetooth dongle for Windows and USB cable for charging the band. Bluetooth dongle is included because at the beginning Nymi band only could be paired with Windows OS but now can be paired through OS X and Android as well.

unbox

Nymi band material at first feels cheap and easy to bend it and break it, but it really fits very well on my wrist. Band connections terminals are very exposed in both ends of the cord to water or dust but they say is water resistant but not waterproof.

band3

Band is adjustable and can accommodate wrist sizes up to 7.5” in circumference. A full charge takes approximately two hours when you use a wall outlet or computer and battery last 3 days.

band band1 band2

Setting up the band is requires some steps; band must be enrolled and authenticated with your own ECG using the NCA (Nymi Companion App) app available in Windows, OS X and Android. I decided use Android app this time. I tried OS X and Windows but it’s the same. Once the band is clasped on your wrist it will confirm you the charge level and immediately will enter in broadcast mode.

I found this step a bit confusing as there’s no feedback when band is already in broadcast mode so you are not quite sure if your band is ready to be discoverable. Funny thing is there’s no way to turn it off.

After band is clasped, Android app asks for putting your finger over the sensor in the band. It takes like a minute for the app to analyze and save your ECG info in the app. After that, you’re ready to pair your Nymi with any NEA (Nymi Enabled app or third party apps). Band supports just up to 7 different apps profiles (they say in coming updates will be supported more).

nca nca1

Anytime clasp is opened, band must be authenticated once again but with the same NCA app was before. If you want to use any other NCA app (OS X or Windows), the band should be reset and start over the setting up. This is not ideal.

NEA’s must provision a unique key-value (profile) that is saved in the band for future use and this happen only once for each NEA. The NEA should store the provision returned from the band for future communication. On subsequent usage, NEA’s validate against the provisioned Nymi band. Once validation is successful, the NEA can assume an authenticated user. All those steps must be implemented by the developer using the SDK’s for different platforms.

band4

To complete the exercise, I wrote an Android app that makes provisioning and validating flow and finally gets user authenticated if user is close enough to the device, in this case mobile or tablet. After I got authenticated my wife wore the band and tried to get authenticated but authentication failed all the time as expected.

SDK is good but needs some enhancements, though. Even at Nymi, they are having hard time with problems in their own NEA’s like the unlock app for Mac OS X that currently is not working and I have posted couple of issues and bugs I found.

As first attempt for this new authentication automatization niche, I like it, and I think is good enough.

I see a lot of potential and possibles use cases for this band in enterprise. Definitely I would use it, but what I would really love is a band that can handle authentication, sport tracking and motion, notifications and time in the same device. Probably that’s too much for now but I’m looking forward to seeing that device soon.Possibly Related Posts:

IoT Hackathon Field Report: Mexico Edition

Mon, 2015-05-25 12:02

I recently ventured down to Mexico to participate in an Internet of Things (IoT) hackathon organized by Laurie Pattison’s (@lsptahoe) Apps UX Innovation Events team with some of my fellow AppsLab members, Luis Galeana, Tony Orciuoli, and Osvaldo Villagrana.

IoTgraphic

Being the lone non-developer, I wasn’t sure how much I would be able to contribute—but I had done some research pertaining to our use case, so I felt I had at least that much to offer.

Our rather illustrious use case pertained to a perennial workplace problem—lines to use the bathroom. In MDC, there is a preponderance of men, and so apparently waiting can be an issue. Some of my research has found that elsewhere, where there are more women than men, lines to use the women’s bathroom in the office place can be a serious annoyance.

Thus was born what was originally playfully titled Bathroom Management (BM), though we ended up with Presence, which would work more generally as a presence management system that could also handle conference room reservations, among other things.

image1 image5

I had never been part of a hackathon, but I definitely found out the appeal. As a lover of deadlines, and my own experiences coding at night (definitely the best time for coding), it seems just right for this sort of thing. Free snacks and beverages, food carts for lunch and dinner, and a beautiful view from the MDC office 9th floor, it was an excellent setting.

I was able to help intermittently with thinking through some of the logic of our scheduling system, and with our pitch at the end, so I did feel I added something, even if the lion’s share of the work was done by the other three. Being a two-day hackathon, we had one late night, which I stuck around for, and ended up reading about and playing with Python, in the hopes it might come in handy. It didn’t, but there’s always next time.

Our presentation of Presence garnered some good laughs, which we didn’t quite expect, but at least everyone was engaged. We had a great demo showing our scheduling system for bathroom stalls, which included proximity sensors, sounds, and displays in the stall, and a web interface for scheduling, as well as IM, phone, and watch notifications when the stall you reserved becomes free.

We came in third, after two other solid entries, and took home the People’s Choice award, perhaps because our solution filled a real need in the office! I did learn a lot from the other winners, particularly on how we could have pitched it better to highlight the enterprise applicability. So again, there’s always next time.

All in all I found it highly favorable, and hope I have another chance to do it again in the future.

walkingPossibly Related Posts:

Another Take on Twilio Signal 2015

Fri, 2015-05-22 16:21

Editor’s note: Mark (@mvilrokx) and Raymond are at it again. Earlier in the week, they each provided a take on last weekend’s Bay Are Maker Faire, and this week, they both attended Twilio’s (@twilio) first developer conference, Signal. Mark’s take is here; now, it’s Raymond’s turn. Enjoy.

Twilio is no stranger to us at AppsLab. We have embedded Twilio Voice, SMS in applications such as Taleo Interview Evaluations, IoT call at Maker Faire 2014, and Daily Asteroid report, etc. It is simple yet powerful approach to achieve some real useful communication for some interesting projects.

But I never imagined Twilio is so big, that it is big enough to host a conference and get thousands of enthusiastic attendees.

They have come a long way – at the conference, they announcemed a slew of new products, and some of them are rightfully timely and empowering. A couple of samples:

  • Twilio Authy, a perfect way of embedding a two-factor Authentication into your next awesome and secure application.
  • Twilio Conference (basic, global, epic) – lets you bypass carrier lock-down, and bypass the nasty roaming.
  • Twilio Video – a Twilio flavored WebRTC, provides your application to conserve context over communication through voice, text, and video. That’s contextual communication even when you jump from your application over to communication channel.
  • Twilio IP Message – allow us embedded advanced messaging in all types of mobile and web apps

I think Twilio worked on its strength to position itself really well. They strive to provide composeable API as building block (just like Lego), and make it easy for developer to embed communication capability, and non-friction from users (no need to install anything).

In the current world, you pretty much have one app for one of anything, you have one app for ordering pizza, one app for calling taxi. Let’s Magic help you, a service built on Twilio, by just texting your desire to a number, and “hopefully” your wish is fulfilled :) That’s called non-friction!

Another use case is “Code for American”. Users can text to a number, and get your card balance. Such quick easy way to access some quick information provides real “accessibility to information”.

And one more use case is “American Red Cross” for disaster response, where they can form and coordinate the ad-hoc group of volunteers, where the group may be fluid.

In retrospective, our Taleo Interview Evaluation demo build can be thought of a very good use case for providing easy access to information and transaction.

With Twilio’s new release and capabilities, I look forward to building new contextual enterprise application for easy access and interaction.

Now here is a fun bit:

As usual, the Conference gives every attendee a backpack, and this time, with a twist. It has littleBits to power a 8×8 LED panel which can be attached to the backpack.

littleBit

And during $Bash event, they have cloudBit as prize to give out. Mark and I were determined to win that cloudBit, so that we can extend the LED panel display on the backpack, to be controlled remotely over Internet! We found out the most efficient way to win points, which is by playing Pinball games. We worked together, and of course, we got what we aimed for.

cloudBit

And by the way, I became the champion of the night for Pinball games on the floor, by scoring over 430,000 points in one game.
That’s a nice surprise to me too, that I have got talent in Pinball game!Possibly Related Posts:

Twilio Signal Conference 2015

Fri, 2015-05-22 08:40

Editor’s note: If you read here, you know we heart Twilio, especially Noel (@noelportugal). Remember the Rock ’em Sock ’em robot build?

This week, Twilio (@twilio) held its first Signal conference and Raymond and I were there to see what’s new in the world of web enabled communications and the likes.

Signal-Twilio-Conference-640x265

For those of you not familiar with Twilio, here’s their spiel from their About page:

Twilio powers the future of business communications.  Enabling phones, VoIP, and messaging to be embedded into web, desktop, and mobile software.

For example, they provide REST APIs that can send and receive phone calls and text messages (SMS), allowing you, as a user of their services, to implement these extremely complex features in your applications, whether they are mobile, web or desktop apps with very little effort.  They provide many more features and announced a bunch of new ones at the conference, see their website for more details on those features.

I had no idea that Twilio is as big as it is: there were 2000 attendees at the conference and apparently, Twilio is the second largest provider of phone numbers in the us, right behind T-Mobile.

The conference started of with a pretty impressive magician’s act in which actual Twilio APIs were used, very original I thought.  It the proceeded with a bunch of keynotes, lead by the CEO of Twilio, Jeff Lawson.  He stressed the importance of services, comparing them to Lego blocks that, in the right hands, allow you to build anything by composing these services, just like you would do with Lego.

Among the lineup of key speakers was Werner Vogels, CTO of Amazon who gave a history of how Amazon moved from a monolithic architecture to a more Service Oriented Architecture, then towards Micro Services and finally towards an architecture that now aggregates these Services into useful components.  They had to build an infrastructure to support these changes which eventually led to what we now know as AWS, very interesting talk.

One other interesting topic I remember from the opening presentations was Jeff Lawson mentioning that the next big evolution in communication will be for them to become context-aware. i.e. rather than you having to enter your 17-digit account number on your phone and then having to identify yourself again and again to the agent that you get transferred to with some weird question about the street you grew up in, this information should be available when a call gets made, leading to much better quality of service and a much higher throughput of calls.

The rest consisted of product announcements and partners getting to explain how they use Twilio in their business.  We then attended a bunch of sessions, some more interesting than others, I’ll limit myself here to the more interesting ones.

4Y6A3701-640x265

Image from Twilio

I’m a huge fan of ngrok so I was delighted to attend a session by the maker of this tool, Alan Shreve.  Turns out that it was written in Go, and Alan gave a few examples of how this language made it easier to build these types of tools.  He also mentioned that rewriting an existing tool into a new language is a great way to learn that new language as you limit the scope and can focus purely on the language itself.  He also stressed  not to be discouraged if you discover that a tool already exists, competition is a good thing and it validates the business case.

Also very informative was a talk from Guillermo Rauch, the creator of socket.io of which I also am a huge fan.  The talk didn’t focus on socket.io itself, but on the challenges you will face when you start building realtime applications, something that socket.io allows you to do: conflict resolution, throughput, diffing etc.

Kate Heddleston gave a talk about One-click deploy for service-oriented architectures which is a project that she worked on that allows you to deploy (with 1 click), a fully operational environment, including load balancers, db servers etc. on Amazon EC2, using Docker.  It seemed like an excellent alternative to the likes of Heroku and I definitely will check this out more in the near future and see if this could be leverage somewhere for our work in the AppsLab.

Probably the most interesting talk of the whole conference, for me at least, was by Neil Mansilla from Runscope about API testing & debugging.  He didn’t just gave a sales pitch about Runscope but laid out a whole bunch of tools that you can use to test APIs, from Apache Benchmark to Charles and Wireshark.  I am definitely going to check out Runscope!

What I took away most from this conference though is that APIs are the future: IT infrastructure is turning into APIs (AWS), electronics is turning into APIs (littleBits) and telecommunication is turning into APIs (Twilio, of course, but also switch).  I am convinced that Enterprise apps will also evolve into this direction and Enterprise APIs will enable developers to compose and integrate easily with other, non-enterprise APIs, allowing them to build new and exciting applications, just as developers started doing with tele-communications when Twilio appeared.Possibly Related Posts:

Another Take on Maker Faire 2015

Wed, 2015-05-20 09:05

Editor’s note: Here’s another Maker Faire 2015 post, this one from Raymond. Check out Mark’s (@mvilrokx) recap too for AppsLab completeness.

I went to the Maker Faire 2015 Bay Area show over the weekend. A lot of similarity to last year, but a few new things.

In place of our spot last year, it was HP-Sprout demo stations. I guess HP is the main sponsor this year.

hp-sprout

Sprout is an acquisition by HP, that they build a large touchpad and projector, as attachment to HP computer. It is kind of combination of projector, extended screen, touch screen, and working pad – that seems to blend physical things with virtual computer objects, such as capture objects into 3D graphics.

TechHive’s Mole-A-Whack is quite good station too – it is a reverse of classical Whack-A-Mole.

mole-a-whack

Here’s a video of it in action:

They use arduino-controlled Mole to whack kids who hide in the mole holes, but need raise head out of the hole cover (which is arduino-monitored), and reach to push a button (MaKey connected) to earn points.

The signals go into a Scratch program on computer for tally the winner.

This pipe organ is an impressive build:

fire-pipe-organ

As usual, lots of 3D printers, CNC mills, etc. and lots of drones flying.

Also I saw many college groups attending the events this year, bringing in all kinds of small builds for various applications.Possibly Related Posts:

Maker Faire 2015

Tue, 2015-05-19 09:17

This weekend the 10th Annual Maker Faire Bay Area took place in my backyard and rather than fighting traffic for 2 days with the +130,000 attendees I decided, as I have for the last 9 years, to join them.

Unlike last year, Oracle had no presence at the Maker Faire itself, so I had plenty of time to walk around the grounds and attend sessions.  This post is an overview of what I saw and experienced in the 2 day madness that is called the Maker Faire.

For those of you who have never been to the Maker Faire, the easiest way to describe it is as a mix of Burning Man and a completely out of control hobbyist’s garage, where the hobbyist’s hobbies include, but are not limited to: everything tech related, everything food related, everything engineering related and everything art related, all wrapped up in a family friendly atmosphere, my kids love the Maker Faire.

You can find the tech giants of the world next to the one person startup, beer brewers next to crazy knitting contraptions, bus sized, fire breathing rhino’s next to giant cardboard robots etc.  And nobody takes themselves too seriously, e.g. Google was handing out Google Glasses to everybody … Google Safety Glasses that is :-)

Google Safety Goggles

My new Google Glasses :-)

The first thing I noticed was that the Faire expanded . . . again.  A huge tent was erected on what was a parking lot last year that was housing the Make:Labs, I didn’t actually get to spend any time in there but it contained an exploratorium, startup stuff and a section for Young Makers.

Which brings me to the first trend I observed, makers are getting younger and younger and the faire is doubling down on these young folk.

Don’t get me wrong, the faire has always attracted young kids, and some of them were making stuff, but there seem to be more and more of them, the projects they bring are getting more and more impressive and the faire’s expansions all seem to be to cater to these younger makers.

One of the sessions I attended was called “Meet Some Amazing Young Makers” where a 14 year old girl showed of a semi-autonomous robot that could map the inside of caves.  She was showing us the second iteration, she build the first version . . . when she was 8!  Another young man, 13, build a contraption that solved a Rubik’s cube in under 90 seconds.  It wasn’t just that they build these things, they gave solid presentations to a majority adult audience talking about their builds and future plans.

Another trend that was hard to ignore is that the Internet of Things (IoT) is getting huge and it’s definitely here to stay.  There weren’t just many, many vendors promoting their brand of IoT hardware, but a whole ecosystem is developing around them.

From tools that let you visualize all the data collected by your “things” to remote configuration and customization.  This trend will not just Cross the Chasm, it’s going to rocket right passed it.

I attended a panel discussion with Dominic Pajak (Director IoT Segments, ARM), Paul Rothman (Director of R&D at littleBits Electronics), Andrew Witte (CTO, Pebble), Alasdair Allan (scientist, tinkerer) and Pierre Roux (Atmel) about the current state of IoT and the challenges that lay ahead.

One of the interesting points raised during the discussions is that there currently is no such thing as the Internet of Things!  All these “things” have to be tethered to a phone or other internet capable device (typically using BLE), they cannot connect to the internet directly.

Furthermore, they cannot communicate with each other directly.  So it’s not really an IoT rather the regular “human internet” with regular computers/phones connecting to it, which in turn happen to have have some sensors attached to them that use the internet as a communication vehicle, but that doesn’t really roll of the tongue that well.

There is no interoperability standard at the moment so you can’t really have one device talk to a random other device.  This is one of the challenges the panel felt has to be solved in the sort term.  This could happen with the adoption of IP in BLE or some other mechanism like Fog Computing.

Another challenge brought up was securing IoT devices, especially given that some of the devices could be broadcasting extremely personal information.  This will have to be solved at the manufacturing level as well as at the application level.

Finally, they also mentioned that lowering power consumption needs to be a top priority for these devices.  Even though they have already come a long way, there still is a lot of work to be done.  The ultimate goal would be self sufficient devices that need no external power at all but can harvest the energy they need from their environment.

One such example mentioned is a button/switch that when pressed, uses the energy you put in to press it to generate enough power to send a on/off signal to another device.

Massimo Banzi, co-founder of the Arduino Project, also gave a talk (as he does every year) about the State of Arduino.  It seems that a lot of that state is in legal limbo at the moment as there are now seemingly 2 arduino companies (arduino.cc and arduino.org) with different views of the future of the project.

As part of his vision, Massimo introduced a partnership with Adafruit to let them produce arduino’s in the USA.  Also as a result of the legal issues with the Arduino brand name, he introduced a new “sister” brand called Genuino (Get it? Genuine Arduino) which will allow them to keep producing at least in the US.

Other announcements included the release of the Arduino Gemma, the smallest Arduino ever, the Modulino, a arduino like product designed and produced in their Bangalore, India, office and a focus on online tools to manage and program arduino’s.

I also attended a few sessions that talked about the BeagleBone board.  I am interested in this board because it bridges that gap between the Raspberry Pi and the Arduino, on the one hand it has a Linux OS, but on the other hand it also has Real Time GPIO pins making it interesting for IoT projects that require this.

It also can be easily programmed using JavaScript (it comes with a node server build in) which is something I am currently working with, I’ll probably write up another blog post about my findings with that board when I get some time to play with it (yes, I got one at the Maker Faire :-).

And finally, some other things you can find at the Maker Faire:

Game of Drones:

Fire and Art:

IMG_5591

Robots that solve Rubik’s cubes:

Cheers,

Mark.Possibly Related Posts:

Design Time @ Run Time: Apple Watch Put Through Its Paces in Beijing

Mon, 2015-05-18 10:50

Observations on UX research and road-testing wearable tech in the wild. The vehicle for today’s message is Ultan O’Broin (@usableapps), taking advantage of Oracle Applications User Experience events and outreach to evaluate the fitness and health option on the Apple Watch—and to continue his Fitbit Surge exploration—this time in China.

Emirates Apple Watch app used during the OAUX Asia trip. Emirates Apple Watch app used during the OAUX Asia trip.

The Watch Ethnography (say what?)

All the warnings about running in Beijing proved wrong: that my clothes would turn black; my skin would turn grey; I’d need a facemask; I wouldn’t see any other runners; I’d attract the attention of security personnel with my blue hair.

None of this happened.

I shoulda guessed. Running is one of the most “unasked-for-advice” activities out there, usually from non-runners or “joggers.”

Instead, I saw lots of other runners in Beijing’s parks and streets, mostly locals, with a small number of “ex-pats.” At times there were so many runners—and power walkers—early in the morning that I had to weave hard to get by them. On the long, straight streets of Beijing, I saw hardcore runners in action, percentage-wise more than, say, in Dublin.

Running in Beijing. Scene from Temple of Sun Park.

Running in Beijing. Scene from Temple of Sun Park.

I saw lots of runners sporting colorful running gear; more than I’ve seen in San Francisco, though the styling was far short of the effortless funky co-ordination of the lemons, oranges, and blacks of the Nordic scene. Yes, I’m a running fashion snob. It was kinda hard to tell what fitness devices the Beijing crowd was packing, but I did see some Garmins: a sure sign of serious runners.

I did one run to the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, a 10 miler; hauling myself around the Central Business District and diplomatic zones on other days. The eyes of Chinese security guards swiveled to follow me as I strode by, but generally they seemed nonplussed with my blue hair and obvious Apple Watch. I was kinda disappointed I didn’t end up on CNN.

Running to the Forbidden City. Alas, selfie sticks were not forbidden.

Running to the Forbidden City. Alas, selfie sticks were not forbidden.

The best time to run in Beijing is clearly in the early morning. Public parks were open by 5:30 AM and full of runners and walkers by the time I arrived. There is very bad air pollution in Beijing, but growing up in pre-smokeless-coal-carbon-fuel-ban Dublin, it really didn’t seem that menacing. However, I did detect a markedly poorer air quality later in the day. Your mileage may vary on that one, I guess.

The Device Findings

These runs in Beijing were another opportunity to test out the Fitbit Surge but really to try out the newer Apple Watch in another location. There are other comparisons between these two devices.

Both performed flawlessly, though I preferred the superior build quality of the Apple Watch, which is outstanding, and its UX with configurable glances display and superior styling. Henry Ford’s “Any Color As Long As It’s Black” as applied to smartwatches and fitness bands is #fashtech #fail by this stage.

Again, I was particularly impressed with the rapid GPS acquisition and holding capability of the Surge. I’ve used it on three continents now, and I love its robustness and long life battery.

Fitbit Surge GPS recording from Tiananmen Square run (on iOS)

Fitbit Surge GPS recording from Tiananmen Square run (on iOS)

The Apple Watch’s built-in Workout app proved easy to use for my runs. It has indoor and outdoor options for other activities too, whether with target metrics, distance, time, or calories, or you can use it for an “open” hustle. I was a little disappointed that the watch app doesn’t enable wearers to recall more basic run details from the last activity but being able to see real-time progress was great. I also enjoyed using the Apple Watch built-in Activity app too. Its simple and colorful progress analytics for exercise, moving, and standing were fun to glance at throughout the day, though the data is not for any serious runners or QS fanbois out there.

Using both of these Apple Watch apps together provided a compelling health and fitness experience.

Apple Watch Activity App

Apple Watch Activity App

Apple Watch Activity App

Apple Watch Activity App

Being able to use both devices without carrying a smartphone with me on a run was the UX joy. Being freed from dodgy Bluetooth pairing and GPS signal worries, and that tricky music selection procedure required by a smartphone, saved me 5 mins (about three quarters of a mile distance at my speeds) at the start of each run. Being able to see my performance in real time—on the go—without having to fish out a smartphone, was awesome.

That’s what a smartwatch glance UX is all about: being kept in the moment.

The battery life of the Apple Watch didn’t make it longer than 10 hours because of my runs, though without this kind of exertion, it seemed to last most of my waking day, which is reasonable.

What’s Next?

I normally carry a smartphone when running as my music platform, but increasingly to take Instagram images during my journey. The Strava app GPS integration with Instagram is a fave running experience. I did carry my Apple iPhone 5 in Beijing, to take pictures—no, I don’t really carry a selfie stick—and to try out the Strava app for comparison. The Instagram integration seemed to be DOA though.

So, my thoughts on wearable tech super watch evolution, and the emergence of the standalone wearable device as the way to go for smartwatches, were reinforced from my Beijing experience.

However, a super watch UX needs to be flexible and offer more capability. I’d like to see onboard music and image capture capability on the watches themselves somehow. Audio notifications for time, speed and distance and geographic points would also enhance the experience immensely. However, what such enhancements would mean for the bane of wearable tech UX right now—battery life—yet alone device size, remains just another challenge to be solved. And it will be.

And what UX research methodology lessons might be gleaned from running in Beijing with wearable tech? Firstly, don’t assume anything about your ethnographic experience upfront. Try it yourself on a dry run first to iron out any possible kinks. Run at different times of the day, over different distances and routes, in varying weather conditions, and, of course, with different devices along the way. Most importantly, find real native runners to follow around, and record what they do from start to finish, what they do offline as well as online, and with what tools, on their runs.

Running, just like user experience, is about the complete journey, a total contextual experience, not just where your rubber meets the road.Possibly Related Posts:

Amazon Echo Official SDK

Sun, 2015-05-17 16:03

Image from wired.com

Back in February I was invited to participate in an pre-beta release of the Amazon Echo SDK. I was under NDA so I couldn’t share any of my finding here. But now that NDA has expired and I can share some of the integrations I did with this interesting device.

First of all I want to comment on the fact that not any of the OS level voice assistants in the market are quite getting it right when it comes to interacting with third party integrations. Let me explain, neither Google Now nor Siri or Amazon Echo will let you interact with a voice “app” unless you “open” or “start” that app first. For example to start an app in the any of the OSes mentioned above I have to do the following:

“[Ok Google], [Hey Siri], or [Alexa] open [name of application]”…”close” or “exit” [name of application]

Then I can start interacting with that application. This interaction paradigm belongs to a desktop model where you are used to open and close programs. And furthermore these actions are not even part of the mobile experience.

My proposal solution to fix this problem would be for the systems to create an “intent” model where a user could decide what to do with certain defined utterances. For example:

“[Ok Google], [Hey Siri], or [Alexa] do I have any new mail?”

In this case, the user should have the option to decide which will be the default application to handle “mail” through settings or through a first program run.

When you install app for the first time the system should ask:

“Would you like to use this app to handle your voice command for mail?”

Voice as the next user interface

Voice recognition and natural language processing (NLP) algorithms have advanced exponentially. These systems are getting truly ready for primetime. The use cases are only limited by our futuristic view of interacting with our systems with just our voice.

This is where the Amazon Echo shines. The idea of picking up my phone and commanding it with my voice, feels unnatural to me.  The Amazon Echo just sits there on my desk and is always ready for my commands. One could argue that Google Now and Siri could do the same but the lack of the rich sound presence and visual cues (RGB ring around the top) of the Echo are enough to have a better experience.

Demos

Without further ado, here are two demos of service integration I did with the Echo.  I used Temboo libraries for the Facebook, Twitter and Uber integrations. For IMAP mail, iCal, Philips Hue I created my own. All this of course was done in Java.

Office Automation

Internet of Things demo

So would you get an Amazon Echo?Possibly Related Posts:

Four Weeks and a Day with the Jawbone UP24

Wed, 2015-05-13 12:46

After three weeks with the Nike+ Fuelband and four weeks with the Basis Peak, I moved on to the Jawbone UP24.

The UP24 has been out for quite a while now. Back in January 2014, Noel (@noelportugal) and Luis (@lsgaleana) did cursory evaluation, and not much has changed in the Jawbone lineup since then.

At least, not until recently when the new hotness arrived, the UP2, UP3 and soon, the UP4, pushing the venerable UP24 into retirement. Honestly, I would have bought one of the new ones (because shiny objects), but they had yet to be released when I embarked on this journey of wearables discovery.

After starting out with a fitness band and moving to a super watch, going back to the comparatively feature-poor UP24 was a bit shocking initially. I had just become accustomed to having the time on my wrist and all that other stuff.

However, what it lacks in features, the UP24 more than makes up for in comfort. Makes sense, fewer features, smaller form factor, but even compared to the other fitness bands I’ve worn (the Fuelband and Misfit Shine), the rubbery industrial design makes it nice to wear.

Aside from comfort, surprisingly, one feature that made the UP24 sticky and enjoyable was the Smart Coach, which I expected to dislike. Jawbone has a very usable mobile app companion that all its devices share, and inevitably, that is what retains users, not the hardware on the wrist.

Overall, despite its relative age, I enjoyed wearing the UP24. I even decided to wear it a bit longer, hence the extra day.

IMG_20150512_091139

Here are my observations.

The band

Yes, there’s yet another initial software install required to configure the UP24 for use the first time. Yes, that still annoys me, but I get why it’s needed.

As I’ve said, the band is comfortable to wear, mainly because of its flexible, rubber material. Smart Coach reminded me a few times to be gentle with the band, saying something about there being a bunch of electronics packed in there.

I’m not sure if this was a regular reminder or if the band somehow detected that I was being too rough, hoping for the former. The Coach also reminded me that the band isn’t waterproof. While I did get it wet, I wasn’t brave enough to submerge it.

These reminders made me curious about the sensors Jawbone packed inside the UP24, and while looking for a teardown, I found this cool X-ray of the band.

JawboneUp24-X-Ray1

Image from Creative Electron

Impressive industrial design. One minor correction, the audio plug is 2.5 mm, not the standard 3.5 mm, something Noel and Luis found out quickly. From my use, it didn’t really matter, since the UP24 comes with a custom USB-2.5 mm audio adapter for charging.

IMG_20150405_100135

 

The UP24 uses a button to set specific modes, like Stopwatch (for exercise) and Sleep. These took a bit of learning, like anything new. I expected to have push-sequence failure, i.e. using the wrong push and hold combination, but no.

Aside from being red, which seemed to fade to orange, the band is unobtrusive. I found myself wearing it upside down to allow for scratch-free typing, a very nice plus.

The fit did seem to loosen over time, probably just the rubber losing some of its elasticity. Not a big deal for a month, but not a good long-term sign.

The battery life was nice, about nine days initially, but the app seems to misrepresent the remaining charge. One night, it reported five days charge left, and overnight, the band died. Same thing happened a week later when the app reported seven days of charge.

Because the UP24 isn’t constantly connected to Bluetooth, to save battery, I guess maybe the charge wasn’t reported accurately. Although when the app opens, the band connects and dumps its data right away.

Bit of a mystery, but happily, I didn’t lose my sleep data, which tells me the band still had some charge. The sleep data it collected on those nights wasn’t as detailed as the other nights. Maybe the band has some intelligence to preserve its battery.

Sleep data from a low battery. Sleep data from a charged battery

The UP24 didn’t attract the same amount of curious attention that the Basis Peak did, thank you Apple Watch, but a few people did ask what Fitbit I had, which tells me a lot about their brand recognition.

Is Fitbit the Kleenex of facial tissue? The Reynolds wrap of aluminum foil?

The app and data

Jawbone only provides the data collected by its bands and the Smart Coach through its mobile apps. Their web app only manages account information, which is fine, and bonus, you can download your device data in csv format from the web app.

There are, however, several different Jawbone UP mobile apps, so finding the right one was key.

The app is quite nice, both visually and informationally. I really like the stream approach (vs. a dashboard), and again, Smart Coach is nice. Each day, I checked my sleep data and read the tips provided, and yeah, some were interesting.

The stream is easily understood at a glance, so kudos to the UX. Orange shows activity, purple sleep. There are other things you can add, weight, mood, etc. I did those for a few days, but that didn’t last, too lazy.

Screenshot_2015-05-12-09-14-29 Screenshot_2015-05-12-09-14-34 Screenshot_2015-05-12-09-14-44

Each item in the stream can be tapped for details.

Unlike the Fuelband and the Peak, the UP24 uses very minimal game mechanics. The Smart Coach did congratulate me on specific milestones and encourage me to do more, but beyond that, the entire experience was free from gamified elements.

-63993410 Screenshot_2015-05-07-07-31-18 Screenshot_2015-05-05-16-19-33

Did I mention I liked the Smart Coach? Yeah, I did.

In addition to the stream, the UP24 provides historic data as days and aggregated into months and years, which is equally nice and easy to understand.

Screenshot_2015-05-12-09-15-04 Screenshot_2015-05-12-09-15-08

Jawbone has an integration with IFTTT among many other apps, making its ecosystem attractive to developers. I didn’t find any IFTTT recipes that made sense for me, but I like having the option.

There’s social stuff too, but meh.

Data sync between the band and app was snappy. As I mentioned above, the band isn’t always connected to Bluetooth, or at least, you won’t see it in the Bluetooth settings. Maybe it’s connected but not listed, dunno, but Noel would.

Minor downsides I noticed, sleep tracking is an absolute mystery. The UP24 lists both light and deep sleep, but who knows how it can tell. Not that I really need to know, but looking at its guts above, what combination of sensor data would track that?

Speaking of sensors, nearly every run I completed on a treadmill showed a wide variance, e.g. the treadmill says 3.25 miles, whereas UP24 says 2.45 miles. I tried calibrating the band after each run, but that didn’t seem to help.

I saw the same variance with steps.

Not a bid deal to me and definitely a difficult nut to crack, but some people care deeply about the accuracy of theses devices, like this guy who filed a lawsuit against Fitbit for overestimating sleep.

What I’m finding through personal experience and stories like that is that these little guys are very personal devices, much more so than a simple watch. I actually felt a little sad to take off my UP24.

I wonder why. Thoughts?

Find the comments.Possibly Related Posts:

Watch-First Design and Development

Tue, 2015-05-12 17:36

 

So as you might already know, it has been all about THE Watch these past days.

Laucher Home

So having this new toy in my wrist made me want to explore the possibilities. So I set myself to push my skill boundaries and dove right into WatchKit development. To kick off the wheels I spent this past weekend doing what  I like to call “Noel’s Apple Watch weekend hackathon,” my favorite kind of event, because somehow I always end up as a finalist.

Detail Glance

So as the title suggests, I focused in watch-first design (remember mobile-first? thats so 2014!) My goal was to start with a Watch app as the main feature and not even worry about a mobile companion app. As it stands now, Apple Watch, as well as Android Wear rely on “parent” mobile apps.

The result of my weekend fun was an app that I simply called “MyFamily”. The ideas is to add simple reminders, tasks, goals, etc., based on each individual member of my little family (which btw, names have been changed.) The app include an Apple Watch “Glance” which is some sort of a widget, or live tile with very limited dynamic content and interactions.

Having so limited real-estate and features really makes you think twice on how you want to present your data. The WatchKit interface objects are limited to a few subset of their parent iOS counterparts. Most of the design layout can be done by grouping labels (WKInterfaceLabel), images (WKInterfaceImage), and a couple other interface objects available (table, separator, and buttons.)

xCode copy

Having no keyboard (thank goodness!) one needs to rely in voice input to insert new data. During my test the voice recognition worked as advertised. Also during this exercise I finally realized that apps can display a “contextual” menu by “force touching” the screen. I opted to put a text hint (to delete item) , because even after a couple weeks of wearing the watch I didn’t realize this feature was available.

Speech Menu

After creating my Storyboard layouts, it was almost trivial to add data to them. I created custom classes to bind each Interface Controller. Override lifecycle events (awakeWithContext,willActivate,didDeactivate). Created a “member” object and an “event” object. And finally added data to the the tables with something like this:

- (void)setupTable
{
    _membersData = [Member membersList];
    [tableView setNumberOfRows:_membersData.count withRowType:@"MemberRow"];
    for (NSInteger i = 0; i < tableView.numberOfRows; i++)
    {
        NSObject *row = [tableView rowControllerAtIndex:i];
        Member *member = _membersData[i];
        MemberRow *memberRow = (MemberRow *) row;
        [memberRow.memberImage setImage:[UIImage imageNamed:member.memberImage]];
        [memberRow.memberName setText:member.memberName];
        [memberRow.memberEventCount setText:member.memberEventCount];   
    }
}

In conclusion, the WatchKit DX (development experience) is pretty smooth. This is due the the limited and minimalistic set of tools available to you. I suspect I will add more functionality to this app in the future by adding “Mobile-second, and Web-third” design. Oh, and maybe even going “public” and put it in the App Store.

IMG_1048

Photo Proof

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Drone, Data X Conference – Trip Report

Tue, 2015-05-05 09:39

Let me start by saying that there were kids in the audience of the Drones, Data X Conference held this past weekend in Santa Cruz, something I have not seen at any other tech conference. I thought it was pretty cool. At the end, I found there was a reason for kids to be there.

From the very first presentation it became clear that this is not really about the drones. The drones were almost harshly referred to as “hardware.”

Dr. Ernest Earon from Precision Hawk, the company that flies its drones for agriculture, oil & gas, and such, said “Farmers are not interested in buying hardware, or buy pictures of their crop. They need answers to their questions, and solutions to their problems.”

Similarly, Will Sauer, the speaker from Skycatch, the mapping company, said that this is about “how to get from raw images to making better decisions.”

Along the same lines, Mike Winn(@mikewinn) from DroneDeploy (@DroneDeploy) said that “there is only a fraction of business questions that could be answered by images and models.”

All that made me feel right at home. Nothing disrupting about drones to our day-to-day, just another tool in a toolbox of different ways to help the users with what they need.

20150501_170353

I truly appreciated a talk by Andreas Raptopoulos from Matternet. It is a great example of the product being built around a need of people rather than a need of the technology to find an application.

Matternet makes small drones that can deliver packages under 1kg. The drones were built to deliver medicine to rural areas with bad or no roads with projects pilots in Bhutan, Haiti, and Papua New Guinea.

matternet

On a subject of rural areas, apparently there is much work to be done for the drones to go urban. There is a lot of drone hype and make-believe, and the reality is still far from it.

In reality, the drones are not autonomous yet. Making self-driving cars is a child game comparing to the complexity of making self-flying vehicle. Drones have no roads to follow; drones need to see not only what’s in front of them but all around; unlike cars, drones don’t have much room for all the processors and sensors; and unlike cars, drones must be cheap.

Philip McNamara (@McNamara_Philip), the conference organizer, entertained us with this Cirque du Soleil lampshade movie to illustrate how precise autonomous flight control algorithms are becoming.

Autonomy, infrastructure, and regulations are the road blocks that will delay the appearance of Amazon Prime Air and its likes for some time.

NASA has being tasked to build a traffic management infrastructure for low altitudes. I visualized what the presenter, Dr. Parimal Kopardekar, said as invisible highways, bike lanes, traffic stops, etc. in the sky built with geofencing. Unlike their down to earth counterparts, these roads could be reconfigured and adjusted in a real time from the Internet.

While the sensor technology for autonomous flying and the traffic infrastructure are maturing, the regulations are here to hold the enthusiasm back. In the US, out-of-sight flying is not allowed; any commercial flying needs to come with the appropriate licenses and certificates, and recreational flying is only allowed in the open away from people.

Jim Williams from Federal Aviation Administration said that we are facing “out of box aviator” phenomena where anyone can buy a drone and enter the skies without any awareness of rules and responsibilities that come with that. “This is where the most regulated sector, aviations, meets least regulated sector, tech” he said.

In the meantime, Matternet will be trying the drone delivery project in Switzerland where the infrastructure is most mature and regulations are most permitting. With the Swiss project, Matternet will be trying to address “the last mile delivery” problem.

lastmile

Very exciting.

Here is my laundry list of all the applications that I’ve heard at the conference: agriculture, emergency response, construction, mining, oil and gas, forestry, ocean and lakes, insurance, transportation, surveying, delivery, wireless connectivity (this one refers to Facebook Wi-Fi drones), and renewable energy (this one refers to wind-harvesting drones to replace wind towers).

And what about those kids in the audience? Apparently, some of them were with STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) first person view (FPV) drone racing program. To the spectators, the drone race looks like minimized and slow version Quidditch.

20150430_174854

But not so for the pilots! Did you know that you race a drone with the VR-like goggles on?

The pilot sees what the drone sees. So as a pilot, you are basically getting the ultimate x-box flying experience. As Scot Refsland (@srefsland), the presenter from Flying Grounds said the experience is very “sticky.” He suggests that this is much healthier for the kids to be out in a field racing drones than in front of a box. He believes being involved with the drones also teaches technology, and, yes, even secures kids’ future.

20150501_172317Possibly Related Posts:

My Weekend with Apple Watch

Mon, 2015-05-04 08:33

Editor’s note: Here’s our first Apple Watch review from Thao (@thaobnguyen), our head of research and design. Look for a companion review taken from Noel (@noelportugal) later this week.

Thanks, Apple! I got an Apple Watch (38mm) delivered on Friday, April 24.

uxboxing

The Watch packaging, quite different than the Watch Sport packaging.

Full disclosure, I’m a long time Apple user. My household runs on Apple so many would say I’m an Apple-fan girl. Even so, I’m amazed by the excitement Apple generates and surprised by my own excitement over the Watch.

I’ve used other smart watches for years, but why was I so eager to get my hands on an Apple Watch? Perhaps, it is was all the buzz about limited supply and high demand, and I could be among the “few” [thousands] to get the Watch first. Whatever the reason, I’m feel pretty lucky to be among the first customers that received an Apple Watch.

After spending the weekend with the watch, I would say I like it, but I’m not in love with it. It hasn’t reach the status of being invaluable. For now, I view it is a pretty awesome iPhone accessory and wearable. I feel constantly in touch and reachable – I don’t think I will ever miss a text message or email again.

glance

Many apps have been updated to support Apple Watch. The Watch apps have much simpler interaction than iPhone apps, which I’m starting to explore and get used to. Those that do it well, it feels cool to be able to do it on the watch. Those that don’t (such as not providing enough information), I’m sad I need to reach for my iPhone.

Lastly, Apple Watch consolidates features of my wearables into one so I am give up my other wearables for now. I wore a smart watch that was primarily a golf range finder (and I look forward to trying Apple Watch on the golf course) and a separate fitness tracker.

I will just be wearing the one Apple Watch now. I’m curious to see how my behavior and device usage pattern changes over time.

Will I become dependent upon and attached to Apple Watch as I am with my iPhone?

Finally, let me answer a few common questions I’ve received so far:

  • The watch does last all day. I start the day with 100% battery and end the day between 20-40% battery. However, my iPhone battery seems to be taking a hit.
  • Yes I can make and take a phone call on the watch. The sound quality is good and the mic is good. Caveat, I did not attempt to have a conversation in a loud setting like a busy restaurant.
  • No fat finger issues. The buttons and apps icons are seemingly small but I pretty much tap and select things on the watch without error.
  • Pairing between Apple Watch and iPhone was easy, and the range is good. I could be wearing the watch in one room of my house while the iPhone was in another room and had no problems with them being in range of each other.
  • Cool factor – surprisingly no! Only one person asked me if I was wearing an Apple Watch. Contrasted with other smart watches I have worn, where I would always be asked “what is that?” I’m guessing it is because the Apple Watch fits me and looks like a normal watch. It doesn’t draw attention as being oversized for my wrist.

home

Please leave comments as to your own use, or tips and tricks on getting the most out of smart watches.Possibly Related Posts:

More Apple Watch-ness from Oracle Social Network

Wed, 2015-04-29 12:00

And now back to the Apple Watch content.

If you’ve read here for a while, you might remember we used to be part of the WebCenter development team, and we worked with Oracle Social Network, affectionately OSN.

We even ran a developer challenge for OSN at OpenWorld back in 2012.

Yesterday, longtime friend of the ‘Lab and all-around good dude, Chris Bales (@cbales) reached out to ask about the OSN Android Wear push notifications because we have a few of those watches.

Noel (@noelportugal) and Anthony (@anthonyslai), having Apple Watch on the brain, misread and rushed to test OSN and its push notifications on the Watch, and then, they finally *read* the email from Chris and checked the Android Wear notifications too.

Both watch platforms look great, as you can see.

IMG_0899 IMG_0906 IMG_0909 IMG_0912 IMG_0917 IMG_0920 IMG_0921 IMG_0922

Kudos to Chris and OSN, and consider yourself all the Apple Watch-wiser for today.Possibly Related Posts:

When Less Is More

Tue, 2015-04-28 10:30

Editor’s note: Let’s take a break from all the Apple Watch frenzy. Breathe. And now enjoy a post from Julia, interaction designer extraordinaire, about her favorite wearable. She knows her stuff, having lived with a couple of the early smartwatches for long more than a year.

Among all the smart watch hype, one smart watch stays on a side in a category of its own. While most watches compete to offer more, this watch’s appeal is in offering less.

While most watches try to conquer as broad of a market as possible, this watch only serves its narrowly-targeted market. Most watches struggle to figure out what exactly they are and their purpose in life, this watch has no such self-identity issues.

I am talking about little FiLIP (@MyFilipTech). FiLIP is a smart watch for children.

Why do children need a smart watch?

They probably don’t, but their parents might find the proposition interesting. Many parents do want to stay in touch with their kids during the day, and many kids these days carry around their parents’ old smart phones. Parents expect their little Frodos to carry the powerful devices without giving in to the temptations.

Unfortunately we have witnessed some of the little Frodos turning into little Golums – calling wrong people, looking up wrong stuff, using their phones at a wrong time. FiLIP, a stand-alone phone and GPS locator, lets families to stay in touch without burdening kids with too much power.

FiLIP allows kids to have up to 5 numbers to call, receive calls, and receive text messages from.

FiLIP has 2 buttons. One to make and receive calls, and one to press in case of emergency.

It also shows time :-)

FiLIP allows parents to see FiLIP’s location (or child’s location if the watch is still on the child’s wrist), set geofenced areas, and remotely add/remove numbers on the watch.

You can read more about FiLIP’s features on their website, and about its usefulness in this review. The point I want to make here about FiLIP, is that, for me, there is a design lesson in it.

I greatly appreciate their narrow design focus and design precision. I hope that more wearables will follow FiLIP’s example.

Perhaps FiLIP still has room for improvement when it comes down to the design details (especially the parent phone app can seriously benefit from some changes), but even at its second itiration the watch is highly functional and appealling to its audience.

As a matter of fact, while everyone else calls any brand of smart watch “Apple Watch,” my son calls any brand of smart watch “FiLIP” so that my Samsung Gear watch becomes “Mom’s FiLIP” and the iWatch is “Apple’s FiLIP.”

I enjoy it when he says that.

talkingMom

We are fond of our little FiLIP.Possibly Related Posts:

The Apple Watch Arrives

Sun, 2015-04-26 11:03

Ho hum, Apple released a Watch on Friday. I haven’t see this kind of nerd frenzy since Google Glass finally reached its first Explorers.

The Watch has transcended nerd-only fandom to reach regular people’s consciousness too, e.g. when I wore the Basis Peak, several people asked if it was *the* Watch.

Well, Noel (@noelportugal) and Thao (@thaobnguyen) are both test-driving their Watches now, so look for their initial impressions soon.

Here’s a sneak peak from Noel:

IMG_0827 IMG_0805

We’re definitely ready for the Watch, since our approach to wearable and other devices has been set for a while. Stay tuned for pictures when when we get our stuff rolling on the actual Watch.

We’re not alone squashing Watch bugs and ironing out inconsistencies. Lots of Watch developers are scrambling now that the actual device is in-hand because the Watch Simulator can only take you so far.

And don’t worry, we still have lots of love for Android Wear. I just got a Moto 360, which was on sale for $179 the day everyone was preordering the Apple Watch.

Our philosophy is harmony. Check it, Noel’s Samsung Gear Live happily announced that his Apple Watch was shipping.

appleWatchWear

Lots of love for all our gadgets.

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OAUX Emerging Technologies RD&D Strategy

Thu, 2015-04-16 07:46

Speaking of strategies, Misha (@mishavaughan) asked me to write up an article–not a post, there’s a difference–describing how this team goes about its business, i.e. researching, designing and developing solutions for the emerging technologies that will affect our users in the near and not-so-near future.

eleven

You can, and should, read the resulting article over at the mothership, Usableapps (@usableapps). Check it out:

New emphasis on emerging technology shapes Oracle’s user experience strategy

Floyd (@fteter) read it, and so should you because why not?

Untitled

Surprise, there’s method to the madness. It may look like we just play with toys, and while that’s partially true, we’ve always played with purpose.

Thinking back on the eight years I’ve been doing this, I don’t recall ever outlining and presenting a strategy at this level, and the whole exercise of putting the strategy I have in my head into words and slides was enlightening.

Point of fact, we’ve always had a strategy, and it hasn’t changed much, although the technologies we investigate have.

Serious h/t to Paul (@ppedrazzi) in the early years, and Jeremy (@jrwashley) more recently, for shaping, advancing, and fostering the AppsLab vision.

Anyway, now you know where we invest our time and why, or if you knew that already, you now have a handy article to refer to, should you need a refresher or should be you enlightening someone new to the party.

Enjoy.
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Are We Ready for the Apple Watch?

Mon, 2015-04-13 10:48

So, apparently Apple is launching a watch soon, which has people asking us, i.e. Oracle Applications User Experience (@usableapps), what our strategy is for the watch of watches.

If you read here, you probably already know we’ve been looking at smart watchessuper watches, and wearables of all kinds for a few years. So, the strategy is already in place.

Build a framework that does most of the work and plug new wearables as they come, Google Glass, Android Wear watches, Pebble, Apple Watch, whatever. Then, create glanceable experiences that fit what users want from each device.

Maybe you saw the Glance demo at OpenWorld 2014 in Jeremy’s (@jrwashley) session or at the OAUX Exchange.

IMG_0098

Glance for Oracle Applications Cloud proof of concept apps on Android Wear Samsung Gear Live and Pebble

Ultan (@ultan) has an excellent writeup that will give you the whole scoop. I’ll cherry-pick the money quote:

This is not about designing for any one specific smartwatch. It’s a platform-agnostic approach to wearable technology that enables Oracle customers to get that awesome glanceable, cloud-enabled experience on their wearable of choice.

So, yeah, we have a strategy.

And boom goes the dynamite.

lead lead2 receipt2 receipt webclock webclock2

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Four Weeks with the Basis Peak

Thu, 2015-04-09 10:53

Right after I finished wearing the Nike+ Fuelband for three weeks, I moved straight on to another wearable device, the Basis Peak.

The Peak falls into a category Ultan (@ultan, @usableapps) calls the “super watch,” a term that nicely differentiates watches like the Peak (and the Fitbit Surge) from fitness bands (e.g. Jawbone UP24, Nike+ Fuelband, Fitbit Flex), smartwatches (e.g. Android Wear, Apple Watch, Pebble), and serious athletic training gadgets (e.g. Garmin, Polar).

Look at that list and tell me it doesn’t need differentiation. Wearables are definitely a thing.

I’ve been curious about the Basis since before the company was acquired by Intel. Lab alumna, Joyce (@joybot12), had lots of good things to say about the Peak’s ancestor, the Basis B1, and the device collects a lot of data. And I love data, especially data about me.

Unfortunately, the company doesn’t offer any developer integrations, just an export feature.

Anyway, here are some real reviews by people who do that reviews for a living to check those out before reading my ramblings, Engadget, PC Magazine, and this guy.

The watch

Basis bills the Peak as the “ultimate fitness and sleep tracker,” and the device packs an impressive array of technology into a small package. For sensors, it has:

  • Optical Heart Rate Sensor
  • Galvanic Skin Response
  • Skin Temperature
  • 3-Axis Accelerometer

Plus, the Peak has a nifty gray-scale touchscreen display and has a backlight that I eventually discovered, which is nice, albeit not terribly intuitive. I found all the gestures a bit clunky OOTB, and I can’t be the only one because Basis sent an email of how-tos to me right after I created my account. But, like anything, once I learned, all was good.

Fun fact, the little guy is water resistant up to 5 ATM or 50 meters of pressure, and I took it swimming without any leakage.

The optical heart rate sensor is pretty cool (lasers!), and it makes for some spooky lighting in the dark, which is a fun way to creep out your spouse a la Blair Witch/Cloverfield.

I read somewhere that this type of heart rate monitor isn’t real time; I did notice that it was frequently searching for a heart rate, but the charts would show a continuous number. So, if you’re into constant heart rate, this isn’t for you, but it was good enough for me.

IMG_20150317_085720

After wearing the Fuelband, the Peak felt bulky, and its rubber band wasn’t terribly comfortable. Actually, it was uncomfortable, especially since to get the best sensor data, you’re supposed to keep it tight.

On Day 2, I was positive I wouldn’t make it a week, let alone three, but I got used to it. Plus, the data kept me going, more on that in a bit.

The housing on the underside of the band did leave a nice mark after a few days, but that disappeared shortly after I stopped wearing the Peak.

IMG_20150317_085708

Like every other device, it uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to sync with a smartphone, and Basis has apps for both iOS and Android.

Syncing the Peak with its smartphone was often an adventure. The watch would frequently lose its BLE connection with the phone, and I learned quickly that trying to reset that connection was futile. I tried and tried and eventually had to remove and re-associate the watch with the app to get the data flowing.

Because syncing was such a chore, I missed the instant gratification after a run, quantifying the steps, calories, etc. At one point, I confused the watch accidentally and lost about a day’s worth of data. I changed the date on the phone (cough, Candy Crush), and during that one minute period, the watch synced.

The date changed confused the watch, and I couldn’t reset it without dumping all its data and starting from scratch. Definitely my bad, but given how often the Peak wouldn’t sync, it seemed a bit ironic.

The Peak’s battery is solid, even with all the tech onboard; functionally, I saw about 5 days on the first charge, not too shabby.

And finally, the Peak gets attention. Maybe it was the white band, or more likely the Apple Watch buzz, but several people asked me about it, a few assuming it was the Watch itself. If nothing else, the rising interest tide in the Watch has raised the collective consciousness about technology on the wrist.

The app and data

The only reason I soldiered through the discomfort of wearing the Peak is because it produces an impressive array of data, and I love me some data about me.

I’ll start with the smartphone app, which I didn’t use much except for glance-scan type information because Basis doesn’t follow Jeremy’s (@jrwashley) 10-90-90 rule for their mobile app, i.e. they cram all the graphs and information into the small viewport.

For reference, 10-90-90 refers to 10% of the tasks that 90% of users need 90% of the time. This provides a baseline to scale experiences down to less-capable devices in a thoughtful way.

I get why Basis built their smartphone app this way though; it allows the user to get full information in mobile way. The My Basis web app provides all the data in a very appealing set of visualizations, and this is where I went to pour over the data I’d generated.

Screenshot_2015-04-09-09-29-45 Screenshot_2015-04-04-08-13-51 Screenshot_2015-04-09-09-30-50

As with the other wearables we’ve tested (Misfit Shine, Nike+ Fuelband, Fitbit Surge), the Peak has game elements to encourage activity, called Habits. One of the first Habits that comes unlocked OOTB is called “Wear It,” which you can achieve by simply wearing the band for 12 hours.

Habits   Basis

This tells you a lot about the comfort of the device.

Unlocked Habits are pretty basic, burn 2,500 calories, take 10,000 steps, and as you achieve them, more difficult habits can be unlocked and added, e.g. run for 30 minutes, move every hour, get more sleep, etc.

The thresholds for these Habits are configurable, but none of them is overly challenging. As you progress, you’ll find yourself working on half a dozen or more Habits every day. Habits can be paused, which I found valuable when I went on vacation last week.

Overall, the game seems targeted at casual users vs. athletes, but oddly, the data collected seems like the detail that athletes would find valuable. Maybe I didn’t play long enough.

Ah the data.

The Peak collects the usual stuff, calories and steps, and also heart rate. Additionally, it measures skin temperature and perspiration level, although I’m not sure what to do with those.

Activity Details   Basis

Patterns   Basis

On the sleep side, the Peak measures, light sleep, REM sleep and deep sleep, and it tracks interruptions and tossing and turning.

Sleep Details   Basis

While the Shine and Fuelband made me nutty-complusive about activity data, The Peak turned my compulsion toward the sleep data. I found myself studying the numbers, questioning them and trying to sleep-hack.

Not that any of that mattered, sadly, I live a poor-sleep lifestyle.

In other news, I finally found my personal killer use case for smart/superwatches, glanceable phone and text notifications. Because I carry my phone in my back pocket, I often miss calls and texts, but not with the Peak on my wrist.

My wife especially loved this feature.

In the past with the Pebble and Samsung Gear Live, I had too many notifications turned on, email, calendar, etc., and I didn’t wear these devices long enough to modify the settings.

Finally, the Peak helped me realize what a sadly inactive life I lead. 10,000 steps was a challenge for me every day, unless I went to the gym for a run.

I felt a twinge when it came time to take off the Nike+ Fuelband, and despite the discomfort, I pondered wearing the Basis Peak for longer too, specifically for the data it collected.

Maybe I’m stumbled onto something, like wearables-detachment disorder. These are very personal devices, and I wonder if people develop an emotional attachment to them.

We’ll see when I’m done testing the next wearable.

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