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Updated: 6 hours 23 min ago

GDC16 Day 5: The Good, The Bad, The Weird (Last Day)

Fri, 2016-03-18 21:43

bathroomWhen I first came to GDC, I didn’t know what to expect. I was delightfully surprised to use my first gender neutral restroom. The restroom had urinals and toilet seats. There was no fuss other than others who were standing to take a picture of the sign above. It felt surreal using the restroom next to a stranger who was not the same gender as I. The idea is a positive new way of thinking and fits perfectly with one of the themes of the conference: diversity.

In my last games user research round table, one of the topics we spent a lot of time on was sexism and how we could do our part to include underrepresented groups in our testing. One researcher began with a story about a female contractor he worked with to perform a market test on a new game. One screener question surprised him the most:

What gender do you identify as?
Male [Next question]
Female [Thank her for her time. Dismiss]

O-M-G. The team went back and forth with the contractor for 4 iterations before she agreed to change that question in the screener. Her reasoning were:

  • Females are not representative of his game’s audience. Wrong, females made up half of his previous game’s total audience.
  • Females are distracting. The males will flirt with the females during testing. Solution, have one day to test all female testers and another day to test all male testers.
  • Females don’t like competitive shooting games. Wrong, see first bullet point. As of March 2016, female preference for competitive games overlap with male preference 85%.

If your group of testers are all randomly chosen, but are all straight white males, is that a truly random sample? To build a game that is successful, it is important to test with a diverse group of people. Make sure that most if not all groups of your audience is represented in the sample. This will yield more diverse and insightful findings. You may have to change the language of your recruitment email to target different types of users.

For example, another researcher wanted a diverse pool gamers with little experience. His only screener was that they play games on a console for at least 6 hours a week. No genre of games were specified. He got a 60 year old grandma who played Uno over Xbox Live with her grandkids for 6–8 hours Saturday and Sunday. She took hours to get past level one, but because she was so meticulous and wanted to explore every aspect of the demo, she pointed out trouble spots in the game that most testers speeding through would miss!

Recently on our own screeners at The AppsLab, we ask participants what gender they identify with instead of bucketing them in male or female. It’s small, but a big step in the right direction toward equality.

hedgehog

UX practioners are like hedgehogs who just want to hug.

kitten

Other job roles on the team are like cuddly, don’t-touch-me, kittens.

The presence of UX

The presence of UX and user research has grown since last year. Developers and publishers recognize the importance of iteratively testing early and often. In the “Design of Everyday Games” talk with Christina Wodke the other day, she told the packed room that there was just 8 people in the same talk just the year before. From 8 to a packed room of hundred is a huge growth and a win for the user and for the industry!

Epic Games spoke about product misconceptions that makes it difficult to incorporate user experience into the pipeline. UX practitioners are like hedgehogs. We want to help by giving the extra hug it needs, but our quills aren’t perceived as soft enough. Our goal is to deliver the experience intended to the targeted audience, not change the design intent.

  • Misconception #1: UX is common sense. Actually, the human brain is filled with perception, cognitive and social biases that affect both the developers and the users.
  • Misconception #2: UX is another opinion. UX experts don’t give opinions. We provide an analysis based on our knowledge of the brain, past experience and available test data.
  • Misconception #3: There’s not enough resources for UX. We have resources for QA testing to ensure there are no technical bugs. Can we afford not to test for critical UX issues before shipping?

To incorporate UX into the pipeline, address product misconceptions. Don’t be afraid of each other, just talk. Open communication is the key to creativity and collaboration. Start with small wins to show your value by working with those who show some interest in the process. Don’t be a UX police and jump on every UX issue to start a test pipeline. Work together and measure the process.

Overall, I loved the conference. The week flew by quickly and I was able to get great insights from industry thought leaders. The GDC activity feed was bursting with notes from parallel talks. I fell in love with the community and am in awe that a conference of this size grew from a meeting in a basement 30 years go. I sure hope there is a UX track next year! I decided to end my week with a scary VR experience, Paranormal Activity VR. The focused on music and sound to drive the suspenseful narrative. Needless to say, I screamed and fell on my knees. It beats paying to go to a haunted maze every halloween.

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GDC16 Day 4: Demos & Player Motivations

Fri, 2016-03-18 01:13

Crowded early morning inside GDC Expo.

It’s official. All demos are booked for the week. Anyone not on the list is subjected to the standby line. I was lucky enough to score a 5:30pm demo for Bullet Train at the NVIDIA booth early this morning. When I walked by the line late in the evening, I found out that a lady had been waiting for at least an hour for her turn in the line.

Raymond (@yuhuaxie), one of our developers, took his luck to play games at the “no reservations accepted” Oculus store-like booth 30 minutes before the expo opened and still had to wait for almost an hour before he left the line for other session talks. Is it worth the hype? The wait? The fact that you’re crouching and screaming at something no one else can see?

Apparently so! One common sentiment I heard from others who finished playing the demo was that the experience was so amazing that they didn’t care about the friction to enjoy the 10–15 min in virtual reality! For Bullet Train, there had been several repeat visitors to play the fast-paced shooting game again and again!

Today, I had my chance to demo London Heist on the PS VR and Bullet Train on the Oculus Rift. Both are fast-paced shooting games. The head mount gear (HMD) for the PS VR is much more forgiving for those who wear glasses. The HMD wears similarly to a bike helmet, but with no straps to mess with. To adjust, you simply slide the viewer forward and back separate from the mounting. It’s much lighter compared to the other HMDs and breathes better. Here’s another game play of the demo I went through.

London Heist has simple interactions for a shooting game. The game first eases you in as you ride as a passenger with your buddy on the streets of London. You can sit there and get a chance to orient yourself with you new surroundings. Instead of practicing how to grab guns, I gulped down a 7up instead 

GDC16 Day 3: Another Day of Fun & Data!

Thu, 2016-03-17 00:17

Early morning view of the GDC16 Expo Hall.

The Expo opened today and will be open until the end of Friday! There was a lot to see and do! I managed to explore 1/3 of the space. Walking in, we have the GDC Store to the left and the main floor below the stairs. Upon entering the main floor, Unity was smack dab in the center. It had an impressive set up, but not as impressive as the Oculus area nor Clash of Kings.

Built to look like a store :O

Clash of Kings. The biggest booth of all booths. They brought the game to real life with hired actors!

There were a lot of demos you could play, with many different type of controllers. Everyone was definitely drinking the VR Kool-Aid. Because of the popularity of some of the sessions, reservations for a play session are strongly encouraged. Most, if not all of the sessions ,were already booked for the whole day by noon. I managed to reserve the PS VR play session for tomorrow afternoon by scanning a QR code to their scheduling app!

The main floor was broken up into pavilions with games by their respective counties. It was interesting to overhear others call their friends to sync up and saying “I’m in Korea.” Haha.

I spent the rest of the time walking around the floor and observing others play.

Fly like a bird! #birdly #GDC16 pic.twitter.com/oeHUnmfhgp

— Tawny (@iheartthannie) March 16, 2016

I did get a chance to get in line for an arcade ride! My line buddy and I decided to get chased by a T-Rex! We started flying in the air as a Pterodactyl. The gleeful flight didn’t last long. The T-Rex was hungry and apparently really wanted us for dinner. It definitely felt like we were running quickly, trying to get away.

Another simulation others tried that we didn’t was a lala land roller coaster. In this demo, players can actually see their hand on screen.

Waiting to try out sim arcade ride that senses your hands! Fairytale coaster ride w/ bunny companion in tow #GDC16 pic.twitter.com/Y8mqDs2ILg

— Tawny (@iheartthannie) March 16, 2016

Sessions & Highlights

Playstation VR. Sony discusses development concepts, design innovations and what PS VR is and is not. I personally liked the direction they are going for collaboration.

  • Design with 2 screens in mind. For console VR, you may be making 2 games in 1. One in VR and one on TV. You should consider doing this to avoid having one headset per player and to allow for multiplayer cooperation. Finding an art direction for both is hard. Keep it simple for good performance.
  • Make VR a fun and social experience. In a cooperative environment, you get 2 separate viewpoints of the same environment (mirroring mode) or 2 totally different screen views (separate mode). This means that innovation between competitive and Co-op mode is possible.

The AppsLab team and I have considered this possibility of a VR screen and TV screen experience as well. It’s great that this idea is validated by one of the biggest console makers.

A year of user engagement data. A year’s worth of game industry data, patterns and trends was the theme of all the sessions I attended today.

  • There are 185 million gamers in the US. Half are women.
    • 72 million are console gamers. Of those console owners the average age is ~30 years old.
    • There are 154 million mobile gamers. This is thanks to the rise of free-2-play games. Mobile accessibility has added diversity to the market and brought a new group of players. Revenues grew because of broad expansion. The average age for the mobile group is ~39.4 years old.
    • There are 61 million PC gamers thanks to the rise of Steam. These gamers tend to be younger at an average age of ~29.5yrs.
  • There are different motivations as to why people play games. There are two group of players: Core vs. casual players. Universally, the primary reason casual players play games is when they are waiting to pass time and as a relaxing activity.
  • There is great diversity within the mobile market. There is an obvious gender split between what females and males play casually. Females tend to like matching puzzle (Candy Crush), simulation and casino games while males tend to like competitive games like sport, shooter and combat city builder games.
  • When we look internationally, players in Japan have less desire to compete when playing games. Success of games based on cooperative games.
  • Most homes have a game console. In 2015, 51% of homes owned at least 2 game consoles. At the start of 2016, there was an increase of 40% in sales for current 8th generation game consoles (PS4, Xbox One, etc minus the Wii).
  • Just concentrating on mobile gamers, 71% play games on both their smart phone and tablet, 10% play only on their tablet.
  • Top factors leading to churn are lack of interest, failure to meet expectation and too much friction.
  • Aside from Netflix and maybe Youtube, Twitch gobbles up more prime time viewers, almost 700K concurrent views as of March 2016. Its viewership is increasing despite competition with the launch of YouTube Gaming.

Day 1 — User research round table. This was my first round table during GDC, and it’s nice to be among those within the same profession. We covered user research for VR, preventing bias and testing on kids! Experts provided their failures on these topics and offers suggestions.

  • Testing for Virtual Reality.
    • Provide players with enough time warming up in the new environment before asking them to perform tasks. Use the initial immersive exposure for to calibrate them.
    • Be ready to pull them out at any indication of nausea.
    • Use questionnaires to screen out individuals who easily get motion sickness.
    • It’s important to remember that people experience sickness for different reasons. It’s hard to eliminate all the variables. Some people can have vertigo or claustrophobia that’s not necessarily the fault of the VR demo. There is a bias toward that in media. People think they are going to be sick so they feel sick.
    • Do not ask people if they feel sick before the experience else you are biasing them to be sick.
    • Individuals are only more likely to feel sick if your game experience does not match their expectations. Some people feel sick no matter what.
    • One researcher tested 700–800 people in VR. Only 2 persons said that they felt sick. 7–8 said they felt uncomfortable.
    • An important questions to ask is “At what point do they feel sick?” If you get frequent reports at that point vs. Generalized reports, then you can do something to make the game better.
  • Bias.
    • Avoid bragging language. Keep questions neutral.
    • Separate yourself from the product.
    • Remember participants think that you are an authority. Offload instructions to the survey, rather than relay the instructions yourself. It’s going to bias the feedback.
    • Standardize the experiment. Give the same spiel.
    • The order of question is important.
    • Any single geographic region is going to introduce bias. Only screen out regions if you think culture is going to be an issue.
  • Testing with kids.
    • It’s better to test with 2 kids in a room. With kids, they are not good at verbalizing what they know and do not know. Having 2 kids allows you to see them verbalize their thoughts to each other as they ask questions and help each other through the game.
    • When testing a group of kids at once, assign the kids their station and accessories. Allowing them to pick will end up in a fight over who gets the pink controller.
    • Younger kids aren’t granular so allow for 2 clear options on surveys. A thumbs up and thumbs down works.
    • Limit kids to one sugary drink or you’ll regret it.

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GDC16 Day 2: Highlights & Trends

Wed, 2016-03-16 01:50

Just like yesterday, the VR sessions were very popular. Even with the change to bigger rooms, lines for popular VR talks would start at least 20 minutes before the session started. The longest line I was in snaked up and down the hallway at least 4 times. The wait was well worth it though!

Today was packed. Many sessions overlapped one another. Wish I could have cloned 3 of myself

GDC16 Day 1: Daily Round Up

Tue, 2016-03-15 00:54

Hello everyone! I wrapped up the first day at the Games Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco! It’s the first Monday after daylight savings so a morning cup of joe in Moscone West was a welcomed sight!

gdc_logo

First Thoughts

Wow! All of the VR sessions were very popular and crowded. In the morning, I was seated in the overflow room for the HTC Vive session. Attendees were lucky to be able to go to 2 VR sessions back-to-back. There would be lines wrapping around the halls and running into other lines. By the afternoon, when foot traffic was at its highest, it was easy to get confused as to which line belonged to which session. Luckily, the organizers took into account the popularity of the VR sessions and moved it to the larger rooms for the next 4 days!

On the third floor, there was a board game area where everyone could play the latest board game releases like Pandemic Legacy and Mysterium as well as a VR play area where everyone could try out the Vive and other VR games.

Sessions & Take Aways

I sat in on 6 sessions:

  • A Year in Roomscale: Design Lessons from the HTC Vive and Beyond.
    •  You are not building a game, but an experience. Players are actually doing something actively with their hands vs. a game controller.
    • There are 3 questions that players ask when they are starting a VR experience that should be addressed:
      • (a) Who am I?
      • (b) What am I supposed to do?
      • (c) How do I interact with the environment?
    • Permissability. New players always ask when they are allowed to interact with something, but there are safety issues when they get too comfortable. One developer told a story about how a player actually tried to dive headfirst into a pool while wearing a VR device!
    • Don’t have music automatically playing when they enter the game. It’s not natural in the real world. It’s better to have a boom box and have them turn on the music instead. In addition, audio is still hard to do perfectly. Players expect perfect audio by default. If they pick up a phone, they expect to hear it out of 1 ear, not both.
  • Social Impact: Leveraging Community for Monetization, User Acqusition and Design.
    • Social Whales (SW) have high social value thus have the highest connection to other players and are key to a high ROI . SWs makes it easy for other players to connect with one another.
    • There are 3 standard profiles that players fall under:
      • (a) The atypical social whales that always want the best things.
      • (b) The trendsetter, the one who wants to unite and lead.
      • (c) The trend spotter, the players who want to be a part of something.
    • When a social whale leaves a games, ROI falls and other players leave. This is because that 2nd degree connection is gone. To keep players from leaving, it’s important to have game mechanics that addresses the following player needs:
      • (a) Players want to belong.
      • (b) Players want recognition as a valuable member.
      • (c) Players want their in-game group to be recognized as the best vs. other groups.
  • Menus Suck.
    • A very interesting talk on rethinking how players access key menu items in VR.
    • Have a following object like a cat! Touching different parts of the object will allow you to select different things. It’s much easier than walking back and forth between a menu and what you have to do.
      • Job Simulator uses retro cartridges for menu selection.
    •  Create menu shortcuts with the player’s body. Have the user pull things out of different parts of their head (below).
    •  Eating as an interaction. In job simulator you can eat a cake marked with an “Exit” to exit the game. The cake changes to another dessert item marked with an “Are you sure?” to ensure the exit.
  • Improving Playtesting through Workshops Focusing on Exploring.
    • For games, we are experience testing (playtesting) not performing a usability test.
    • For games, especially for VR, comfort comes first. Right after that it’s ease of use.
    • When exploring desired experiences for a game, create a composition box to ensure you get ideas from all views of your development team.
    • When observing play, look for actions (e.g. vocalizations, gestures) as well as for changes in posture and focus.
  • The Tower of Want.
    • Learn critical questions our designs must answer to engage players over the long term.
    • Follow the “I want to..” and “so I can…” framework to unearth player’s short term and long term goals. Instead of asking why 5 times like we do in user research, we ask then to complete the framework’s “so I can…” sentence (e.g. I want to get good grades so I can get into college…so I can get a good job…so I can make a lot of money…so I can buy a house).
    • The framework creates a ladder of motivations that incentivizes a player to complete each game level in that ladder daily.
  • Cognitive Psychology of Virtual Reality: Basics, Problems and Tips.
    • Psychology is the physics of VR.
    • Use redirected walking to keep players within the same space.
    • Design for optical flow. Put shadows over areas where users are not concentrating on. It’ll help with dizziness.
    • Players underestimate depth by up to 50%.
      • Add depth by adding transitional rooms (portals). This helps ease the players into their new environment.
    • Players can see a maximum of 6 meters ahead of them for 3D.
      • In their peripherals, they can only see 2D.
      • Design with the mind that 20–30% of the population has problems with stereoscopic vision.

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See You at SXSW 2016

Fri, 2016-03-11 09:59

sxsw If you happen to be in Austin this weekend for SXSWi, look for Osvaldo (@vaini11a), me (@noelportugal) and friend of the ‘Lab Rafa (@rafabelloni).

We will be following closely all things UX, IoT, VR, AI. Our schedules are getting full with some great sessions and workshops. Check back in a week or so to read some of our impressions!Possibly Related Posts:

The Anki Overdrive Car Project

Mon, 2016-03-07 02:07

At the end of 2015, our team was wrapping up projects that would be shown at the main Oracle conference, Oracle OpenWorld.

As with every OOW, we like to come up with a fun project that shows attendees our spirit of innovation by building cool projects within Oracle.

The team was thinking about building something cool with kids’ racetracks. We all were collectively in charge of looking for alternatives, so we visited a toy store to get ideas and see products that already existed out there.

We looked pretty cool racetracks but none of them suited our needs for functionality and of course, we didn’t have enough time to invest on modifying some of them.

So, searching through internet someone came up with Anki OVERDRIVE cars, yes, that product that was announced back in 2013 at Apple WWDC keynote. To sum up, Anki provides a racetrack that includes flexible plastic magnets tracks that can be chained together and to allow for any racetrack configuration, rechargeable cars that have an optical sensor underneath to keep the car on the track, a lot of fun features like all kinds of virtual weapons, cars upgrades, etc., a companion app for both Android and iOS platform to operate the cars and a software development kit (SDK).

thumb_IMG_1626_1024

For us, it was exactly what we were looking for. But now we needed to find a way to control the cars without using the companion app because, you know, that was boring and we wanted more action and go one step further.

So after discussing different approaches, I suggested to control cars with Myo gesture control armband that basically is a wireless touch-free, wearable gesture control and motion device. We had Myo armband already, but we hadn’t played with it much. Good thing that Myo band has an SDK too, so we had everything ready to build a cool demo

Is the Mi Band the Harbinger of Affordable #fashtech?

Tue, 2016-03-01 10:15

So, here’s a new thing I’ve noticed lately, customizable wearables, specifically the Xiaomi Mi Band (#MiBand), which is cheap and completely extensible.

This happens to be Ultan’s (@ultan) new fitness band of choice, and coincidentally, Christina’s (@ChrisKolOrcl) as well. Although both are members of Oracle Applications User Experience (@usableapps), neither knew the other was wearing the Mi Band until they read Ultan’s post.

Since, they’ve shared pictures of their custom bands.

ultanMi

Ultan’s Hello Kitty Mi Band.

20160226_174826

Christina’s charcoal+red Mi Band.

The Mi Band already comes in a wider array of color options that most fitness bands, and a quick search of Amazon yields many pages of wristband and other non-Xiaomi produced accessories. So, there’s already a market for customizing the $20 device.

And why not, given it’s the price of a nice pedometer with more bells and whistles and a third the cost of the cheapest Fitbit, the Zip, leaving plenty of budget left over for making it yours.

Both Christina and Ultan have been tracking fitness for a long time and as early adopters so I’m ready to declare this a trend, i.e. super-cheap, completely-customizable fitness bands.

Of course, as with anything related to fashion (#fashtech), I’m the last to know. Much like a broken clock, my wardrobe is fashionable every 20 years or so. However, Ultan has been beating the #fashtech drum for a while now, and it seems the time has come to throw off the chains of the dull, black band and embrace color again.

Or something like that. Anyway, find the comments and share your Mi Bands or opinions. Either, both, all good.Possibly Related Posts:

IoT Hackathon: Team Waterlytics’ Entry – Part 2/2

Wed, 2016-02-24 02:08

Editor’s note: Our team participated in many of the Summer of Innovation events held by Laurie (@lsptahoe) and her team. Here’s Part 2 of Mark’s (@mvilrokx) project from the IoT Hackathon held at Oracle HQ, July 30-31. Enjoy.

After all the prep work for the IoT hackaton where we agreed on our use case and settled on the hardware we would be using, it was time to start the actual fun part: designing and coding!

Diane provided all the designs for the application, Joe built all the hardware and provided the “smarts” of the application and I was responsible for bringing it all together.

The hardware

Let’s start with the sketch of the whole hardware setup:

IoT Hackathon Piezo Sketch_bb

Basically the piezo is connected to the 1 analog input on the ESP8266 (A0) and to ground.  In parallel with the piezo we put a 1MΩ pull-down resistor to reduce possible signal noise, a 1µF capacitor to smooth out the piezo’s signal over time to improve readings and a 5.1V Zener diode to prevent the piezo from frying the ESP8266 (piezo’s can spike at 20~40V).  The piezo can then simply be attached to a pipe with some plumbers putty, ready to start sensing vibrations.

For our test setup, we created a closed circuit water flow with some copper pipes, a simple garden pump and a bucket of water, simulating an actual water system.

IMG_0834

This turned out to work great for research and the actual demonstration during the hackathon.

The software ESP8266 WiFi Client

The whole reason for using the ESP8266 was to be able to connect the piezo to the cloud.  The ESP8266 can be flashed with a Lua based firmware called NodeMCU, which makes this whole process remarkably simple.  Just set the ESP8266 in Wifi STATION mode and then connect to a available WiFi, that’s it, 2 lines of (Lua) code:

wifi.setmode(wifi.STATION)
wifi.sta.config(<ssid>, <pwd>)

The board is now connected to the internet and you can perform e.g. REST API calls from it.  In practice, we implemented this slightly different because this isn’t very user friendly, but that’s outside the scope of this post.

All we had to do now was read the data from the piezo and send it via the internet to be processed and stored somewhere, e.g. on the Oracle Cloud IoT platform.  Unfortunately we didn’t have access to that platform so we had to build something ourselves, see next.

Initially the plan was to use REST API calls to send the data to our backend, but this turned out to be too heavy for the little ESP8266 board and we could only perform a few calls/second before it would freeze and reboot.

Instead, we opted to use the MQTT protocol (quote from http://mqtt.org/):

“MQTT is a machine-to-machine (M2M)/”Internet of Things” connectivity protocol. It was designed as an extremely lightweight publish/subscribe messaging transport. It is useful for connections with remote locations where a small code footprint is required and/or network bandwidth is at a premium…”

Sounds like a perfect match and the Lua firmware has build in support for MQTT!

We turned our ESP8266 into a MQTT Client and used CloudMQTT as our broker.  Once we switched to MQTT we were able to send data at a much higher frequency, but still not fast enough compared to the number of samples we wanted to collect from the piezo (100s/sec).

So instead of sending all the data we collect from the piezo to a backend, we decided to do some of the processing on the ESP8266 chip itself.  We would collect 100 samples and then calculate the mean, median and standard deviation of those and send that to the backend instead as fast as we could.  In the end it turned out that calculating the standard deviation was to much for the board and it started effecting our sampling frequency, so we just dropped that al together.

Piezo data is now being pushed from our little board to the broker, next we need to store that data into a database.  For this we need another MQTT client that listens to the messages from the ESP8266 and stores them as they arrive.  We used node.js and the MQTT.js package to create our client and hooked it up to a MongoDB.

This gave us the flexibility to change the data that gets sent from the board (which was just some JSON) without having to deal with DDL.  For example, we managed to cram extra attributes into the data sent from the ESP8266 that contained information about the pipe’s material (“copper” or “PVC”) and the location of the piezo on the pipe (“close to bend”) all without changing anything other than the code on the ESP8266 that captures this information.

This information would be useful in our model as different pipe materials or other characteristics could have an effect on it, although we didn’t get to use it for the Hackathon.

The final piece of the puzzle was to display all this information into a useful manner to the end user.

For this we had a web application that would connect to the MongoDB and process the information available there.  Users could monitor usage, per device or aggregated in any number of ways: devices could be group by restroom, floor, building, campus or company wide.

You could also aggregate by device type: shower, toilet, urinal etc.  A budget could be allocated, again for any of these levels and time line, e.g. 100 gallon/day/toilet or 100,000 gallon/quarter/building.  Notifications would get sent out when you go over a budgets or when “unusual” activity gets noticed, e.g. a device is nowhere neat it’s budget BUT it has used much more today than it normally does, which could indicate a leak.

Those were all the software parts that made up our final solution, here’s an overview:

Slide1Notice how this architecture allows us to easily scale the individual parts without effecting one another: we can scale up the number of sensors, scale the MQTT broker, scale the node.js server and scale the MongoDB.

One final component that we did not really get to highlight in the presentation during the hackathon is that the MQTT Client on the ESP8266 is configured to both send messages (the piezo data as we shown before) but also to receive messages.

This allowed us to control the sensors remotely, by sending it commands from the broker (through another MQTT Client).  As soon as you switched on an ESP8266 module, say “sensor1”, it would announce itself.  The node.js server would be listening to these messages and indicate in the database that “sensor1” is online and ready to accept commands.

From another MQTT client, controlled from a admin web application, we could then send a command to this specific ESP8266 and tell it to either start sensing and send data or stop.  This was done for practical purpose because we were producing so much data that we were in danger of running out of free capacity on CloudMQTT

A Wonderful Week in Australia

Tue, 2016-02-23 16:33

2016 has been a whirlwind so far, and February kept up the pace. Here’s a quick rundown of what we’ve been doing.

As we did last year, OAUX made a trip to APAC again this year to meet partners, customers and Oracle people, show our Expo of goodies and talk simplicity-mobility-extensibility, Glance, Scan, Commit and our overall goal of increasing user participation.

This year, Noel (@noelportugal) and I made the trip to Australia and spent an awesome, warm week in beautiful Sydney. Noel showed the portable Smart Office demo, including the Smart Badge, that we debuted at OpenWorld in October, and I showed a couple visualizations and Glance on a handful of devices.

image3

Don’t let the picture fool you. It was taken between the end of Jeremy’s (@jrwashley) talk, before the official start of the Expo, during lunch. Once people finished eating, the room filled up quickly with 80 or so partner attendees.

Want more? Read Ultan’s (@ultan) account of the partner extensibility day.

On the second day in the Sydney office, we got the chance to chat with local Oracle sales reps, consultants and architects, and I was lucky enough to meet Stuart Coggins (@ozcoggs) and Scott Newman (@lamdadsn) who read this blog.

It’s always invigorating to meet readers IRL. I’ve poured nine years into this blog, writing more than 2,000 posts, and sometimes the silence is deafening. I wonder who’s out there reading, so it’s always a treat.

Oh, and Stuart had a board with blicky lights, an IoT demo he’d shown a customer that day. So, I was immediately intrigued.

Turns out Stuart and Scott create demos similar to our own and share the same nerdy passions we do. To wit, check out the Anki car hack Stuart and some colleagues did for Pausefest 2016 in Melbourne earlier this month.

You’ll recall the Anki cars are one of latest favorite shiny toys to hack.

Overall, it was a great week. Special thanks to John P for hosting us and making the trip all the more fun.

While we were away, Thao (@thaobnguyen) and the HQ team hosted a group of analysts in the Cloud and Gadget Labs, including Vinnie Mirchandani (@dealarchitect), who posted a nice writeup, including the money quote:

A walkthrough of their UX lab was like that of Q’s workshop in Bond movies. An Amazon Echo, smart watches, several gestural devices point to further changes in interfaces. Our expectations are being shaped by rapidly evolving UX in our cars and homes.

Somewhere Noel feels warm and fuzzy because the Q-meets-Tony Stark aesthetic is exactly what he was hoping to capture in his initial designs for our Gadget Lab.

Fun fact, back in 2007 when Justin (@kestelyn) and I collaborated on the original blogger program for OpenWorld, Vinnie was active in the discussion. Small world.

Anyway, given all the excitement lately, I’m only now getting a chance to encourage you to read a post by Sarah Smart over on VoX about stuff, “Wearables, IoT push Oracle’s emerging tech development.”

So yeah, a lot going on, and conference season is just beginning. Stay tuned for more.Possibly Related Posts:

Put Glance on It

Fri, 2016-02-05 02:59

Because I live in Portland, I’m often asked if “Portlandia” is accurate.

It is, mostly, and so it seems appropriate to channel an early episode to talk about Glance, our wearables framework.

Actually, Glance has grown beyond wearables to support cars and other devices, the latest of which is Noel’s (@noelportugal) gadget du jour, the LaMetric Time (@smartatoms).

Insert mildly amusing video here.

And of course Noel had to push Glance notifications to LaMetric, because Noel. Pics, it happened.

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The text is truncated, and I tried to take a video of the scrolling notification, but it goes a bit fast for the camera. Beyond just the concept, we’ll have to break up the notification to fit LaMetric’s model better, but this was only a few minutes of effort from Noel. I know, because he was sitting next to me while he coded it.

In case you need a refresher, here’s Glance of a bunch of other things.

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I didn’t have a separate camera so I couldn’t show the Android notification.

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We haven’t updated the framework for them, but if you recall, Glance also worked on Google Glass and Pebble in its 1.0 version.

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Screenshot_2014-09-08-07-20-50Possibly Related Posts:

Come Visit the OAUX Gadget Lab

Thu, 2016-02-04 11:28

In September 2014, Oracle Applications User Experience (@usableapps) opened a brand new lab that showcases Oracle’s Cloud Applications, specifically the many innovations that our organization has made to and around Cloud Applications in the past handful of year.

We call it the Cloud User Experience Lab, or affectionately, the Cloud Lab.

Our team has several projects featured in the Cloud Lab, and many of our team members have presented our work to customers, prospects, partners, analysts, internal groups, press, media and even schools and Girl and Boy Scout troops.

In 2015, the Cloud Lab hosted more than 200 such tours, actually quite a bit more, but I don’t have the exact number in front of me.

Beyond the numbers, Jeremy (@jrwashely), our group vice president, has been asked to replicate the Cloud Lab in other places, on the HQ campus and abroad at other Oracle campuses.

People really like it.

In October 2015, we opened an adjoining space to the Cloud Lab that extends the experience to include more hands-on projects. We call this new lab, the Gadget Lab, and it features many more of our projects, including several you’ve seen here.

In the Gadget Lab, we’re hoping to get people excited about the possible and give them a glimpse of what our team does because saying “we focus on emerging technologies” isn’t nearly as descriptive as showing our work.

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So, the next time you’re at Oracle HQ, sign up for a tour of the Cloud and Gadget Labs and let us know what you think.Possibly Related Posts:

The MagicBand

Wed, 2016-02-03 21:59

Editor’s note: Here’s the first post from our new-ish researcher, Tawny. She joined us back in September, just in time for OpenWorld. After her trip to Disney World, she talked eagerly about the MagicBand experience, and if you read here, you know I’m a fan of Disney’s innovative spirit.

Enjoy.

Planning a Disney World trip is no small feat. There are websites that display crowd calendars to help you find the best week to visit and the optimal parks to visit on each of those days so you can take advantage of those magic hours. Traveling with kids? Visiting during the high season? Not sure which FastPass+ to make reservations for?

There are annually updated guidebooks dedicated to providing you the most optimal attraction routes and FastPass+ reservations, based off of thousands of data points for each park. Beginning 2013, Disney introduced the MagicBand, a waterproof bracelet that acts as your entry ticket, FastPass+ holder, hotel key and credit card holder. The bands are part of The MyMagic+ platform, consisting of four main components: MagicBands, FastPass+, My Disney Experience, and PhotoPass Memory Maker. Passborterboard lists everything you can do with a MagicBand.

I got my chance to experience the MagicBand early this January.

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These are both open edition bands. This means that they do not have customized lights or sounds at FP+ touchpoints. We bought them at the kiosk at Epcot after enviously looking on at other guests who were conveniently accessing park attractions without having to take out their tickets! It was raining, and the idea of having to take out anything from our bags under our ponchos was not appealing.

The transaction was quick and the cashier kindly linked our shiny new bands to our tickets. Freedom!!!

The band made it easy for us to download photos and souvenirs across all park attractions without having to crowd around the photo kiosk at the end of the day. It was great being able to go straight home to our hotel room while looking through our Disney photo book through their mobile app!

Test Track at Epcot made the most use of the personalization aspect of these bands. Before the rise, guests could build their own cars with the goal of outperforming other cars in 4 key areas: power, turn handling, environmental efficiency and responsiveness.

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After test driving our car on the ride, there were still many things we could do with our car such as join a multiplayer team race…we lost :(

What was really interesting were guests were fortunate to show off personalized entry colors and sounds, a coveted status symbol amongst MagicBand collectors. The noise and colors was a mini attraction on its own! I wish our badge scanners said hi to us like this every morning…

 

 

When used in conjunction with My Disney Experience app, there can be a lot of potential:

  • Order ahead food + scan to pick up or food delivery while waiting in a long line.
  • Heart sensor + head facing camera to take pictures within an attractions to capture happy moments.
  • Haptic feedback to tell you that your table is ready at a restaurant. Those pagers are bulky.

So what about MagicBands for the enterprise context?

Hospitals may benefit, but some argue that the MagicBand model works exclusively for Disney because of its unique ecosystem and the heavy cost it would take to implement it. The concept of the wearable is no different from the badges workers have now.

Depending on the permissions given to the badgeholder, she can badge into any building around the world.

What if we extend our badge capabilities to allow new/current employees to easily find team members to collaborate and ask questions?

What if the badge carried all of your desktop and environmental preferences from one flex office to the desk so you never have to set up or complain about the temperature ever again?

What if we could get a push notification that it’s our cafeteria cashier’s birthday as we’re paying and make their day with a “Happy Birthday?”

That’s something to think about.Possibly Related Posts: