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Driving Innovation
Updated: 20 hours 55 min ago

Google Glass and First World Problems

Mon, 2014-06-16 10:28

If you have Google Glass, you’ve probably seen this card a few times.

glassmustcooldown

After a while, you begin to expect the card when your right temple starts to get uncomfortably warm. Apparently, Anthony (@anthonyslai), our resident Glass expert and long-time Glass Explorer, has a protip to handle this problem, two cans of cold soda.

Screen Shot 2014-06-13 at 12.57.39 AM

Ultan’s (@ultan) Glass cooling off

I guess Ultan (@ultan) first encountered this clever solution while Anthony was presenting at the EchoUser Wearables Design Jam a couple weeks ago.

Now I have an efficient way to solve this decidedly First World Problem.

9lwxbPossibly Related Posts:

The Qualcomm Toq

Thu, 2014-05-29 02:22

Editor’s Note: Here’s a post from newish ‘Lab member, Tony. Enjoy, and maybe if you’re nice in comments, he’ll write more. Or not, we won’t know until we know.

The ideas flying, crawling, walking, and slithering around us in the sunny windy San Francisco Bay setting made for an enjoyable, educational, and truly inspirational experience. O’Reilly Solid conference: Software/Hardware/Everywhere was last week and with it, the future finally materialized. Wearables, robots, new materials, new methods, and new software have arrived to change . . . everything.

Click to view slideshow.

This spirit was interrupted–no, augmented–for a few hours at the beginning of Solid by some hushed mumbles: O’Reilly was giving away 30 smartwatches at lunchtime!

I will spare the details of finding and analyzing the official rules, staking out and running reconnaissance around the giveaway area, listening in, photographing, and hunkering down. I created my first personal twitter account and opened 10 identical tabs on my smartphone, ready to spawn the required golden tweet. I proudly whispered this strategy to a colleague who responded: “OK, you’ve gone too far now.” I agreed and then quietly, though not completely unabashedly, created two more tabs.

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The Toq Smartwatch by Qualcomm features Qualcomm’s Mirasol display technology which delivers a sizable, always on, color touch screen without consuming much power. The screen is readable even in direct sunlight. In darkness, double tap the secret spot on the upper band to toggle the happy backlight. The screen snappily responds to touch and the battery lasted a full week in my test. Given that the display stays on for so long between charges, I find it difficult to overly criticize the often washed out, blurred colors.

The watch face is so much bigger than the band that the screen overlaps my hand a bit. The watch often digs in when the wrist is bent, say when using an armrest to get up from a chair. Tightening the band to prevent the discomfort is not an option. The Toq band is cut to fit, and careful with those scissors: a battery and sensors in the band mean you cannot replace it. The design of the band does not permit an analog fit as there are a finite number of slots. If you are one of the lucky ones with a blessed wrist size then you should be able to use Toq without frequent pain. Got pain? Regularly shove the watch up to where your arm is thicker, or sell it to someone with a wrist of equal or lesser circumference to your own.

The software, both on the Toq itself and on the required Android-only device, is adequate. Devices stayed paired and notifications were timely. Range was around 30 feet. What more do you want in a smartwatch? How about using your voice to dictate a text!? Pretty cool, Toq! An SDK is also available for you to make your own Android apps which communicate with Toq. I tried downloading it and they wanted me to create an account so I didn’t. I was also discouraged by the quiet, small dev forum.

I seldom wear a watch, but I am never without my smartphone. So will I use a smartwatch regularly? I really like being able to casually look down and immediately read a new email/chat/text. Quick access to stocks, weather, calendar, and basic music controls come in handy sometimes. Overall though, Toq leaves me wanting more: a true smartphone experience, always on, on my wrist. But then maybe Toq has done its job. I think I have seen the light, the conversion has been made, and I am enthusiastically on board for next time.

Bottom line: Qualcomm Toq is OK for a free gift but I want more.

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The Narrative Clip

Wed, 2014-05-28 02:50

Editor’s note: Here’s another post from friend of the ‘Lab and colleague, John Cartan. When John reached out, offering a review of the Narrative Clip (neé Memento), I jumped at the opportunity to read and publish his thoughts, and not just because I value his insights.

When Noel (@noelportugal) and I were in the Netherlands for the awesome event hosted by AMIS in March, we ran into Sten Vesterli (@stenvesterli), Ace Director and OAUX Advocate, who was sporting the very same Narrative Clip. We both quizzed Sten about it and were intrigued to explore future uses and cool demos for the little life-logging camera.

Anyway, John’s review reminded me, and now we have more anecdotal usage on which to draw if/when we get to building for the Narrative Clip.

Enjoy.

For several weeks now I’ve been wearing a small orange gadget clipped to my shirt – a “lifelogging” camera called the “Narrative Clip”. We thought we might be able to use it for ethnographic field studies (following users around to see how they do their job), or maybe for recording whiteboards during brainstorming meetings. But I was especially curious to see how other people would react to it.

From L-R: the Narrative Clip’s box, John, the Narrative Clip

Usage

The device itself is small (about the size of a Triscuit) and easy to use: just clip it onto your shirt or collar and forget it. It takes a photo once every 30 seconds without flashing lights or any visible indication. At the end of the day you hook it to a Mac or PC with a 3-inch USB cable to both upload the day’s photos and recharge the device.

The camera can be temporarily deactivated by putting it face down on a table or in a purse or pocket. In practice I found that my pocket wasn’t dark enough so I made a small carrying case out a box of mints.

Once the photos are transferred (which takes only a minute or two) you can either leave them on your hard disk, upload them to a cloud server, or both. The server upload and processing takes anywhere from ten minutes to six hours or more. Once uploaded, the images are straightened, cropped, sorted to remove blurry photos, organized into groups, and made available to a free iPhone or Android browser app.

The cloud storage is effortless and requires no local storage but sometimes over-crops (it once chopped the heads off all the people in a meeting I monitored) and provides only limited access to the photos (you have to mail yourself reduced photos from the phone app one at a time).

So I think that for full control you have to enable the local storage option. This works fine, but creates more work. You can easily generate over a thousand photos a day, which all have to be sorted and rotated. The photos consume a gig or more each day, which may eventually overwhelm your local hard drive; for long-term usage I would recommend a dedicated external drive.

Photo Quality

Each raw photo is 2592 x 1944 (5 megapixels). The quality is acceptable in full light, grainy in low light (there is no flash). But because the photos are taken mindlessly while clipped to a shirt that may bounce or sag, the results are generally poor: mostly shots of the ceiling or someone’s elbow. There is no way to check the images as they are taken, so if the lens is blocked by a droopy collar you may not discover this until the end of the day (as happened to me once). And the camera generally won’t be pointed in the direction you are looking unless you glue it to your forehead or wear it on a hat. You can force a photo by double-tapping, but this doesn’t work well.

For all these reasons the Narrative Clip is not a replacement for a normal camera. But the random nature of the photo stream does have some redeeming qualities: it notices things you do not (a passing expression on someone’s face, an interesting artifact in an odd corner of someone’s cube, etc.) and it creates a record of small moments during the course of a day which would otherwise be quickly forgotten. Even if most of the photos are unusable, they do tend to jog your memory about the actual sequence of events. And because the photos are un-posed they can sometimes capture more authentic moments than a more obvious camera usually would.

Possible Applications

The key to designing a great user experience for enterprise software is to first understand your user: what her job is, how she does it, what challenges she has to overcome each day, etc. One way of doing this is an “ethnographic field study” – the researcher follows the user around and documents a typical day.

Our original idea was that the Narrative Clip could enhance ethnographic field studies. Either the researcher could wear it while following a user, or you could ask the user to wear it for a day and then meet later to review the photos.

I think both of these ideas are worth trying. The Narrative Clip would not replace a normal camera; it’s main value would be to jog the memory when writing up reports at the end of the day. Similarly, if the user wears the clip herself, the researcher should schedule time the next day to step through the photos together and answer questions (“What were you doing here? Who is that? It looks like you stepped briefly onto the shop floor after lunch – how often do you that?”).

There are other applications as well. I set up the camera in a meeting room to take a photo of the whiteboard every 30 seconds. This could be a quick and easy way to capture drawings during the course of a brainstorming session. Placing the camera far enough back to capture the entire board meant the writing was hard to discern; it might work with good lighting and strong marking pens.

johnWhiteBoard

John conducting at the whiteboard

Setting the clip on a table during an interview allowed me to collect a collage of un-posed portraits which, in total, gave a more accurate reflection of the subject’s personality than any single posed photo could provide.

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Logging an interview with one of our OAUX colleagues

Another possible application is using the camera to take photos from the dashboard of a moving car. For optimal results the camera needs to be placed near the windshield and high enough to avoid photographing the hood of the car. I achieved a stable mount by clipping the camera to a placard holder (from an office supply store) and placing that on a dashboard sticky pad (from an auto supply store).

Personal Reactions

As we enter the age of wearable sensors and the Internet of Things, we are starting to ask a new question during our design sessions: “is that creepy?” As technologists we are naturally excited by the new applications and the bounty of data made available. But as we think about the user experience of our customers, it is important to consider what it’s like being on the other end of the camera. Wearing the Narrative Clip was a great way to explore personal reactions to this brave new world.

I found that in general people didn’t notice (or were to polite to ask) about the device unless I brought it up. But once they realized it was a camera, some people were uncomfortable (at first). Most people didn’t seem to mind too much once they understood how it worked, but some people were definitely shy about having their photos taken. Some changed positions so as not to be in my normal field of vision. One person requested that I destroy any photos it might take of her. It helps to explain what you’re doing and ask permission first.

Here is what one acquaintance of mine confessed:

“What I think is that I value one-to-one time that is ephemeral. Not recorded. Felt in the heart. I feel threatened when recorded without permission. Sigh. I know. That sounds dumb. I mean, with cell phones everywhere, I don’t even have privacy in the gym locker room. Then the flip side of my brain starts blabbing: “What are you worrying about? Who would want to see your body or record your thoughts anyway?” Am I just prejudiced? I would not want to hire someone I interviewed if they wore one. I would leave the dinner table if a date wore one.”

I feel that it is very important to respect attitudes like this. If people are uncomfortable with a new technology, they will find ways to bypass or subvert it. Sensor-based enterprise applications will only succeed if we strike the right balance between convenience and privacy, are upfront about exactly what data we are collecting and how it will be used, and show respect by asking permission and letting people opt in as much as possible.

Conclusions

The Narrative Clip is a solid, easy to use device that could be helpful for tasks like ethnographic fieldwork, but culling through the flood of random images requires time and effort. Further experimentation is needed to determine if the trade-off would be worthwhile.

Recording entire days – and being recorded by others – was an illuminating experience. Sensor-based technologies can provide treasure troves of data, but it’s always worth asking what it would be like to be on the other end of the camera. A reasonable balance can be struck if we are transparent about what we are doing and show respect by asking permission.Possibly Related Posts:

The Misfit Shine

Tue, 2014-05-27 02:25

Over the past 12 months, the chatter about wearables (glasses, watches, bands, clothing, material) has become too loud to ignore. It almost seems like manufacturers will force consumers to like wearables, like it or not.

There are good uses for wearables, and one of the most common is the fitness tracker.

Although I haven’t worn one myself until recently, I’ve been around lots of people who have, e.g. my wife had an early FitBit, Noel (@noelportugal) was an early adopter of the Nike+ Fuelband and has a Jawbone UP, Ultan (@ultan) has at least a dozen different fitness trackers, etc.

I finally made the jump and bought the Misfit Wearables Shine, and after wearing it for a week, I’m impressed. I do wonder how long it will keep my attention though.
Pros

Of all the fitness bands and smartwatches (and smartphone apps) that track activity, I chose the Shine because I love the small form factor and the flexible ways to wear it. The Shine is about the diameter of a quarter, and guessing here, about the thickness of two or three quarters stacked.

So, yeah, it’s small. It comes with a wristband and a magnetic clasp, and you can buy other, erm, Shine holders including necklaces, leather wristbands and even socks and t-shirts, specifically designed to hold the little guy.

Another plus for the Shine is that it takes a standard watch battery, no need to charge it or tether it for syncing, a common complaint about other fitness trackers.

The Shine uses Bluetooth 4.0 (a.k.a. Bluetooth Low Energy) to communicate with the phone. BLE uses less power than the older spec, but keeping the Bluetooth receiver on all the time runs down the battery noticeably.

misfit-wearables-shine-exploreEven though its design is minimalist, the Shine can tell you the time, if you learn its indicators and ensure you know which side is 12 o’clock. Easier than a binary clock, but requires some learning.

My experience so far has been pretty positive. I like the little guy, but I’m not sure how long I’ll stay engaged. This isn’t a Misfit problem though.

Cons

There are some noteworthy negatives.

Misfit only provides a mobile app for the Shine, no accompanying web app, which I actually don’t mind, yet. This does limit the metrics and analytics a bit, which I know other people like, especially as they accumulate data over time. So, this will eventually bug me

I’m a fan of the quantified self, to a fault; I used to carry a workout journal with eight years of handwritten data in it.

I’m *that* guy.

Misfit has no publicly-available developer options, no APIs, no SDK. They have been promising an API for a while now, so I assume it’s coming soon. An SDK would be nice, e.g. to allow developers to access the Shine for glanceable notifications. Not sure if that’s in the cards or not.

Finally, one of the positives can be a negative. I like the different options for wearing the Shine, and I’ve tested out both the sports band and the magnetic clasp. The latter leads me to a con; it’s easy to lose the Shine.

Case in point, I was wearing the Shine attached to my shorts. I went about my day and suddenly realized it was missing. Looking at the last time I had synced, I retraced my steps to no avail, using the Bluetooth scanning feature as a BLE dowsing rod of sorts.

As a last resort, I pinged Noel, BLE master. He pointed me to an Android app called simply Bluetooth 4.0 Scanner and within minutes, I had found it.

Screenshot_2014-05-22-13-42-30

Huzzah for Noel! Huzzah for Bluetooth 4.0 Scanner! Reading the comments on that app shows that my use case is not unique. Perhaps the developer should rename it, Fitness Band Finder, or some such.

Anyway, that’s my week or so with the Misfit Shine.

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