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The AppsLab’s Latest Inter-State Adventure: A Site Visit to Micros

Mon, 2016-07-18 16:17

Probably the best way to get to know your users is to watch them work, in their typical environment. That, and getting to talk to them right after observing them. It’s from that perspective that you can really see what works, what doesn’t, and what people don’t like. And this is exactly what we want to learn about in our quest to improve our users’ experience using Oracle software.

That said, we’ve been eager to get out and do some site visits, particularly for learning more about supply chain management (SCM). For one, SCM is an area most of us on the team haven’t spent too much time working on. But two, at least for me–working mostly in the abstract, or at least the virtual—there’s something fascinating and satisfying about how physical products and materials move throughout the world, starting as one thing and being manufactured or assembled into something else.

We had a contact at Micros, so we started there. Also, they’re an Oracle company, so that made it much easier. You’ve probably encountered Micros products, even if you haven’t noticed them—Micros does point of sales (POS) systems for retail and hospitality, meaning lots of restaurants, stadiums, and hotels.

Micros point-of-sales terminals throughout the years. This is in Micros's corporate office in Columbia, Maryland.

Micros point-of-sales terminals throughout the years. This is in Micros’s corporate office in Columbia, Maryland.

For this particular adventure, we teamed up with the SCM team within OAUX, and went to Hanover, Maryland, where Micros has its warehouse operations, and where all of its orders are put together and shipped out across the world.

We observed and talked to a variety of people there: the pickers, who grab all the pieces for an order; the shippers, who get the orders ready to ship out and load them on the trucks; receiving, who takes in all the new inventory; QA, who have to make sure incoming parts are OK, as well as items that are returned; and cycle counters, who count inventory on a nightly basis. We also spoke to various managers and people involved in the business end of things.

A view inside the Micros warehouse.

A view inside the Micros warehouse.

In addition to following along and interviewing different employees, the SCM team ran a focus group, and the AppsLab team ran something like a focus group, but which is called a User Journey Map. With this research method, you have users map out their tasks (using sticky notes, a UX researcher’s best friend), while also including associated thoughts and feelings corresponding to each step of each task. We don’t just want to know what users are doing or have to do, but how they feel about it, and the kinds of questions they may have.

In an age where we’re accustomed to pressing a button and having something we want delivered in two days (or less), it’s helpful on a personal level to see how this sort of thing actually happens, and all the people involved in the background. On a professional level, you see how software plays a role in all of it—keeping it all together, but also imposing limits on what can be done and what can be tracked.

This was my first site visit, though I hope there are plenty more in the future. There’s no substitute for this kind of direct observation, where you can also ask questions. You come back tired, but with lots of notes, and lots of new insights.Possibly Related Posts:

Blast from the Past: Gesture-Controlled Robot Arm

Sun, 2016-07-17 18:31

Hard to believe it’s been nearly three years since we debuted the Leap Motion-controlled robot arm. Since then, it’s been a mainstay demo for us, combining a bit of fun with the still-emergent interaction mechanism, gesture.

Anthony (@anthonyslai) remains the master of the robot arm, and since we lost access to the original video, Noel (@noelportugal) shot a new one in the Gadget Lab at HQ where the robot arm continues to entertain visitors.

Interesting note, Amazon showed a very similar demo when they debuted AWS IoT. We nerds love robots.

We continue to investigate gesture as an interaction; in addition to our work with the Leap Motion as a robot arm controller and as a feature in the Smart Office, we’ve also used the Myo armband to drive Anki race cars, a project Thalmic Labs featured on their developer blog.

Gesture remains a Wild West, with no standards and different implementations, but we think there’s something to it. And we’ll keep investigating and having some fun while we do.

Stay tuned.Possibly Related Posts:

The Nextbit Robin

Thu, 2016-07-14 19:46

For a couple of months, I’ve been using as my main phone the Nextbit Robin. A $299 Android phone that started as a campaign in Kickstarter, and it got 3,611 backers including Jake (@jkuramot).

I previously had my Nexus 5, but over the time, Bluetooth stopped working and that was a good excuse to try this phone.

Also I was so excited because at SXSW I had a long talk with the Nextbit (@nextbitsys) development team about all technology behind this phone, more details below.

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So Nexbit is a new company that wants to revolutionize hand held storage and this first attempt is really good.

They came up with Robin phone; it is square, rectangular with tight corners that looks like uncomfortable at first but it has soft touch finish. It has a decent balance of weight. People tend to ask me if this is the modular phone (Project Ara) by Google or if it’s new Lego’s phone. Either way, conclusion is that it has a pretty cool and minimalistic design and people like it a lot.

Talking about its design, power button on the right hand side with is also a fingerprint reader and tiny volume buttons on the left hand side. Probably that’s the worst part of the build; the buttons are small and round and of course kinda hard to press.

The power button does not protrude at all so it’s hard to press too. The fingerprint is actually really good though; accuracy and speed are on point. The fingerprint with the side placement like this, actually makes a lot of sense as you can register your left index finger and right thumb for the way you grip the phone and unlock it as soon as you hold the phone.

It has an USB Type-C at the bottom left corner with quick charging and dual front-facing stereo speakers, loud and clear. Quick charging is awesome.

Running the latest version of Android 6 with a custom Nextbit skin but all elements feel pretty stock.

Specifications are pretty good too, Snapdragon 808, 3 Gb of RAM, 2680 mAh battery, that makes the phone pretty smooth. Camera on the back with 13 MP with decent colors and details but dynamic range is weak.

I noticed that is very slow to actually take the photos, but they just have release new software update that solves the shutter lag.

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But let’s focus on what’s the main spec of this phone, storage. All magic is in the Nextbit skin. Every Robin comes with 32 GB on-board storage but then also 100 GB of free cloud storage. Now, you’ll be asking why do you need cloud storage instead on-board storage?

What happens is Robin is supposed to be smart enough to offload the oldest and least frequently used stuff from internal storage straight to the cloud. So when you start to run out of local storage with old apps and old photos that haven’t been opened in a while they will be moved to the cloud and make room for more in your local storage seamlessly almost without you ever having a notice.

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Directly in the application drawer you will notice that some app icons are grayed out, so these are the apps that are offline or stored in the cloud and not stored in the device anymore. If you want to use any of them, it takes a minute or so to download everything in the state you last left it in and then opens up right where you left off. So it’s a process of archiving and restoring.

You can also set apps to not get archived swiping the icon app down to pin them, and they will never go to the cloud. If you are using some apps all the time you shouldn’t even need to pin them as Robin will noticed that you use it a lot.

In order to save battery and don’t waste your carrier data, backing up process happens only when the phone is in WiFi and is charging.

Problem is that all restoring is dependent on the internet, so if you are out there with no data and want to use your app that is archived in the cloud, pretty much you’re lost.

In deep details, it has machine learning algorithms, cloud integrated into Android OS and onboard storage is merged with cloud seamlessly. Machine learning mechanism learns from your app and photos usage. Also it can think ahead, so months before you ever run out of storage Robin anticipates you will need more space and continually synchronizes apps and photos. For pictures, they are downsampled to screen resolution but full size version remain linked in the cloud.
For security concerns, all data stored in cloud storage is encrypted with Android built-in encryption.

I like the idea behind Robin system, but the cool thing is that you can use it like a normal phone, you can use your launcher of choice, even root it. The bootloader is actually unlocked out of the box and still under the warranty.

Pretty good phone for the price outside of the storage solution, but if you are looking for a phone focusing on having lots of storage, I’d look for something with a Micro SD card slot. Otherwise it’s definitely worth considering this. Definitely, I would use it as my main phone.

It’s cool to see this type of cloud-based storage solution in action.

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Ultra Subjective Space

Thu, 2016-07-14 06:37

Architects design space. A building is just a way to create spaces. Information architects at Oracle design relationships with abstract concepts. So far the main way we have to create visible spaces for our users is by projecting pixels onto glass screens.

This may change someday. If the promise of virtual reality is ever achieved, we may be able to sculpt entirely new realities and change the very way that people experience space.

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The AppsLab R&D Team visits the teamLab exhibition

One sneak peek into this possible future is now on display at Pace Gallery in Menlo Park. Last week the AppsLab research and design team toured the Living Digital Space and Future Parks exhibit by the renowned Japanese art collective teamLab.

Still photographs do not do this exhibit justice. Each installation is a space which surrounds you with moving imagery. Some of these spaces felt like VR without the goggles – almost like being on a holodeck.

Various teamLab installations

Various teamLab installations

The artwork has a beautiful Japanese aesthetic. The teamLab artists are exploring a concept they call ultra subjective space. Their theory is that art shapes the way people of different cultures experience space.

Since the renaissance, people in the west have been taught to construct their experience of spatial reality like perspective paintings with themselves as a point observer. Premodern Japanese art, in contrast, might have taught people to experience a very different flattened perspective which places them inside each space: subjective instead of objective.

To explore this idea, teamLab starts with three dimensional computer models and uses mathematical techniques to create flattened perspectives which then form the basis for various animated experiences. I can’t say that the result actually changed my perception of reality, but the experience was both sublime and thought-provoking.

More teamLab installations

More teamLab installations

Their final installation was kid-centric. In one area, visitors were given paper and crayons and were asked to draw spaceships, cars, and sea creatures. When you placed your drawing under a scanner it became animated and was immediately projected onto one of two giant murals. We made an AppsLab fish and an AppsLab flying saucer.

Another area lets you hop across virtual lillypads or build animated cities with highways, rivers, and train tracks by moving coded wooden blocks around a tabletop. I could imagine using such a tabletop to do supply chain management.

Kids having fun - including us

Kids having fun – including us

Ultra subjective space is a pretty high brow concept. It’s interesting to speculate that ancient Japanese people may have experienced space in a different way than we do now, though I don’t see any way of proving it. But the possibility of changing something that fundamental is certainly an exciting idea. If virtual reality ever lets us do this, the future may indeed be not just stranger than we imagine, but stranger than we can imagine.

Living Digital Space and Future Parks will be on display at the Pace Gallery in Menlo Park through December 18, 2016.Possibly Related Posts:

From BI to AI: Whose Intelligence is Better?

Tue, 2016-07-12 08:54

Numbers are a property of the universe. Once Earthians figured that out, there was no stopping them. They went as far as the Moon.

We use numbers in business and life. We measure, we look for oddities, we plan. We think of ourselves as rational.

I, for one, like to look at the thermometer before deciding if I shall go out in flip-flops or uggs. But I cannot convince my daughter to do the same. She tosses a coin.

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More often than we like to think, business decisions are made the way my daughter decides on what to wear. I need an illustration here, so let me pick on workers’ compensation. If you have workers, you want to reward them for good work, and by doing that, encourage the behaviors you want to see more of – you want them to work harder, better, quicker, and be happy. You can measure productivity by amount of, say, shoes sold. You can measure quality by, say, number of customers who came back to buy more shoes. You can measure happiness, by, say . . .  okay, let’s not measure happiness. How do you calculate what the worker compensation shall be based on these two measures?

50/50? 75/25? 25/75? Why? Why not? This is where most businesses toss a coin.

Here is an inventory of types of questions people tend to answer by tossing a coin:

  • Should you monitor the dollar amount of sales, or the percentage of sale increase?
  • Which of the two measures lets you better predict future performance?
  • Why would it?
  • How accurate are the predictions?
  • How big shall the errors be until you feel the measure doesn’t make accurate predictions? Why?
  • Which measures shall be combined and looked at together?
  • In which way?
  • Where would you set up thresholds between good, bad, and ugly?
  • Why? Why not?
  • If some numbers are way off, how do you know it is an exception and not part of some pattern that you don’t see?

If not tossing a coin, it is common practice to answer these kinds of questions based on a gut feeling. To answer these questions based on evidence instead, there shall be a way to evaluate the gut feeling, together with bunch of other hypotheses, in order to choose a hypothesis that actually true and works. This is hard for humans. Not only because it requires a lot of modeling and computations.

Conceptually, as humans, we tend to look for reasons and explain things. It is hard for us to see a pattern if we don’t see why it works. “I wouldn’t have seen it if I hadn’t believed it” as one wise person said. Admit it, we are biased. We won’t even consider evaluating a hypothesis that looks like a complete nonsense.

Computers, on the other hand, don’t have such a problem. Machine learning can create and test thousands of crazy hypotheses for you and select the best one. That is, the best one in predicting, not explaining. They can also keep updating the hypotheses as conditions change.

That’s why I believe AI is a new BI. It is more thorough and less biased then us humans. Therefore, it is often more rational.

I am fascinated to learn about ML algorithms, and what they can do for us. Applying the little I learned about Decision Trees to the worker’s compensation dilemma above, this is what I get. Let’s pretend the workers get a bonus at the end of the year. The maximum amount of the bonus is based on their salary, but the exact amount is a percent of the maximum based on performance – partially on the amount of sales, partially on the number of returned customers. These are your predictors. Your goal for paying off the bonus is that next year your workers have increased amount of sales AND increased number of returned customers at the same time. That’s your outcome.

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Decision Tree algorithm will look at each possible combination of your predictors, and will measure which one better divides your outcomes into categories. (They say it is a division that minimizes the entropy and increases information gain).

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Would we try to do that “by hand,” it would’ve taken so much time. But here we have the most effective bonus recipes figured out for us. Some of the recipes may look counter-intuitive; we may find out that the largest bonus is not the best encouragement, or some such. But, again, figuring out “whys” is a different problem.

And here is my little classification of business intelligence tasks that I believe AI can take over and improve upon.

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As a human and a designer who welcomes our machine learning overlords, I see their biggest challenge in overcoming our biggest bias, the one of our superior rationality.Possibly Related Posts:

ODTUG Kscope16

Tue, 2016-07-05 10:05

Just like last year, a few members (@jkuramot, @noelportugal, @YuhuaXie, Tony and myself) of @theappslab attended Kscope16 to run a Scavenger Hunt, speak and enjoy one of the premier events for Oracle developers. It was held in Chicago this time around, and here are my impressions.

Lori and Tony Blues

Lori and Tony Blues

Since our Scavenger Hunt was quite a success the previous year, we were asked to run it again to spice up the conference a bit.  This is the 4th time we ran the Scavenger Hunt (if you want to learn more about the game itself, check out Noel’s post on the mechanics) and by now it runs like a well-oiled machine.  The competition was even fiercer than last year with a DJI Phantom at stake but in the end @alanarentsen prevailed, congratulations to Alan.  @briandavidhorn was the runner up and walked away with an Amazon Echo and in 3rd place, @GoonerShre got a Raspberry Pi for his efforts.

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Sam Hetchler and Noel engage in a very deep IoT discussion.

There were also consolation prizes for the next 12 places, they each got both a Google Chromcast and a Tile.  All-in-all it was another very successful run of the Scavenger Hunt with over 170 participants and a lot of buzz surrounding the game, here’s a quote from one of the players:

“I would not have known so many things, and tried them out, if there were not a Scavenger Hunt. It is great.”

Better than Cats. We haven’t decided yet if we are running the Scavenger Hunt again next year, if we do, it will probably be in a different format; our brains are already racing.

Our team also had a few sessions, Noel talked broadly about OAUX, and I had a presentation about Developer Experience or DX.  As is always the case at Kscope, the sessions are pretty much bi-directional, with the audience participating as you deliver your presentation.  Some great questions were asked during my talk, and I even was able to record a few requirements for API Maker, a tool we are building for DX.

Judging by the participation of the attendees, there seems to be a lot of enthusiasm in the developer community for both API Maker and 1CSS, another tool we are creating for DX.  As a result of the session, we have picked up a few contacts within Oracle which we will explore further to push these tools and get them out sooner rather than later.

In addition to all those activities, Raymond ran a preview of an IoT workshop we plan to replicate at OpenWorld and JavaOne this year. I won’t give away too much, but it involves a custom PCB.

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The makings of our IoT workshop, coming to OOW and J1.

Unfortunately, my schedule (Scavenger Hunt, presentation) didn’t really allow me to attend any sessions but other members of our team attended a few, so I will let them talk about that. I did, however, get a chance to play some video games.

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I really, really like video games.

And have some fun, as is customary at Kscope.

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A traditional Chicago dog.

Cheers,

Mark.

Possibly Related Posts:

Kscope16 Scavenger Hunt

Thu, 2016-06-16 17:34

Kscope16_1024_500

Are you attending Kscope16? If so, you are in luck, @theappslab team will be back this year (by popular demand) to do a Scavenger Hunt. This year there are even more chances to win, plus check out these prizes:

  • First place: DJI Phantom Drone
  • Second place: Amazon Echo
  • Third place: Raspberry Pi

Our first scavenger hunt took place last year at Kscope15. Here’s a quick video detailing the whats, whys and wherefores of the game from our fearless leader and Group Vice President, Jeremy Ashley (@jrwashley) and me.

After that, we replicated the experience for an OTN Community Quest at OpenWorld and JavaOne 2015 and then for the UKOUG App15 and Tech15 Conference Explorer. We have had great fun seeing participants engaged. We are very proud of the game engine we built for the scavenger hunt, bringing together software and IoT. If you are interested to see how it all works check out our post “Game Mechanics of a Scavenger Hunt“.

Check the Kscope16 Scavenger Hunt site for more information on how to join and play during the annual ODTUG user group shindig. You can even signup to play during your registration process.

We have some interesting twists in store this year, and we’re hoping for an even larger group of engaged players this year.

See you there!Possibly Related Posts:

Twilio Signal Conference – $Bash night

Tue, 2016-06-14 11:35

Twilio Signal Conference ended with an after-party called the $Bash night.  Twilio set up booths with geeky games like programming, program debugging, computer building etc..  They also had a foosball table for 16 people.  I think it is one of the nicest parties for geeks I attended so far.  It was a fun night with music, drinks, food and games, tuned for developers.

During that morning’s keynote, Jeff Lawson (Twilio Founder) had a virtual meeting with Rony Abovitz (Magic Leap Founder), and they announced that the winner of the $Bash night can get access to Magic Leap.  Magic Leap is so mysterious, and I had a great urge to win in the $Bash night to be able to play and do something with it.

It turned out if you compete with other developers during the $Bash night, you could win raffle tickets, and the person who had the most raffle tickets by the end of the night would become the winner.  So all night I have been going all out playing and competing.  The environment was too dark to possibly take some good quality pictures, but you can find some info here.

There are 2 games I did quite well and enjoyed:  1. program debugging competition among 6 developers, 2.  pairing up to move jenga blocks with a robot arm.  At the end of night, although I tried my best, I only came out second.  At first I was quite disappointed, however, I was told there is still quite a very good chance there is a second spot to offer me for Magic Leap.  I shall keep my hope up to wait and see.Possibly Related Posts:

Twilio Signal Conference – Sessions

Tue, 2016-06-14 11:34

Lets dive to the Twilio sessions.

The sessions are generally divided in the following 4 tracks:

  • Learn
    See the latest progress in software and cloud communications, talk shop with Twilio engineers who developed them, and get in to the details on how to use the software.
  • Inspire
    Hear from industry experts shaping the future of tech with the latest software.
  • Equip
    Get details on hurdles tricks and solution from Twilio customers on building communications with software APIs.
  • Action
    Define business plans for modern communications with real-life ROI and before-and-after stories.

My interests was more into the Inspire track, and the hot topic being AI and Virtual Assistants nowadays, those were the sessions I targeted for the conference.

IMG_20160525_102406

Twilio messaging integration with other platforms

This half year is just the “half year of virtual assistants”, with the announcements of controversial Tay and Cortana from Microsoft, messenger bot from Facebook, Allo from Google I/O and Siri from WWDC yesterday.  Every giants want to squeeze into the same space and get a share of it.  There were a lot of sessions regarding to bots in Signal, and I had a feeling that Twilio has carefully hand picked the sessions carefully to suit the audiences.  IBM, and Microsoft and Slack all presented their views and technologies with bots, and I learned a lot from them.  It is a bit odd that api.ai sponsored the lunch for the conference and have a booth in the conference, but did not present in any sessions (afaik).

In the schedule, there was a session called Terrible Ideas in Git by Corey Quinn.  I love Git, and when I saw the topic, my immediate reaction was how can anyone say Git was terrible (at least right)??  I just had to go there and take a look.  To my surprise, it was very fun talk show and I had a good laugh and enjoyed it a lot.  I am glad I did not miss that session.

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Yep, deal with it!

Yep, deal with it!

Possibly Related Posts:

Twilio Signal Conference – All about Twilio

Tue, 2016-06-14 11:33

This year I attended the Twilio Signal Conference.  Same as its first year, it was held in Pier 27, San Francisco.  It was a 2-day action-packed conference with a keynote session in the morning and sessions after till 6 pm.

The developer experience provided by the conference is superb comparing to a lot of other developer conferences nowadays.  Chartered buses with wifi were provided for commuters using different transits.  Snacks served all day.  6 30-minutes sessions for you to choose from every time slot.  No need to wait in line and you could always attend the sessions you want (sorry Google I/O).  For developers, as least for me, the most important thing was a special coffee stall opened every morning to serve you with a fresh brewed coffee to wake you up and energize you for the rest of the day.  With the CEO among others to code right in front of you in a keynote session to show you some demos, it is one true developer conference that you could hope for.

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The whole conference lit up by the Internet of Blings with live code demonstration on stage.

There were a lot of new products and features Twilio announced in Signal and I would not spend to time to recap here.  You may read more info here and here.  The interesting thing to note is how Twilio gets so huge.  It started off with a text messaging service, it now also provides services on video, authentication, phone, routing.  It is the power engine under the hood for the fast growing companies like Lyft and Uber.  It now offers the most complete messaging platform for developers to connect to their users.  It now has capabilities to reroute your numbers and tap into the phone conversations.  It partners with T-Mobile to get into the IoT domain.  Twilio’s ambition and vision is not small at all.  The big question is:  how Twilio achieve all these?  This question can be controversial, but for me, I would have to say it all boils down into simplicity:  making things really easy, really good, and just works.  The Twilio APIs are very easy to use and it does exactly what it says, no more, no less.  Its reliability is superb.  That is what developers want and rely on.

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Jeff Lawson talks about Twilio’s infrastucture

Twilio as a messaging hub

Twilio as a messaging hub

But wait, there’s more. Check out my thoughts on the sessions at Signal and my $Bash night experience. I almost won a chance to play with the mysterious Magic Leap, and I might yet get access for finishing second. Stay tuned.Possibly Related Posts:

The Future of Work: What does a Smart Office look like today?

Wed, 2016-06-08 15:23

Editor’s note: We just returned from Holland last week where we attended AMIS 25, which was a wonderful show. One of the demos we showed was the Smart Office; Noel (@noelportugal) also gave a presentation on it.

We’ve been showing the Smart Office since OOW last year, and it remains one of our most popular demos because it uses off-the-shelf components that are available today, e.g. Amazon Echo, Leap Motion, Philips Hue lights, beacons, etc., making it an experience that anyone could replicate today with some development work.

The following article is cross-posted from our Emerging Technologies pages on oracle.com. Stay tuned for details on each of the components of the Smart Office.

In early 2015, the AppsLab team decided we were going to showcase the latest emerging technologies in an integrated demo. As part of the Oracle Applications User Experience group, our main goal as the emerging technologies team is to design products that will increase productivity and user participation in Oracle software.

We settled on the idea of the Smart Office, which is designed with the future of enterprise workplaces in mind. With the advent of the Internet of Things and more home automation in consumer products, users are expecting similar experiences in the workplace. We wanted to build an overall vision of how users will accomplish their tasks with the help of emerging technologies, no matter where they might be working.

Technologies such as voice control, gesture, and proximity have reached what we consider an acceptable maturity level for public consumption. Inexpensive products such as the Amazon Echo, Leap Motion and Bluetooth beacons are becoming more common in users’ daily lives. These examples of emerging technology have become cornerstones in our vision for the Smart Office.

Wearable technology also plays an important role in our idea of the Future of Work. Smart watches are becoming ubiquitous, and the price of wireless microprocessors continues to decrease. Dedicated mobile devices, our research shows, can increase productivity in the workplace when they are properly incorporated into the user experience as a whole.

Building for you, a Sales Cloud example

We first created what we call a user persona to assist us in building the Smart Office. This helps us develop very specific work flows using very specific technology that can be widely applied to a variety of software users. In this case, we started with a sales example as they are often mobile workers.

bean_front

Sally Smith, our development example for the Smart Office, is a regional sales vice president who is traveling to her headquarter’s office. Traveling to another office often requires extra effort to find and book a working space. To help Sally with that task, we built a geo-fence-enabled mobile app as well as a Smart Badge. Here’s what these two components help her do:

  • As Sally approaches the office building, her mobile device (using geo-fencing capabilities) alerts her via her smart watch and helps her find her way to her an available office space, using micro-location with beacons. She uses her Smart Badge, which has access to data about her employee status, to go through the security doors at the office building.
  • As Sally approaches the available office space, her Smart Badge proximity sensor (a Bluetooth beacon) connects with a Lighthouse, which is a small touch-screen device outside the office space that displays space availability and works as the “brain” to control IoT devices inside the space. The proximity with the Lighthouse triggers a second confirmation to her smart watch to unlock the office and reserve the space in the company’s calendar system. This authenticates her reservation in two ways.

office

  • As Sally enters the office, her global preferences are loaded into the office “brain.” Settings such as light brightness and color (Hue Lights), and room temperature (Nest Thermostat) are set to her liking.
  • The office screens then start to load Sally’s familiar pictures as well as useful data relative to her location, such as weather or local events, on two Infoscreens. An Infoscreen is a Wi-Fi-enabled digital frame or LCD screen hung on the wall.

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Sally has already interacted with her Smart Office in several ways. But up to this point, all of the interactions have been triggered or captured by emerging technology built into mobile devices that she is carrying with her. Now, she is ready to interact more purposefully with the Smart Office.

  • Sally uses the Amazon Echo voice control to talk to the office: “Alexa, start my day.” Since she has been authenticated by the system already, it knows that the Oracle Sales Cloud is the application she is most likely to need, and the welcome page is now loaded in the touchscreen at the desk. She can use voice navigation to check on her opportunities, leads, or any other section of the Sales Cloud.
  • Sally was working on the plane with Oracle Sales Cloud, but she did not have a chance to save her work before landing. Session portability is built into the cloud user experience, which takes care of saving her work when she is offline. Now that she is sitting inside the Smart Office and back online, she just swipes her screen to transfer her incomplete work onto the desktop screen.

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  • The Smart Office also uses empty wall space to project data throughout the day. On this Ambient Screen, Sally could use her voice (Amazon Echo), or hand gestures (Leap Motion), to continue her work. Since Sally has a global sales team, she can use the Ambient Screen to project a basic overview of her team performance metrics, location, and notifications.
  • If Sally needs to interact with any of the notifications or actions she sees on the Ambient Screen, she can use a grab-and-throw motion to bring the content to her desk screen. She can also use voice commands to call up a team map, for example, and ask questions about her team such as their general location.

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  • As Sally finishes her day and gets ready to close her session inside the Smart Office, she can use voice commands to turn everything off.

Find out more

The Smart Office was designed to use off-the-shelf components on purpose. We truly believe that the Future of Work no longer relies on a single device. Instead, a set of cloud-connected devices help us accomplish our work in the most efficient manner.

For more on how we decide which pieces of emerging technology to investigate and develop in a new way for use in the enterprise world, read “Influence of Emerging Technology,” on the Usable Apps website.

See this for yourself and get inspired by what the Oracle Applications Cloud looks like when it’s connected to the future. Request a lab tour.Possibly Related Posts:

Maker Faire 2016

Wed, 2016-05-25 09:13

Another year, another amazing at the Maker Faire.

I’ve attended my fair share of Maker Faires these years, so the pyrotechnic sculptures, 3D printing masterpieces, and handmade artisan marketplaces were of no particular surprise. But somehow, every time I come around to the San Mateo fairgrounds, the Faire can’t help but be so aggressively fresh, crazy, and novel. This year, a host of new and intriguing trends kept me on my toes as I ventured through the greatest show and tell on Earth.

Young makers came out in full force this year. Elementary school maker clubs showed off their circuit projects, middle schoolers explained how they built the little robots, high school STEM programs presented their battle robots. It’s pleasing to see how Maker education has blossomed these past years, and how products and startups like LittleBits and Adafruit have made major concepts in electronics and programming so simple and inexpensive that any kid could pick it up and start exploring. Also wonderful is seeing young teams traveling out to the Bay Area from Texas, Oregon, and all these other states, a testament to the growth of the Maker movement out of the Silicon Valley.

Robot battle demo for kids

Robot battle demo for kids

Speaking of young makers’ participation, Arduino creator Massimo Banzi talked about Arduino as an education tool for kids to play and tinker, even he never planned to make kid’s toys in his early years. The maker movement has invoked the curious minds of all age, to start playing electronics, making robots, and learning a new language in programming.

While the maker movement made things very accessible to individuals, the essence of creation and innovation also impacted on the large enterprise. On the “Maker Pro” stage, our GVP, Jeremy Ashley (@jrwashley), talked about new trends of large enterprise application design, and OAUX group is driving the change to make simpler, but more effective and more engaging enterprise application.

Jeremy talks on Maker Pro stage

Jeremy talks on Maker Pro stage

Drones were also a trending topic this year, with a massive Drone Racing tent set up with events going on the whole weekend. Everything was being explored – new shapes for efficient and quick flight; new widgets and drone attachment modules; new methods of interaction with the drone. One team had developed a smart glove that responded to gyroscopic motion and gestures to control the flight of a quadcopter, and had the machine dance around him – an interesting and novel marriage of wearable tech and flight.

Flight of the bumble drone

Flight of the bumble drone

Personally, I’ve got a soft spot for art and whimsy, and the Faire had whimsy by the gallon. The artistry of the creators around the country and globe can’t be overestimated.

Lotus boat

Lotus boat

Blueberry muffin

Blueberry muffin

Flying dragon blowing fire

Flying dragon blowing fire

Maker Faire never disappoints. We brought friends along who had never been to a Faire, and it’s always fun to watch them get blown off their feet literally and figuratively the first time a flamethrower blasts open from the monolithic Crucible. Or their grins of delight when they see a cupcake shaped racecar zoom past them… and another… and another. Or the spark of amazement when they witness some demo that’s out of any realm of imagination.

Electrifying experience

Electrifying experience

Possibly Related Posts:

Oracle’s Fashion Technology Makers: Soldering, Sewing, and Storytelling

Tue, 2016-05-24 07:44

Photo 18-05-2016, 11 14 39

Many hands make light (emitting diodes) work. Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) gets down to designing fashion technology (#fashtech) solutions in a fun maker event with a serious research and learning intent. OAUX Senior Director and resident part-time fashion blogger, Ultan “Gucci Translated” O’Broin (@ultan), reports from the Redwood City runway.

Fashion and Technology: What’s New?

Wearable technology is not new. Elizabeth I of England was a regal early adopter. In wearing an “armlet” given to her by Robert Dudley, First Earl of Leicester in 1571, the Tudor Queen set in motion that fusion of wearable technology and style that remains evident in the Fitbits and Apple Watches of today.

Elizabeth I’s device was certainly fly, described as “in the closing thearof a clocke, and in the forepart of the same a faire lozengie djamond without a foyle, hanging thearat a rounde juell fully garnished with dyamondes and a perle pendaunt.”

Regardless of the time we live in, for wearable tech to be successful it has to look good. It’s got to appeal to our sense of fashion. Technologists remain cognizant of involving clothing experts in production and branding decisions. For example, at Google I/O 2016, Google and Levi’s announced an interactive jacket based on the Google Jacquard technology that makes fabric interactive, applied to a Levi’s commuter jacket design.

Fashion Technology Maker Event: The Summer Collection

Misha Vaughan’s (@mishavaughan) OAUX Communications and Outreach team joined forces with Jake Kuramoto’s (@jkuramot) AppsLab (@theappslab) Emerging Tech folks recently in a joint maker event in Oracle HQ to design and
build wearable tech solutions that brought the world of fashion and technology (#fashtech) together.

Julian Orr (@orr_ux) and intern David Xie flash off those word-face smart watches

Julian Orr (@orr_ux) and intern David Xie flash off those word-face smart watches

Tawny Le (@ihearttanie) creates an interactive glove solution for aspiring keyboardists of all sorts.

Tawny Le (@ihearttanie) creates an interactive glove solution for aspiring keyboardists of all sorts.

The event include the creation of interactive light skirts, smart watch word faces, touch-sensitive drum gloves, sound reactive jewelry, and more from the Adafruit wearables collection.

Sarahi Mireles (@sarahimireles) and Ana Tomescu (@annatomescu) work on that fiber-optic pixie skirt.

Sarahi Mireles (@sarahimireles) and Ana Tomescu (@annatomescu) work on that fiber-optic pixie skirt.

The occasion was a hive of activity, with sewing machines, soldering irons, hot-glue guns, Arduino technology, fiber-optic cables, LEDs, 3D printers, and the rest, all in evidence during the production process.

Photo 18-05-2016, 13 14 10 Photo 18-05-2016, 13 03 32

Fashtech events like this also offer opportunities of discovery, as the team found out how interactive synth drum gloves can not only create music, but be used as input devices to write code too. Why limit yourself to one kind of keyboard?

Discovery, design, development: All part of the maker’s day. (L-r) Noel Portugal(@noelportugal), Raymond Xie (@YuhuaXie), and Lancy Silveira ( @LancyS) get ready for the big reveal!

Wearable Tech in the Enterprise: Wi-Fi and Hi-Heels

What does this all this fashioning of solutions mean for the enterprise? Wearable technology is part of the OAUX Glance, Scan, Commit design philosophy, key to that Mobility strategy reflecting our cloud-driven world of work. Smart watches are as much part of the continuum of devices we use interchangeably throughout the day as smart phones, tablets, or laptops are, for example. To coin a phrase from OAUX Group Vice President Jeremy Ashley (@jrwashley) at the recent Maker Faire event, in choosing what best works for us, be it clothing or technology: one size does not fit all.

Maker events such as ours fuel creativity and innovation in the enterprise. They inspire the creation of human solutions using technology, ones that represent a more human way of working.

A distinction between what tech we use and what we wear in work and at home is no longer convenient. We’ve moved from BYOD to WYOD. Unless that wearable tech, a deeply personal device and style statement all in one, reflects our tastes and sense of fashion we won’t use it: unless we’re forced to. The #fashtech design heuristic is: make it beautiful or make it invisible. So, let’s avoid wearables becoming swearables and style that tech, darling!Possibly Related Posts:

The Digital Hotel Key

Fri, 2016-05-20 16:04

Generally, I’m not in favor of consolidating important stuff onto my phone, e.g. credit cards, etc. because if I lose my phone, I’ll lose all that stuff too.

However, I’ve been waiting to try out a digital hotel key, i.e. using my phone to unlock my hotel room. Only a few hotels and hotel chains have this technology in place, and recently, I finally stayed at one that does, the Hilton San Jose.

Much to my surprise, and Noel’s (@noelportugal), the digital key doesn’t use NFC. We’d assumed it would, given NFC is fairly common in newer hotels.

Nope, it uses Bluetooth, and when you get close to your room or any door you have access to unlock, e.g. the fitness center, the key enables.

Screenshot_20160519-160029

Screenshot_20160519-160010

Then, touch to unlock, just like it says, and within a second or so, the door is unlocked. It’s not instantaneous, like using the key, which uses NFC, but still pretty cool.

Screenshot_20160519-160047

Ironically, the spare, physical key they gave me for “just in case” scenarios failed to work. I made the mistake of leaving my phone in the room to charge, taking the spare key while I ran downstairs to get some food, and the physical key didn’t work.

Anyway, the feature worked as expected, which is always a win. Those plastic keys won’t disappear anytime soon, and if you lose your phone while you’re using the digital hotel key, you’re extra hosed.

Still, I liked it and will definitely use it again whenever it’s available because it made me feel like future man and stuff.

Find the comments.Possibly Related Posts:

Fun Project from Australia, Anki Overdrive Plus Oracle Cloud Services

Mon, 2016-05-16 20:44

Editor’s Note: In February while we were in Australia, I had the pleasure to meet Stuart Coggins (@ozcoggs) and Scott Newman (@lamdadsn). They told me about a sweet Anki Overdrive cars plus Oracle Cloud Services hack Stuart and some colleagues did for Pausefest 2016 in Melbourne.

Last week, Stuart sent over a more detailed video of the specifics of the build and a brief writeup of what was involved. Here they are.

Oracle IoT and Anki Overdrive

By Stuart Coggins

Some time ago, our Middleware team stumbled upon the Anki Overdrive and its innovative use of technology, including APIs to augment a video game with physical racing cars.

We first presented an IoT focused demonstration earlier this year at an Innovation event in Melbourne. It was very well received, and considered very “un-Oracle.”

Over the past few months, the demo scope has broadened. And so has collaboration across Oracle’s Lines of Business. We saw an opportunity to make use of some of our Cloud Services with a “Data in Action” theme.

We’ve taken the track to several events, spanning various subject areas. Always sparking the question “what does this have to do with me?” And in some cases, “Why is Oracle playing with racing cars?”

As if the cars are not draw card enough at our events, the drone has been a winner. Again, an opportunity to showcase how using a range of services can make things happen.

As you’ll see in the video, the flow is fairly straightforward… the game, running on a tablet talks to the cars via Bluetooth. Using Bluetooth sniffers on a Raspberry Pi, we interrogate the communication between the devices. There are many game events as well as car activity events (speed of left/right wheels, change lane, turn left, turn right, off track, etc). We’re using Python scripts to forward the data to Oracle’s Internet of Things Cloud Service.

1604IMG_5225_Anki

This is where things get interesting. The speed and laptime data is being filtered out, and forwarded to Oracle’s Database Cloud Service. The “speedo” dials are rendered using Oracle Apex (Application Express), which does a great job. An “off track” event is singled out and instantiates a process defined in Oracle Process Cloud Service. At this point, we’ll integrate to Oracle Service Cloud to create an event for later auditing and logging. Whilst airborne, the drone captures photos of the incident (the crashed cars), and sends them back to the process. The business process has created an incident folder on Oracle Document Cloud Service to record any details regarding the event, including the photos.

Because data is not much use if you’re not going to do something with it, we then hook up Oracle Business Intelligence Cloud Service to the data stored in Database Cloud Service. Post race analysis is visualised to show the results, and with several sets of race data, gives us insight as to which car is consistently recording the fastest laptimes. i.e. the car that should be used when challenging colleagues to a race!

As we’ve been running this for a few months now, and the use cases and applications of this technology grow, we’re getting more and more data. The adage that data creates data is certainly true here.

Ultimately, we’ll dump this data into Hadoop and perform some discovery, perhaps to understand how the track changes during the day (dust/dirt/use) etc. We’d like to get some temperature data from the Pi to understand if that has any effect on the car performances, and perhaps we’ll have enough data for us to be able to analyse the perfect lap, and replay it using the Anki SDK.

1604DSCF8543_Anki

We’re planning a number of hackathons locally with this kit, and we’ll see what other innovations we can highlight.

A big shout out to the technical guy behind sniffing and “translating” the data. The data is not exposed by the SDK and was by no means trivial to maps but it has allowed us to get something meaningful and put it into action.

Enjoy!Possibly Related Posts:

Six Months with the iPad Pro

Sun, 2016-05-15 23:26
My first session with the iPad Pro

My first session with the iPad Pro

At first I was skeptical. I was perfectly happy with my iPad Air and the Pro seemed too big and too expensive. Six months later I wouldn’t dream of going back. The iPad Pro has become my primary computing device.

Does the Pro eliminate the need for a laptop or desktop? Almost, but for me not quite yet. I still need my Mac Air for NodeBox coding and a few other things; since they are both exactly the same size I now carry them together in a messenger bag.

iPad Pro and Mac Air share the same bag

iPad Pro and Mac Air share the same bag

The Pro is lighter than it looks and, with a little practice, balances easily on my lap. It fits perfectly on an airplane tray table.

Flying over Vegas using Apple Maps

Flying over Vegas using Apple Maps

Does the 12.9-inch screen really make that much of a difference? Yes! The effect is surprising; after all, it’s the same size as an ordinary laptop screen. But there is something addictive about holding large, high resolution photos and videos in your hands. I *much* prefer photo editing on the iPad. 3D flyovers in Apple Map are almost like being there.

Coda and Safari sharing the screen

Coda and Safari sharing the screen

The extra screen real estate also makes iOS 9’s split screen feature much more practical. Above is a screenshot of me editing a webpage using Coda. By splitting the screen with Safari, I can update code and instantly see the results as I go.

Bloomberg Professional with picture-in-picture

Bloomberg Professional with picture-in-picture

Enterprise users can see more numbers and charts at once. Bloomberg Professional uses the picture-in-picture feature to let you watch the news while perusing a large portfolio display. WunderStation makes dashboards big enough to get lost in.

WunderStation weather dashboard

WunderStation weather dashboard

For web conferences, a major part of my working life at Oracle, the iPad Pro both exceeds and falls short. The participant experience is superb. When others are presenting screenshots I can lean back in my chair and pinch-zoom to see details I would sometimes miss on my desktop. When videoconferencing I can easily adjust the camera or flip it to point at a whiteboard.

But my options for presenting content from the iPad are still limited. I can present images, but cannot easily pull content from inside other apps. (Zoom lets you share web pages and cloud content on Box, Dropbox or Google Drive, but we are supposed to keep sensitive data inside our firewall.) The one-app-at-a-time iOS model becomes a nuisance in situations like this. Until this limitation is overcome I don’t see desktops and laptops on the endangered species list.

Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil

Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil

Accessories

The iPad Pro offers two accessories not available with a normal iPad: a “smart keyboard” that uses the new magnetic connector, and the deceptively simple Apple Pencil.

I tried the keyboard and threw it back. It was perfectly fine but I’m just not a keyboard guy. This may seem odd for someone who spends most of his time writing – I’m typing this blog on the iPad right now – but I have a theory about this that may explain who will adopt tablets in the workplace and how they will be used.

I think there are two types of workers: those who sit bolt upright at their desks and those who slump as close to horizontal as they can get; I am a slumper. And there are two kinds of typists: touch typists who type with their fingers and hunt-and-peckers who type with their eyes; I am a, uh, hunter. This places me squarely in the slumper-hunter quadrant.

Slumper-hunters like me love love love tablets and don’t need no stinking keyboards. The virtual keyboard offers a word tray that guesses my words before I do, lets me slide two fingers across the keyboard to precisely reposition the cursor, and has a dictate button that works surprisingly well.

Touch-slumpers are torn: they love tablets but can’t abide typing on glass; for them the smart keyboard – hard to use while slumping – is an imperfect compromise. Upright-hunters could go either way on the keyboard but may not see the point in using a tablet in the first place. Upright-touchers will insist on the smart keyboard and will not use a tablet without one.

Running Horse by Anna Budovsky

Running Horse by Anna Budovsky

If you are an artist, or even just an inveterate doodler, you must immediately hock your Wacom tablet, toss your other high-end styli, and buy the Apple Pencil (with the full-sized Pro as an accessory). It’s the first stylus that actually works. No more circles with dents and monkey-with-big-stick writing. Your doodles will look natural and your signature will be picture perfect.

The above drawing was done in under sixty seconds by my colleague Anna Budovsky. She had never used the iPad Pro before, had never used the app (Paper), and had never before picked up an Apple Pencil. For someone with talent, the Apple Pencil is a natural.

If you are not an artist you can probably skip the Pencil. It’s a bit of a nuisance to pack around and needs recharging once a week (fast and easy but still a nuisance). I carry one anyway just so I can pretend I’m an artist.

The Future

For now the iPad Pro is just a big iPad (and the new Pro isn’t even big). Most apps don’t treat it any differently yet and some older apps still don’t even fully support it. But I am seeing some early signs this may be starting to change.

The iPad Pro has one other advantage: processing power. Normal iPad apps don’t really need it (except to keep up with the hi-res screen). Some new apps, though, are being written specifically for the Pro and are taking things to a new level.

Fractals generated by Frax HD

Fractals generated by Frax HD

Zooming into infinitely complex fractals is not a business application, but it sure is a test of raw processing power. I’ve been exploring fractals since the eighties and have never seen anything remotely as smooth and deep and effortless as Frax HD. Pinch-zooming forever and changing color schemes with a swirl of your hand is a jaw-dropping experience.

The emerging class of mobile CAD apps, like Shapr3D, are more useful but no less stunning. You would think a CAD app would need not just a desktop machine but also a keyboard on steroids and a 3D mouse. Shapr3D uses the Apple Pencil in ingenious ways to replace all that.

A 3D Doodle using Shapr3D

A 3D Doodle using Shapr3D

Sketch curves and lines with ease and then press down (with a satisfying click) to make inflection points. Wiggle the pencil to change modes (sounds crazy but it works). Use the pencil for drawing and your fingers for stretching – Shapr3D keeps up without faltering. I made the strange but complicated contraption above in my first session with almost no instruction – and had fun doing it.

I hesitate to make any predictions about the transition to tablets in the workplace. But I would recommend keeping an eye on the iPad Pro – it may be a sleeping giant.Possibly Related Posts:

The April That Was and Our Plans for May and June

Fri, 2016-05-13 14:31

Hi there, remember me? Wow, April was a busy month for us, and looking ahead, it’s getting busy again.

Busy is good, and also good, is the emergence of new voices here at the ‘Lab. They’ve done a great job holding down the fort. Since my last post in late March, you’ve heard from Raymond (@yuhuaxie), Os (@vaini11a), Tawny (@iheartthannie), Ben (@goldenmean1618) and Mark (@mvilrokx).

Because it’s been a while, here comes an update post on what we’ve been doing, what we’re going to be doing in the near future, and some nuggets you might have missed.

What we’ve been doing

Conference season, like tax season in the US, consumes the Spring. April kicked off for me at Oracle HCM World in Chicago, where Aylin (@aylinuysal) and I had a great session. We showed a couple of our cool voice demos, powered by Noel’s (@noelportugalfavorite gadget, the Amazon Echo, and the audience was visibly impressed.

@jkuramot @theappslab #oaux wows @OracleHCM customers with emerging tech demos & HR tasks use cases #OracleHCMWorld pic.twitter.com/CwkzVeKdVJ

— Gozel Aamoth (@gozelaamoth) April 7, 2016

I like that picture. Looks like I’m wearing the Echo as a tie.

Collaborate 16 was next, where Ben and Tawny collected VR research and ran a focus group on bots. VR is still very much a niche technology. Many Collaborate attendees hadn’t even heard of VR at all and were eager to take the Samsung Gear VR for a test drive.

During the bots focus group, Ben and Tawny tried out some new methods, like Business Origami, which fostered some really interesting ideas among the group.

Business origami taking shape #oaux #CLV16 pic.twitter.com/PJARBrZGka

— The AppsLab (@theappslab) April 12, 2016

Next, Ben headed out directly for the annual Oracle Benelux User Group (OBUG) conference in Arnhem to do more VR research. Our research needs to include international participants, and Ben found more of the same reactions we’ve seen Stateside. With something as new and different as VR, we cast a wide net to get as many perspectives and collect as much data as possible before moving forward with the project.

Oracle Modern Customer Experience was next for us, where we showed several of our demos to a group students from the Lee Business School at UNLV (@lbsunlv), who then talked about those demos and a range of other topics in a panel session, hosted by Rebecca Wettemann (@rebeccawettemann) of Nucleus Research.

#UNLV #MBA students discuss the future of work with @theappslab @usableapps #ModernCX #SalesX16 pic.twitter.com/5tPl8Y6c95

— Geet (@geet_s) April 28, 2016

The feedback we got on our demos was very interesting. These students belong to a demographic we don’t typically get to hear from, and their commentary gave me some lightning bolts of insight that will be valuable to our work.

As with VR, some of the demos we showed were on devices they had not seen or used yet, and it’s always nice to see someone enjoy a device or demo that has become old hat to me.

Because we live and breathe emerging technologies, we tend to get jaded about new devices far too quickly. So, a reset is always welcome.

What we’re going to be doing in the near future

Next week, we’re back on the road to support an internal IoT hackathon that Laurie’s (@lsptahoeApps UX Innovation team (@InnovateOracle) is hosting in the Bay Area.

The countdown has started! Register at https://t.co/Gyx8d2Oh7k and be part of this huge Oracle Conference in June. pic.twitter.com/18fGbG9L74

— AMIS, Oracle & Java (@AMISnl) May 9, 2016

Then, June 2-3, we’re returning to the Netherlands to attend and support AMIS 25. The event celebrates the 25th anniversary of AMIS (@AMISnl), and they’ve decided to throw an awesome conference at what sounds like a sweet venue, “Hangaar 2” at the former military airport Valkenburg in Katwijk outside Amsterdam.

Our GVP, Jeremy Ashley (@jrwashley) will be speaking, as will Mark. Noel will be showing the Smart Office, Mark will be showing his Developer Experience (DX) tools, and Tawny will be conducting some VR research, all in the Experience Zone.

I’ve really enjoyed collaborating with AMIS in the past, and I’m very excited for this conference/celebration.

After a brief stint at home, we’re on the road again in late June for Kscope16, which is both an awesome conference and happily, the last show of the conference year. OpenWorld doesn’t count.

We have big fun plans this year, as always, so stay tuned for details.

Stuff you might have missed

Finally, here are some interesting tidbits I collected in my absence from blogging.

I love me some bio-hacking, so here’s an ingestible meat robot prototype and flexible electronic skin.

automateadvisediscover7

And here are some OAUX (@usableapps) links you should read:

Possibly Related Posts:

Samsung Developers Conference 2016: A Developer’s Perspective

Fri, 2016-05-06 07:43

Last week several of my colleagues and myself had the privilege of attending the Samsung Developers Conference (SDC) in San Francisco.  It was the 5th time Samsung organized a developers conference in San Francisco but only the first time I attended, although some in our party were present previous times so I had some idea of what to expect.  Here are some impressions and thoughts on the conference.

After an hour walking around, my first thought was: is there anything that Samsung doesn’t have their hand in?  I knew of course they produce smart phones, tablets, smart watches and TVs, I’ve seen a laptop here and there, but vacuum cleaners, air conditioning units and ranges?  Semi-conductors (did you know that inside the iPhone there are Samsung chips?), Smart fridges and security cameras and now VR gear and IoT, pretty crazy. Interestingly enough, I think there are some distinct advantages that Samsung might have because of this smorgasbord of technology over more focused companies (like say Apple) , more on that later.

As with all of these events, Samsung’s motivation for organizing this conference is of course not entirely altruistic; as I mentioned in the intro, they have a huge hardware footprint and almost all of that needs software, which gets developed by … developers.

They need to attract outside developers to their platforms to make them interesting for potential buyers, I mean, what would the iPhone be without Apps?  There is nothing wrong with that, that’s one of the reasons we have Oracle OpenWorld, but I thought that the sessions on the “Innovation Track” where a bit light on technical details (at least the ones I attended).

In fact, some of them wouldn’t have been misplaced in the “Marketing Track” I feel.  To be fair, I didn’t get to attend any of the hands-on sessions on day zero, maybe they were more useful, but as a hard core developer, I felt a bit … underwhelmed by the sessions.

That doesn’t mean though that the sessions were not interesting, probably none more so than “How to Put Magic in a Magical Product” by Moe Tanabian, Chief Design Officer at Samsung, which took us on a “design and technical journey to build an endearing home robot”, basically how they created this fella:

otto

Meet Otto

That is Otto, a personal assistant robot, similar to the Amazon Echo, except with a personality.  Tanabian explained in the session how they got from idea and concept to production using a process remarkably similar to how we develop here at the AppsLab; fail fast, iterate quickly, get it in front of user as quickly as possible, measure etc.  I just wish we had the same hardware tooling available as they do (apparently they used, what I can only image are very expensive 3D printers to produce the end result).

Samsung also seems to be making a big push in the IoT space, and for good reason.  The IoTivity project is a joint open source connectivity framework, sponsored by the Open Interconnect Consortium (OIC) of which Samsung is a member and one of the sessions I attended was about this project.

The whole Samsung Artic IoT platform supports this standard, which should make it easy and secure to discover and connect Artic modules to each other.  The question as always is: will other vendors adopt this standard so that you can do this cross-vendor, i.e. have my esp8266’s talk to an Artic module which then talks to a Particle and my Philips Hue lights etc.

Without this, such a new standard is fairly useless and just adds to the confusion.

How Standards Proliferate by Randall Munroe, xkcd

As mentioned in the intro though, because Samsung makes pretty much everything, they could start by enabling all their own “things” to talk to each other over the internet.  Their smart fridge could then command their robotic vacuums to clean up the milk that just got spilled in the kitchen.  The range could check what is in the fridge and suggest what’s for dinner.  Artic modules can then be used as customizations and extensions for the few things that are not built by Samsung (like IoT Nerf Guns :-), all tied together by Otto which can relay information from and to the users.

This is an advantage they have over e.g. Google (with Brillo) or Apple (with HomeKit) who have to ask hardware vendors to implement their standard; Samsung has both hardware and the IoT platform, no need for an outside party, at least to get started.

Personally, I’m hoping that in the near future I get to experiment with some of the Artic modules, they look pretty cool!

And then of course there was VR; VR Gears, VR vendors, VR Cameras even a VR rollercoaster ride (which I tried and of course made my sick, same as with the Oculus Rift demo at UKOUG last year), maybe I’m just not cutout for VR.  One of the giveaways was actually a Gear 360 camera which allows you to take 360 degree camera footage which you can then experience using the Gear VR, nicely tying up the whole Samsung VR experience.

All in all it was a great conference with cool technology showing off Samsung’s commitment to VR and IoT.

Oh, and I got to meet Flo Rida at an AMA session

Samsung Developer Conference: VR and More

Wed, 2016-05-04 16:48

VR was the big thing at the Samsung Developer Conference, and one of the points that got driven across, both in the keynotes and in other talks throughout the day, was that VR is a fundamentally new medium—something we haven’t seen since the motion picture.Photo Apr 27, 10 37 04 AM

Injong Rhee, the executive VP of R&D for Software and Services, laid out some of VR’s main application areas: Gaming, Sports, Travel, Education, Theme Parks, Animation, Music, and Real Estate. Nothing too new here, but it is a good summary of the major use cases, and they echo what we’ve heard in our own research.

Photo Apr 27, 10 39 58 AM

He also mentioned some of their biggest areas for innovation: Weight, dizziness, image quality, insufficient computing power, restricted mobility, limited input control. For anyone who’s tried the Gear VR and had to use the control pad on the side of the visor, I think we can agree it’s not ideal for long periods of time. And while some VR apps leave me and others with no nausea at all, other apps, where you’re moving around and stepping up and down, can certainly cause some discomfort. I’m curious to see how some of those problems of basic human physiology can be overcome.Photo Apr 27, 10 41 04 AM

A fascinating session after the keynote was with Brett Leonard, who many years ago directed Lawnmower Man, a cautionary tale about VR, which despite the bleak dystopic possibilities it portrayed, inspired many of today’s VR pioneers. Leonard appeared with his brother Greg, a composer, and Frank Serafine, an Oscar-award winning sound designer who did the sound for Lawnmower Man.

Brett, Greg, and Frank made a solid case for VR as a new medium that has yet to be even partially explored, and will surely have a plethora of new conventions that storytellers will need to work with. We’ve become familiar with many aspects of the language of film, such as things happening off screen but are implied to be happening. But with the 360-degree experience of VR, there’s no longer that same framing of shots, or things happening off the screen. The viewer chooses where to look.

Brett also listed his five laws of VR, which cover some of his concerns, given that it is a powerful medium that could have real consequences for people’s minds and physiology, particularly developing children. His laws, very paraphrased are:

  1. Take it seriously.
  2. VR should promote interconnecting with humanity, not further reinforcing all the walls we already have, and that technology so far has helped to create.
  3. VR is its own reality.
  4. VR should be a safe space—there are a huge amount of innovations possible, things that we haven’t been able to consider before. This may be especially so for medical and psychological treatments.
  5. VR is the medium of the global human.

Another interesting part of the talk was about true 360-degree sound, which Serafine said hadn’t really been done well before, but with the upcoming Dolby Atmos theaters, finally has.

Good 360-degree sound, not just stereo like we’re used to, will be a big part of VR feeling increasingly real, and will pose a challenge for VR storytelling, because it means recording becomes more complex, and consequently editing and mixing.

Connected Car

Samsung also announced their effort for the connected car, with a device that looks a lot like the Automatic (previously blogged about here) or the Mojio. It will offer all the features of those other devices—driving feedback that can become a driver score (measuring hard braking, fast accelerating, hard turns, and the like), as well as an LTE connection that allows it to stay connected all the time and serve as a WiFi hotspot. But Samsung adds a little more interest to the game with vendor collaborations, like with Fiat, where you can unlock the car, or open the trunk from your app. This can’t currently be done with other devices.

It should come out later this year, and will also have a fleet offering, which should appeal to enterprise companies. If they have more of these exclusive offering because of Samsung’s relationships with various vendors, maybe it will do better than its competitors.Possibly Related Posts:

Samsung Developers Conference 2016: A More Connected Future

Tue, 2016-05-03 20:31

After a whirlwind day at Modern CX, I hurried my way back up to San Francisco for the last day of the Samsung Developers Conference 2016. The morning started out exciting with a giveaway gift of the Samsung Gear 360 Camera.

Oh i have plans for you

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