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Another Take on Maker Faire 2015

Wed, 2015-05-20 09:05

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

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

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

hp-sprout

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

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

mole-a-whack

Here’s a video of it in action:

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

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

This pipe organ is an impressive build:

fire-pipe-organ

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

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

Maker Faire 2015

Tue, 2015-05-19 09:17

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

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

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

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

Google Safety Goggles

My new Google Glasses :-)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Game of Drones:

Fire and Art:

IMG_5591

Robots that solve Rubik’s cubes:

Cheers,

Mark.Possibly Related Posts:

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

Mon, 2015-05-18 10:50

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

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

The Watch Ethnography (say what?)

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

None of this happened.

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

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

Running in Beijing. Scene from Temple of Sun Park.

Running in Beijing. Scene from Temple of Sun Park.

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

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

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

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

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

The Device Findings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Apple Watch Activity App

Apple Watch Activity App

Apple Watch Activity App

Apple Watch Activity App

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

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

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

What’s Next?

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

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

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

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

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

Amazon Echo Official SDK

Sun, 2015-05-17 16:03

Image from wired.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voice as the next user interface

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

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

Demos

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

Office Automation

Internet of Things demo

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

Four Weeks and a Day with the Jawbone UP24

Wed, 2015-05-13 12:46

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_20150512_091139

Here are my observations.

The band

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

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

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

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

JawboneUp24-X-Ray1

Image from Creative Electron

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

IMG_20150405_100135

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The app and data

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

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

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

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

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

Each item in the stream can be tapped for details.

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s social stuff too, but meh.

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

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

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

I saw the same variance with steps.

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

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

I wonder why. Thoughts?

Find the comments.Possibly Related Posts:

Watch-First Design and Development

Tue, 2015-05-12 17:36

 

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

Laucher Home

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

Detail Glance

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

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

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

xCode copy

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

Speech Menu

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

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

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

IMG_1048

Photo Proof

Possibly Related Posts:

Drone, Data X Conference – Trip Report

Tue, 2015-05-05 09:39

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

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

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

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

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

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

20150501_170353

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

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

matternet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

lastmile

Very exciting.

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

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

20150430_174854

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

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

20150501_172317Possibly Related Posts:

My Weekend with Apple Watch

Mon, 2015-05-04 08:33

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

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

uxboxing

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

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

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

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

glance

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

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

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

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

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

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

home

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

More Apple Watch-ness from Oracle Social Network

Wed, 2015-04-29 12:00

And now back to the Apple Watch content.

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

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

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

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

Both watch platforms look great, as you can see.

IMG_0899 IMG_0906 IMG_0909 IMG_0912 IMG_0917 IMG_0920 IMG_0921 IMG_0922

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

When Less Is More

Tue, 2015-04-28 10:30

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

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

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

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

Why do children need a smart watch?

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

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

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

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

It also shows time :-)

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

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

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

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

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

I enjoy it when he says that.

talkingMom

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

The Apple Watch Arrives

Sun, 2015-04-26 11:03

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

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

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

Here’s a sneak peak from Noel:

IMG_0827 IMG_0805

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

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

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

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

appleWatchWear

Lots of love for all our gadgets.

Find the comments.Possibly Related Posts:

OAUX Emerging Technologies RD&D Strategy

Thu, 2015-04-16 07:46

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

eleven

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

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

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

Untitled

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

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

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

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

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

Enjoy.
Possibly Related Posts:

Are We Ready for the Apple Watch?

Mon, 2015-04-13 10:48

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

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

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

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

IMG_0098

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

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

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

So, yeah, we have a strategy.

And boom goes the dynamite.

lead lead2 receipt2 receipt webclock webclock2

Find the comments.Possibly Related Posts:

Four Weeks with the Basis Peak

Thu, 2015-04-09 10:53

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

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

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

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

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

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

The watch

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

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

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

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

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

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

IMG_20150317_085720

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

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

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

IMG_20150317_085708

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

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

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

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

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

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

The app and data

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

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

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

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

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

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

Habits   Basis

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

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

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

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

Ah the data.

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

Activity Details   Basis

Patterns   Basis

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

Sleep Details   Basis

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

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

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

My wife especially loved this feature.

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

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

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

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

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

Find the comments.Possibly Related Posts:

The Fitbit Surge: Watching Where the Super Watch Puck Goes

Mon, 2015-04-06 10:26

Editor’s note: Here’s a review of the Fitbit Surge from Ultan (@ultan, @usableapps); if anyone can road-test a fitness tracker, it’s him. As luck would have it, the Surge is on my list of wearables to test as well. So, watch this space for a comparison review from a much less active person. Enjoy.

I’ve upgraded my Fitbit experience to the Fitbit Surge, the “Fitness Super Watch.”

Why?

I’ve been a Fitbit Flex user for about 18 months. I’ve loved its simplicity, unobtrusiveness, colourful band options, and general reliability. I’ve sported it constantly, worldwide. I’ve worn out bands and exhausted the sensor until it was replaced by the help of some awesome Fitbit global support. I’ve integrated it with the Aria Wi-Fi scales, synching diligently. I’ve loved the Fitbit analytics, visualization, the badges, and comparing experiences with others.

The human body makes more sense for me as a dashboard than a billboard, as Chris Dancy (@servicesphere) would say.

But I wanted more.

The Flex didn’t tell me very much on its own—or in the moment—other than when a daily goal was reached or the battery needed attention. I had to carry a smartphone to see any real information.

I am also a user of other fitness (mostly running) apps: Strava, MapMyRun, Runcoach, Runkeeper, and more. All have merits, but again, I still need to carry a smartphone with me to actually record or see any results. This also means that I need to run through a tiresome checklist daily to ensure the whole setup is functioning correctly. And given the increasing size of smartphones, I am constantly in need of new carrying accessories. I’m a mugger’s dream with twinkling phablets strapped to my arms at night, not to mention asking for technical grief running around in European rain.

The Surge seemed like a good move to make.

Spinning up the Fitbit Surge in the gym

Spinning up the Fitbit Surge in the gym

Onboarding the Superwatch Experience

I tested my new Fitbit Surge right out of the box in Finland on long snowy runs around Helsinki and have hammered it for weeks now with activities out in the Irish mist and in gyms, too. My impressions:

  • I love the fact that the Surge is standalone. I can record and glance at activity performance quickly, without the whole smartphone connectivity checklist thing.
  • The UI is intuitive with just three buttons (Home, Activity, and Select), and it incorporates swipe gestures and click interactions to get through the little cards that make up the UI paradigm. Familiar. Easy.
  • The Surge records and shows my heart rate, something that I realize should always be part of my fitness plan (duh). I discovered a resting heart rate bpm of around 50 BPM. Read. Weep.
  • The Surge has enhanced notifications capability, and I can see SMS messages or cell phone calls coming in. Nice.
  • The Surge has options for choosing between predefined activities. Fast.
  • The battery life (charging is via USB) is a major bonus over other smartwatches. The limited battery life of the Moto 360, for example, drives me crazy. The Surge battery life gives me about three days (although that is less than that advertised).
  • Having GPS is awesome, as I like to record and see where I have been, worldwide.
  • I am happy with the recorded data, and it seems comparable to the data quality I demand for my runs. I’ve had concerns about the Flex and other devices in this regard.
2_gps_surge 3_cardio_surge 4_ios_app_surge 5_ios_app_overview

On the downside:

  • I don’t like the fact that the Surge is available only in black (as of now), that the display is monochrome, and that there are no interchangeable band options. I’m a #fashtech kinda guy.
  • You can only use one Fitbit device at a time. (I’m like that; I might like to wear a different device on different occasion.)
  • The predetermined activities are slightly limiting. Who knows, maybe ironing in the nude burns lots of calories? (I don’t, by the way.)
  • The call notifications and text notifications are great, but to do anything in the moment with those alerts means that I need to turn to my phone, unlike say my Android Wear Moto Motorola 360 that lets me respond using voice.
  • Having to actually tell the watch what you’re doing first is pure Age of Context denial. Google Fit, for example, does a decent job of automatically sensing what activity I am up to, and where and when I am. Plus, it lets me enter data manually and plays nice with my Moto 360 for a glanceable UI.
  • And then there’s the “unlearning” of the Flex invisibility. I’ve walked off quite a few times forgetting Surge is still in action, and only hours later realized I needed to stop the thing.
 Fitbit Surge versus Motorola Moto 360

Relative glance: Fitbit Surge versus Motorola Moto 360

Thoughts on the Surge and Super Watch Approach

An emerging wearable technology analyst position is that upped smartwatches such as the Fitbit Surge or “super watches” will subsume the market for dedicated fitness bands. I think that position is broadly reasonable, but requires nuance.

Fitness bands (Flex, Jawbone Up, and so on), as they stand, are fine for the casual fitness type, or for someone who wants a general picture of how they’re doing, wellness-wise. They’ll become cheaper, giveaways even. More serious fitness types, such as hardcore runners and swimmers, will keep buying the upper-end Garmin-type devices and yes, will still export data and play with it in Microsoft Excel. In the middle of the market, there’s that large, broad set of serious amateurs, Quantified Self fanbois, tech heads, and the more competitive or jealous wannabe types who will take to the “super watches.”

And yet, even then, I think we will still see people carrying smartphones when they run or work out in the gym. These devices still have richer functionality. They carry music. They have a camera. They have apps to use during your workout or run (be they for Starbucks or Twitter). And you can connect to other people with them by voice, text, and so on.

I like the Fitbit Surge. Sure, it’s got flaws. But overall, the “super watch” approach is a sound one. The Surge eliminates a lot of complexity from my overall wearable experience, offers more confidence about data reliability, and I get to enjoy the results of my activity efforts faster, at a glance. It’s a more “in the moment.” experience. It’s not there on context and fashion, but it will be, I think.

Anyone wanna buy some colored Fitbit Flex bands?Possibly Related Posts:

Conference Recaps and Such

Fri, 2015-03-27 09:28

I’m currently in Washington D.C. at Oracle HCM World. It’s been a busy conference; on Wednesday, Thao and Ben ran a brainstorming session on wearables as part of the HCM product strategy council’s day of activities.

brainstorm

Then yesterday, the dynamic duo ran a focus group around emerging technologies and their impact on HCM, specifically wearables and Internet of Things (IoT). I haven’t got a full download of the session yet, but I hear the discussion was lively. They didn’t even get to IoT, sorry Noel (@noelportual).

I’m still new to the user research side of our still-kinda-new house, so it was great to watch these two in action as a proverbial fly on the wall. They’ll be doing similar user research activities at Collaborate 15 and OHUG 15.

If you’re attending Collaborate and want to hang out with the OAUX team and participate in a user research or usability testing activity, hit this link. The OHUG 15 page isn’t up yet, but if you’re too excited to wait, contact Gozel Aamoth, gozel dot aamoth at oracle dot com.

Back to HCM World, in a short while, I’ll be presenting a session with Aylin Uysal called Oracle HCM Cloud User Experiences: Trends, Tailoring, and Strategy, and then it’s off to the airport.

Earlier this week, Noel was in Eindhoven for OBUG Experience 2015. From the pictures I’ve seen, it was a fun event. Jeremy (@jrwashley) not only gave the keynote, but he found time to hang out with some robot footballers.

robot

Check out the highlights:

Busy week, right? Next week is more of the same as Noel and Tony head to Modern CX in Las Vegas.

Maybe we’ll run into you at one of these conferences? Drop a comment.

In other news, as promised last week, I updated the feed name. Doesn’t look like that affected anything, but tell your friends just in case.

Update: Nope, changing the name totally borks the old feed, so update your subscription if you want to keep getting AppsLab goodness delivered to your feed reader or inbox.Possibly Related Posts:

Time to Update the Feed

Thu, 2015-03-19 11:40

For those of you who enjoy our content via the feed (thank you), I have news.

Next week, I’ll be changing the feed’s name, so if you want to continue to receive AppsLab goodness in your feed reader of choice or in your inbox, you’ll need to come back here and subscribe again.

Or maybe it’s time to switch over to our Twitter (@theappslab) or Facebook Page, if that’s your thing. I did nuke the Google+ Page, but I doubt anyone will notice it’s gone.

Nothing else has changed.Possibly Related Posts:

OAUX Tidbits

Wed, 2015-03-18 10:32

Here come some rapid fire tidbits about upcoming and recently past Oracle Applications User Experience (@usableapps) events.

Events of the Near Past

Laurie Pattison’s (@lsptahoe) team (@InnovateOracle) has been organizing events focused around stimulating and fostering innovation for quite some time now.

I’ve always been a big fan of group-think-and-work exercises, e.g. design jams, hackathons, ShipIts, code sprints, etc.

Our team frequently participates in and supports these events, e.g. Tony O was on a team that won a couple awards at the Future of Information design jam back in early February and John and Julia served as mentors at the Visualizing Information design jam a few weeks ago.

You may recall Julia’s visualization analysis and thinking; John has an equally informative presentation, not yet shared here, but we can hope.

Watch Laurie’s blog for information about more innovation events.

Events of the Near Future

It’s conference season again, and we’ll be bouncing around the globe spreading our emerging technologies user experience goodness.

Fresh off a hot session at UTOUG (h/t OG Friend of the ‘Lab Floyd) and gadget-hounding at SXSW Interactive, Noel (@noelportugal) will be in Eindhoven, the Netherlands for the Oracle Benelux User Group Experience Day, March 23 and 24.

Our fearless leader, Jeremy Ashley (@jrwashley) will be there as well giving the opening keynote. Bob Rhubart (@OTNArchBeat) recorded a video to tell you all about that. Check it out here:

While Noel enjoys Europe, I’ll be in Washington D.C. speaking at Oracle HCM World, along with Thao and Ben.

After that, we’ll have boots on the ground at Oracle Modern CX and Collaborate 15 in Las Vegas. Stay tuned for more, or if you’ll be at any conferences during Conference Season 2015 and wonder if OAUX will be there, check out our Events page.

Update: Here’s what OAUX will be doing at Collaborate 15. If you’re attending, come by and say hello.Possibly Related Posts:

Three Weeks with the Nike+ Fuelband SE

Wed, 2015-03-11 11:42

I don’t like wearing stuff on my wrist, but in my ongoing quest to learn more about the wearables our users wear, I have embarked on a journey.

For science! And for better living through math, a.k.a. the quantified self.

And because I’ll be at HCM World later this month talking about wearables, and because wearables are a thing, and we have a Storify to prove it, and we need to understand them better, and the Apple Watch is coming (squee!) to save us all from our phones and restore good old face time (not that Facetime) and and and. Just keep reading.

Moving on, I just finished wearing the Nike+ Fuelband SE for three weeks, and today, I’m starting on a new wearable. It’s a surprise, just wait three weeks.

Now that I’ve compiled a fair amount of anecdotal data, I figured a loosely organized manifest of observations (not quite a review) was in order.

The band

The Fuelband isn’t my first fitness tracker; you might recall I wore the Misfit Shine for a few months. Unlike the minimalist Shine, the Fuelband has quite a few more bells and whistles, starting with its snazzy display.

Check out a teardown of the nifty little bracelet, some pretty impressive stuff inside there, not bad for a shoe and apparel company.

I’ve always admired the design aspects of Nike’s wearables, dating back to 2012 when Noel (@noelportugal) first started wearing one. So, it was a bit sad to hear about a year ago that Nike was closing that division.

Turns out the Fuelband wasn’t dead, and when Nike finally dropped an Android version of the Nike+ Fuelband app, I sprang into action, quite literally.

Anyway, the band didn’t disappoint. It’s lightweight and can be resized using a nifty set of links that can be added or removed.

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The fit wasn’t terribly tight, and the band is surprisingly rigid, which eventually caused a couple areas on my wrist to rub a little raw, no biggie.

The biggest surprise was the first pinch I got closing the clasp. After a while, it got easier to close and less pinchy, but man that first one was a zinger.

The battery life was good, something that I initially worried about, lasting about a week per full charge. Nike provides an adapter cord, but the band’s clasp can be plugged directly into  a USB port, which is a cool feature, albeit a bit awkward looking.

It’s water-resistant too, which is a nice plus.

Frankly, the band is very much the same one that Noel showed me in 2012, and the lack of advancement is one of the complaints users have had over the years.

The app and data

Entering into this, I fully expected to be sucked back into the statistical vortex that consumed me with the Misfit Shine, and yeah, that happened again. At least, I knew what to expect this time.

Initial setup of the band requires a computer and a software download, which isn’t ideal. Once that was out of the way, I could do everything using the mobile app.

The app worked flawlessly, and it looks good, more good design from Nike. I can’t remember any sync issues or crashes during the three-week period. Surprising, considering Nike resisted Android for so long. I guess I expected their foray into Android to be janky.

I did find one little annoyance. The app doesn’t support the Android Gallery for adding a profile picture, but that’s the only quibble I have.

Everything on the app is easily figured out; there’s a point system, NikeFuel. The band calculates steps and calories too, but NikeFuel is Nike’s attempt to normalize effort for specific activities, which also allows for measurement and competition among participants.

The default the NikeFuel goal for each day is 2,000, a number that can be configured. I left it at 2,000 because I found that to be easy to reach.

The app includes Sessions too, which allow the wearer to specify the type of activity s/he is doing. I suppose this makes the NikeFuel calculation more accurate. I used Sessions as a way to categorize and compare workouts.

I tested a few Session types and was stunned to discover that the elliptical earned me less than half the NikeFuel than running on a treadmill for the same duration.

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Update: Forgot to mention that the app communicates in real time with the band (vs. periodic syncing), so you can watch your NikeFuel increase during a workout, pretty cool.

Overall, the Android app and the web app at nikeplus.com are both well-done and intuitive. There’s a community aspect too, but that’s not for me. Although I did enjoy watching my progress vs. other men my age in the web app.

One missing feature of the Fuelband, at least compared to its competition, is the lack of sleep tracking. I didn’t really miss this at first, but now that I have it again, with the surprise wearable I’m testing now, I’m realizing I want it.

Honestly, I was a bit sad to take off the Fuelband after investing three weeks into it. Turns out, I really liked wearing it. I even pondered continuing its testing and wearing multiple devices to do an apples-to-apples comparison, but Ultan (@ultan) makes that look good. I can’t.

So, stay tuned for more wearable reviews, and find me at HCM World if you’re attending.

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