Skip navigation.

Oracle AppsLab

Syndicate content
Driving Innovation
Updated: 5 hours 1 min ago

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.

IMG_20150217_121004

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.

Screenshot_2015-03-09-23-31-12 Screenshot_2015-03-09-23-31-52 Screenshot_2015-03-09-23-31-47 Screenshot_2015-03-09-23-32-14 Screenshot_2015-03-09-23-32-23

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.

Anything to add? Find the comments.Possibly Related Posts: