MOCAheart wants to make keeping track of your cardiovascular health as easy as pressing a button.
The device, which is currently on Kickstarter, was developed by a team led by Naama Stauber and Dr. Daniel Hong, who was a physician at National Taiwan University Hospital, one of the country’s top teaching hospitals, before becoming an entrepreneur. The two met while attending the Design for Service Innovation Program at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, which focuses on developing new software and hardware for healthcare.
To use MOCAheart, you place your index fingers on top of the device and wait a few seconds for your health data to show up on the connected app.
The lightweight but sturdy MOCAheart, which I saw demoed at MOCA’s Taipei office, contains several sensors within its stainless steel and plastic case. Two are light sensors: one red light and one infrared sensor that measure blood oxygen and blood velocity, respectively. Two EKG sensors track cardiac electronic activity. It also has a G-sensor, or accelerometer, so the MOCAheart can be used as an activity tracker in the future. The app uses pulse transit time (PTT) to estimate the user’s blood pressure.
Instead of telling you your systolic and diastolic pressure measurements, like a blood pressure monitor does, MOCAheart uses a rating scale it calls the MOCA Index, which ranks your heart health (based on blood pressure, blood oxygen, and blood velocity) from 0 to 4. If you score a 0 to 1, that means your blood pressure is probably in the low to ideal range. Two means it is still normal but elevated, while 3 and 4 signify that it may be high enough to warrant a trip to the doctor.
The app also lets you note the time, location, and weather conditions for each reading. The latter is important because very cold weather or high temperatures can put people who have heart disease at risk for heart failure.
Hong says that the MOCAheart app uses its own index instead of giving people their blood pressure measurements because the device currently isn’t FDA-approved as a blood pressure monitor (though the startup might apply in the future). This is a potential drawback for people who need exact measurements, but on the other hand, if you just want an overview of your heart’s vital signs, the MOCA Index is easy to use and understand. The app does give you more precise measurements about your pulse and blood oxygen levels, and can be accessed by caregivers or family members.
The MOCAheart is targeted toward people, including the elderly, who need to keep track of their heart’s health, but can’t remember (or be bothered) to strap themselves into a blood pressure cuff everyday. MOCAheart can be slipped into a keychain holder or clicked into a specially designed smartphone case. Other cuffless blood pressure monitors out there include Viatom’s Checkme and Sotera Wireless’s ViSi Mobile monitor. MOCAheart wants to differentiate with the device’s sleek design and its app, which gives family members a quick way to monitor their love one’s health.
The device was developed partly with people like Hong’s parents in mind.
“When I was in the U.S., I’d call my parents and ask about their health. They kept insisting they were okay, even though my father actually had high blood pressure. Then he had a stroke. As a doctor, I felt I should have known earlier,” says Hong. “I wanted to create something that would make it easy for people to share track health data and share it with their families, so they can be alerted earlier if something needs to be checked out.”
MOCAheart has reached about a third of its $100,000 goal, which it needs to hit by Dec. 25. The device starts at $119 and is estimated to ship in April, a delivery date Hong is confident MOCA will be able to hit because they already have a final working prototype and manufacturers lined up in Taiwan. For more information about MOCAheart, visit its Kickstarter page.
At this point, I should probably stop calling Livefyre a commenting platform.
Actually, the company has been expanding beyond comments for a while. It launched its StreamHub product, which included more social media widgets, back in 2012. And it acquired social media curation startup Storify last year.
But the company is taking another big step in this direction with the relaunch of its core platform, which it’s now calling Livefyre Studio. The idea, basically, is to allow online publishers (whether they’re news organizations or brand marketers) to gather user generated content from anywhere online, and then to republish it anywhere in turn.
In some ways, it’s similar to what Storify already does, but it sounds like the aim here is to provide that kind of social media curation on a bigger scale, with more automation, and often for more marketing-centric uses. (This could also turn Livefyre into more of a competitor for startups like Chute and Percolate.)
In a quick demo, founder and CEO Jordan Kretchmer showed me how a customer could search for different types of content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and across the web; hand-select the content or set up rules for automated gathering and filtering; then publish it to a customized media wall on their own site, their mobile apps, or in an ad. (The search part, by the way, is powered by Storify — Kretchmer said it’s the first integration of Storify into the main Livefyre platform.)
Livefyre Studio also includes the ability to ask users for the rights to their content, and analytics capabilities to see how these campaigns are actually performing.
The company has actually been testing the platform for months, Kretchmer said, and it went live for all customers last week. For example, it was used to create Sony’s “Greatness Awaits” page highlighting content from the PlayStation 4 community, as well as Unilever’s sustainability initiative Project Sunlight.
It can be useful for news organizations, too — Fox News took advantage of the ability to include this content in custom apps, creating an election map highlighting related tweets and Instagram photos.
But judging from our conversation, as well as Kretchmer’s blog post announcing Livefyre Studio (which does mention comments, if only very briefly), the emphasis seems to be pretty clearly on the marketing side. In fact, Kretchmer told me that in the past year brands have grown from to 0 to 30 percent of Livefyre’s revenue.
And he argued that all the user generated content posted on social media presents a big opportunity for companies to connect with consumers, both on their own sites and elsewhere, but “brands don’t have internal resources for managing this stuff.”
“We have to make it as easy as humanly possible to let brands access all of these great applications,” he added.
Introducing Livefyre Studio from Livefyre on Vimeo.
We're based in the Mission District of San Francisco. Navdy was founded by entrepreneur Doug Simpson and serial inventor Karl Guttag, and is supported by a highly accomplished veteran team. In 2013 Navdy went through the acclaimed Highway 1 Incubator program and continues to work closely with Highway 1’s parent, PCH International, whose world class supply chain and manufacturing capabilities are used by companies such as Apple, Beats, and Google.
Digg, Milk, and Revision3 founder Kevin Rose recently left Google Ventures to start a new mobile development house called North, and now we have some details on the firm’s first app, Tiiny, which will launch soon. The basic idea is that Tiiny lets you share thumbnail-sized photos and animated GIFs to a grid of pics on your friends’ phones, and they disappear 24 hours later. Rather than making you scroll through full-width photos like Instagram, Tiiny lets you get a constantly-updated look at what lots of your friends are up to in a single glance.
Rose told TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington that the app is currently going through the iOS App Store approval process and should launch very soon. Rose’s team said he’s not ready to talk more about the app just yet, but we’ll have more details on TechCrunch when it’s time.
I did get a quick look at the app yesterday, though, and it’s slick. As you can sort of make out from the photo below, the top of the screen features a 3-wide by 4-tall grid of photos and animated GIFS, with a button to capture and share more at the bottom. Seeing all the moving images on the same screen made the app feel vibrant and alive, which could make it addictive to check compared to more static apps like Instagram or even Vine, which only shows one video at a time. Rather than a replacement or direct competitor to other more public broadcast and direct messaging photo apps, Tiiny seems like it could fit in as a complement.
There’s also supposedly some more functionality but we’ll have to wait until it’s out for that.
North, which we profiled last month, has a peculiar strategy. Rather than languish on building one app, North is trying to use a small team of about 3 people to launch a new mobile app every three months. This scheme lets North quickly throw apps against the wall and see what’s sticky for users. With building social apps being likened to capturing “lightning in a bottle”, this diversified approach means North won’t spend a year building something no one wants. If Tiiny is a flop, the team will just move on to the next app.
“You do not need a mobile marketing strategy for your company or a brand,” said TBWA’s head of digital Tuomas Peltoniemi, during the last session of Mobile Interactive 2014 organised byMarketing Magazine.
“Because mobile is not just another addition to your marketing strategy. It needs to be much more than that. Mobile should be at the heart of every aspect of your marketing strategy. It is not just a device for brand building for businesses,” Peltoniemi (pictured) explained.
In a recent finding by Google Singapore, it was reported that 96% of consumers search local information on their mobile. Meanwhile 87% of the respondents claimed to research products via their smartphones and 44% claim to have made purchase.
No doubt, mobile is here to stay. Yet with the proliferation of platforms, it can often be overwhelming for marketers to see mobile as another medium to be understood and conquered.
Hence marketers need to see mobile as a mean to amplify the potential of their existing mediums, explained Peltoniemi.
Here’s how mobile can be integrated into the heart of any marketing strategy.
Have you considered how mobile impacts email campaigns? Probably not.
According to Litmus Research Email Analytics and Jacobs & Clevenger, today 49% e-mails are opened on mobile devices but 90% of e-mail newsletter or campaigns sent out today do not consider mobile. This results in nearly 80% of users deleting their e-mail that don’t fit the screen.
Yet if marketers could make tweaks to mobile optimise these e-mail campaigns, conversion rates likely to jump by 10% to 20%, explained Peltoniemi.
“Once a brand starts considering mobile not only does it optimise conversion rates but it is also tapping into something most marketers aren’t. Mobile needs to be a key part of any e–mail activity that you do,” Peltoniemi added.
According to Google, by December this year, mobile search on Google will most likely surpass PC search. Mobile search is also now a key decision tool with 45% of mobile search done by a consumer being goal oriented. At the same time 73% mobile search triggers additional action right away and a conversation.
However marketers need to be mindful that in a study done by The Google Mobile Playbook 57% of users say they won’t recommend a business that has a poor mobile experience. Ease of use and convenience on the search page would however draw back a consumer to head down to a brand’s website.
Website User Experience
Be it search, social media, or banner ads – at the end of the day there are a lot of trigger points marketers place to drive people to their brand websites. Here’s where user experience and responsive web design comes into play.
Responsive web design is vital and a must today. A business’s web design needs to be optimised for all devices be it mobile, PC or a tablet.
It is also important to note that today 41% of users see mobile as their primary or exclusive means of going online.
Social media marketing
Social networking is all about mobile. According to a study by Adobe late last year, 71% of people access social media through their phones. According to Facebook, 52% of content sharing is now also done through mobile and not desktop. It is thus vital how marketers customise content to fit into mobile on social media.
“When marketers run social media ads they need to be mindful that the ads are actually competing against real people’s lives. A brand’s paid massaging needs to be really relevant to people’s lives and you need to produce content that will resonate with them,” Peltoniemi added.
Barriers to mobile marketing
On the topic of optimising mobile advertising, Ashwin Malshe, assistant professor marketing at ESSEC Business School added that while Mobile and Web advertising have reinforcing effects on each other, there are three big barriers to mobile.These include:
Consumers are largely inconsistent and marketers are still trying to work out a balance in how much information they can or should collect without coming off creepy, explained Malshe. He added that most consumers are still highly offended when they come across an ad which is disrupting their day. To date, only 7% of people are willing to see an add.
Companies today are still struggling to figure out ROI measurement and which mediums to attribute a sale to. Proving ROI is not only a moving target in marketing, but also a major burden due to the time required to accurately report results. Globally, 75% of marketers face a problem when trying to calculate ROI and a common issue is connecting marketing activities to specific earnings generated.
These are the findings of a study by Teradata’s Data-Driven Marketing Survey 2013.
With so much data being around, 80% of the time large corporations are spending time sieving though the data. Only 20% of the time do marketers actually get to utilize the data and use it to target their audience. Meanwhile existing trust issues by consumers and internal coordination in a company are also needed to overcome the tech barrier present.
Apple has hired industrial designer Marc Newson. Newson will join his friend and Senior Vice President of Design, Jony Ive on the company’s design team creating future Apple products. This hire is huge as it would give Ive someone of his caliber of talent to work with. Steve Jobs was famously hands-on with most aspects of the design of Apple products. This involved spending a lot of time with Ive as the two collaborated on the company’s hardware. Meanwhile, Tim Cook took care of the day-to-day business. CEO Cook is still not nearly as involved in the day-to-day design elements of upcoming products, at least according to The New York Times. Hiring Newson could be a way of giving Ive someone to collaborate with like he did with Jobs.
Which is perfect since Newson and Ive are friends and have already collaborated on numerous projects including a design a special edition Leica for a (RED) organization charity auction. Vanity Fair also notes that Newson has worked with Ive on Apple products in the past.
Plus, who wouldn’t want to hire someone that’s designed a rocketpack? Plus, he already has experience designing time pieces. If an iWatch is announced at theSeptember 9 event, we wouldn’t be surprised if Newson had a hand in the design since he’s consulted on Apple products in the past.
Newson will continue to be based in the United Kingdom, but will make frequent trips to Cupertino.
- How user experience and interaction design evolve in an agile, continuous world
- Why creating a cross-functional design process increases the viability and success of your products
- How to focus your teams on creating digital experiences instead of documentation
Speaker: Jeff Gothelf
Designers have long relied on heavy documentation to communicate their vision for products and experiences. As technology has evolved to offer more complex and intricate interactions, the deliverables we've been creating have followed suit. Ultimately though, these deliverables have come to serve as bottlenecks to the creation process and as the beginning of the negotiation process with our team mates -- a starting point for conversation on what could get built and launched.
Lean UX aims to open up the user experience design process with a collaborative approach that involves the entire team. It's a hypothesis-based design approach that tests design ideas early and often and, along the way, builds a shared understanding with our team mates that eliminates the dependencies on heavy documentation and challenging communications. Lean UX is a solution for the challenge of Agile and UX integration while it also works effectively in traditional waterfall and other hybrid environments.
Google announced a new universal design language, called Material Design, as part of the forthcoming “L” release of Google’s Android mobile operating system. The design is meant to offer a more consistent, universal look-and-feel across mobile, tablets, desktop and “beyond,” the company explains.
“We imagined… what if pixels didn’t just have color, but also depth? What if there was a material that could change its texture? This lead us to something we call ‘material design,” says Matias Durate, Director of Android operating system User Experience at Google, during the keynote this morning.
Some of the key features of the new design include an updated version of the system font, Roboto, as well as bold and dramatic colors and highly polished animations.
Durate also quickly walked through the changes in the new framework, which it’s also releasing publicly today at google.com/design. The idea is to put this framework in the hands of developers who build on Google’s platforms, so all apps have a consistent look, similar to how Apple has its own design guidelines for Mac and iOS developers.
The company is also introducing new redesigned versions of Google’s flagship apps using this new language, including Gmail and Calendar, for both Android and the web. You may recall reading about these changes recently, when some blogsgot a hold of leaked versions of screenshots showing Gmail’s redesign, featuring a cleaner and simpler interface.
On Android, the new look is called “Material,” and it supports a variety of new animation capabilities, has built-in realtime UI shadows, and “hero” elements that can be passed from screen-to-screen.
The open-sourced framework Polymer, which highlighted during the last Google I/O, was also mentioned as being a way for developers to create building blocks which work with this new design language. Polymer offers a prototyping tool that lets you build responsive websites using predefined, customizable building blocks, and was recently discussed as being a part of Google’s forthcoming design changes we covered here when it was known as its internal codename “Quantum Paper.”
On the Google Design website, the company references its goals for Material Design as follows:
Create a visual language that synthesizes classic principles of good design with the innovation and possibility of technology and science.
Develop a single underlying system that allows for a unified experience across platforms and device sizes. Mobile precepts are fundamental, but touch, voice, mouse, and keyboard are all ﬁrst-class input methods.
Google describes the new design as being “inspired by the study of paper and ink, yet technologically advanced and open to imagination and magic.”
The design uses familiar tactile means of interacting with its many parts, with visual cues that are grounded in reality, Google says. Its elements also recall print-based design typography, with “deliberate color choices, edge-to-edge imagery, large-scale typography, and intentional white space create a bold and graphic interface that immerses the user in the experience.”
Motion is another key element of the design, but is meant to be. “Motion is meaningful and appropriate, serving to focus attention and maintain continuity,” Google adds.
More broadly speaking, the design refresh is about making the experience of using Google’s products and services, including Android, more enjoyable for end users. Apple is well-known for having stricter design guidelines for its developer partners, and that has helped shaped how consumers perceive Apple — that is, as being a design-focused company.
Now Google is stepping up to show that it’s ready to compete on design, as well.
The move comes at a time when Apple is also moving into areas Google dominates – like cloud services. That has worried Google, sources say, since it seemed like Apple was getting better at infrastructure than Google was getting at design. Material Design is Google’s effort to change that.
4 Myths About Apple Design, From An Ex-Apple Designer
WHAT'S LIFE REALLY LIKE DESIGNING FOR APPLE? AN ALUM SHARES WHAT HE LEARNED DURING HIS SEVEN YEARS IN CUPERTINO.
Apple is synonymous with upper echelon design, but very little is known about the company's design process. Most of Apple’s ownemployees aren’t allowed inside Apple’s fabled design studios. So we’re left piecing together interviews, or outright speculating about how Apple does it and what it’s really like to be a designer at the company.
Enter Mark Kawano. Before founding Storehouse, Kawano was a senior designer at Apple for seven years, where he worked on Aperture and iPhoto. Later, Kawano became Apple's User Experience Evangelist, guiding third-party app iOS developers to create software that felt right on Apple's platforms. Kawano was with the company during a critical moment, as Apple released the iPhone and created the wide world of apps.
In an interview with Co.Design, Kawano spoke frankly about his time at Apple--and especially wanted to address all the myths the industry has about the company and about its people.
Apple Has The Best Designers
“I think the biggest misconception is this belief that the reason Apple products turn out to be designed better, and have a better user experience, or are sexier, or whatever . . . is that they have the best design team in the world, or the best process in the world,” Kawano says. But in his role as user experience evangelist, meeting with design teams from Fortune 500 companies on a daily basis, he absorbed a deeper truth.
“It's actually the engineering culture, and the way the organization is structured to appreciate and support design. Everybody there is thinking about UX and design, not just the designers. And that’s what makes everything about the product so much better . . . much more than any individual designer or design team.”
It has often been said that good design needs to start at the top--that the CEO needs to care about design as much as the designers themselves. People often observe that Steve Jobs brought this structure to Apple. But the reason that structure works isn’t because of a top-down mandate. It’s an all around mandate. Everyone cares.
“It’s not this thing where you get some special wings or superpowers when you enter Cupertino. It’s that you now have an organization where you can spend your time designing products, instead of having to fight for your seat at the table, or get frustrated when the better design is passed over by an engineering manager who just wants to optimize for bug fixing. All of those things are what other designers at other companies have to spend a majority of their time doing. At Apple, it’s kind of expected that experience is really important."
Kawano underscores that everyone at Apple--from the engineers to the marketers--is, to some extent, thinking like a designer. In turn, HR hires employees accordingly. Much like Google hires employees that think like Googlers, Apple hires employees that truly take design into consideration in all of their decisions.
“You see companies that have poached Apple designers, and they come up with sexy interfaces or something interesting, but it doesn’t necessarily move the needle for their business or their product. That’s because all the designer did was work on an interface piece, but to have a really well-designed product in the way Steve would say, this 'holistic' thing, is everything. It’s not just the interface piece. It’s designing the right business model into it. Designing the right marketing and the copy, and the way to distribute it. All of those pieces are critical.”
Apple’s Design Team Is Infinite
Facebook has hundreds of designers. Google may have 1,000 or more. But when Kawano was at Apple, its core software products were designed by a relatively small group of roughly 100 people.
“I knew every one of them by face and name,” Kawano says.
For the most part, Apple didn’t employ specialist designers. Every designer could hold their own in both creating icons and new interfaces, for instance. And thanks to the fact that Apple hires design-centric engineers, the relatively skeleton design team could rely onengineers to begin the build process on a new app interface, rather than having to initiate their own mock-up first.
Of course, this approach may be changing today.
“For Apple, having a small, really focused organization made a lot of sense when Steve was there, because so many ideas came from Steve. So having a smaller group work on some of these ideas made sense,” Kawano says. “As Apple shifted to much more of a company where there’s multiple people at the top, I think it makes sense that they’re growing the design team in interesting ways.”
Notably, Jony Ive, who now heads usability across hardware and software, is reported to have brought in some of the marketing team to help redesign iOS 7. It's a coup, when you think about it, for marketers to be deep in the trenches with designers and engineers. (That level of collaboration is frankly unprecedented in the industry.)
Apple Crafts Every Detail With Intention
Apple products are often defined by small details, especially those around interaction. Case in point: When you type a wrong password, the password box shakes in response. These kinds of details are packed with meaningful delight. They're moments that seem tough to explain logically but which make sense on a gut level.
“So many companies try to mimic this idea . . . that we need to come up with this snappy way to do X, Y, and Z. They’re designing it, and they can’t move onto the next thing until they get a killer animation or killer model of the way data is laid out,” Kawano explains. The reality? “It’s almost impossible to come up with really innovative things when you have a deadline and schedule.”
Kawano told us that Apple designers (and engineers!) will often come up with clever interactive ideas--like 3-D cube interfaces or bouncy physics-based icons--during a bit of their down time, and then they might sit on them for years before they make sense in a particular context.
“People are constantly experimenting with these little items, and because the teams all kind of know what other people have done, once a feature comes up--say we need a good way to give feedback for a password, and we don’t want to throw up this ugly dialog--then it’s about grabbing these interaction or animation concepts that have just been kind of built for fun experiments and seeing if there’s anything there, and then applying the right ones.”
But if you're imagining some giant vault of animation ideas hiding inside Apple and waiting to be discovered, you'd be wrong. The reality, Kawano explains, was far more bohemian.
“There wasn’t a formalized library, because most of the time there wasn't that much that was formalized of anything that could be stolen,” Kawano says. “It was more having a small team and knowing what people had worked on, and the culture of being comfortable sharing.”
Steve Jobs’s Passion Frightened Everyone
There was a commonly shared piece of advice inside Apple--maybe you've heard it before--that a designer should always take the stairs, because if you met Steve Jobs in the elevator, he’d ask what you were up to. And one of two things would happen:
1. He’d hate it, and you might be fired.
2. He’d love it, the detail would gain his attention, and you’d lose every foreseeable night, weekend, and vacation to the project.
Kawano laughs when he tells it to me, but the conclusion he draws is more nuanced than the obvious Catch 22 punchline.
“The reality is, the people who thrived at Apple were the people who welcomed that desire and passion to learn from working with Steve, and just really were dedicated to the customer and the product. They were willing to give up their weekends and vacation time. And a lot of the people who complained that it wasn’t fair . . . they didn’t see the value of giving all that up versus trying to create the best product for the customer and then sacrificing everything personally to get there.”
“That’s where, a lot of times, he would get a bad rap, but he just wanted the best thing, and expected everyone else to want that same thing. He had trouble understanding people who didn’t want that same thing and wondered why they’d be working for him if that was the case. I think Steve had a very low tolerance for people who didn’t care about stuff. He had a very hard time understanding why people would work in these positions and not want to sacrifice everything for them.”
As for Kawano, did he ever get an amazing piece of advice, or an incredible compliment from Jobs?
“Nothing personally,” he admits, and then laughs. “The only thing that was really positive was, in the cafeteria one time, when he told me that the salmon I took looked really great, and he was going to go get that."
“He was just super accessible. I totally tried to get him to cut in front of me, but he’d never want do anything like that. That was interesting too, he was super demanding . . . but when it came to other things, he wanted to be very democratic, and to be treated like everyone else. And he was constantly struggling with those roles.”
Algoriddim is updating its iOS app djay today with a big new feature — integration with Spotify.
This is the first time djay (which the company says has been downloaded 10 million times, making it the world’s bestselling DJ app) has been connected to a streaming music service. This means users will no longer be limited to the music in their collection, and can instead access 20 million tracks in Spotify’s library.
Algoriddim aims to serve both casual users and serious DJs, and on the serious side, this could be the next step away from having to lug crates of vinyl records from club to club. It sounds like an obvious move, but CEO Karim Morsy said there were significant technical challenges, because users aren’t just streaming music from the cloud, but also mixing and applying effects in real-time.
You can see the app in action in the video above — as I watched Morsy show off djay’s different features, the app seemed to work as quickly with Spotify tracks as it did with iTunes music that was stored locally.
In addition to giving djay users access to more songs (they can search or browse different playlists, as well as share playlists of their own), Morsy said the integration allows Algoriddim to introduce two new features. First, there’s Match, which recommends songs that would be the right fit to play after the current track. Morsy’s a DJ himself and he said he’d previously believed that making this kind of song selection could never be automated. But using technology from Spotify’s acquisition of The Echo Nest convinced him that he was wrong.
And users can take that automated approach even further with Automix Radio, which won’t just choose the next song, but will create an entire mix and handle all of the transitions. So you can select a song that sets the mood, then let Automix continue playing automatically. In some ways it’s similar to just creating a station on an Internet radio service like Pandora, but with “beatmatched, DJ-style” transitions between songs.
Users will need a Spotify Premium account to access the Spotify library in djay, but the app includes a 7-day free trial for the premium service. Algoriddim is also promoting the apps by cutting the iPad price in half, to $4.99, and making its iPhone app available for free.
A number of companies have attempted to combine physical objects and the iPad in an effort to create new kinds of children’s games, whether that’s Crayola with their DigiTools coloring pens or games that teach toddlers their shapes, like Tiggly. Today, another digital toymaker, Tangible Play, is entering this space with the launch of a series of high-quality games designed for children ages 6 to 12, including puzzles, word games, and other forms of creative play.
In development for over a year, we first spotted Tangible Play demonstrating its games at a previous TechCrunch Disrupt Startup Alley.
The company was founded by ex-Googlers, including Pramod Sharma, who had earlier seen the intersection of physical and digital when he helped build Google’s book-scanning machine, and Jérôme Scholler, who had worked on Chrome for Android.
Both men are also dads, and like most parents, they have mixed feelings about the way today’s tablet computers engage kids’ attention. On the one hand, technologists generally like to see their kids embracing digital tools at young ages.
But, says Sharma, “[my daughter] could literally spend hours just looking at a screen, and doing nothing else. And as a parent, this is obviously concerning,” he says. That led the founders to create Osmo, the company’s first product built to combine social and creative play with the highly engaging tablet their kids were addicted to.
The games center around a technology which they refer to as “Reflective Artificial Intelligence.” What that means is that the Osmo gaming kit includes a uniquely designed reflective camera that snaps onto the top of the iPad, allowing the app to “see” the shapes and objects placed in front of the tablet on the tablet or other flat surface.
The game kit also includes an iPad stand and two physical games, their app counterparts, as well as third app that’s Osmo’s most recent addition.
While the best way to experience Osmo is to try it for yourself, the general gist of the experience involves playing a game in front of the iPad, following software prompts along the way which guide the gameplay.
In the case of “Words,” children try to quickly guess the word by sliding letter tiles in front of the tablet, while in “Tangram” kids use colorful wooden pieces to try to reproduce the image on the screen by placing shapes together. A third title, “Newton,” lets you engage in more creative play by placing any object in front the iPad – glasses, a pen, your hands, etc. – to turn them into structures inside a game involving bouncing balls and targets.
Though my daughter is only four, and below the target age range for these apps, with some guidance we were able to play some of the Osmo games together. It was easy to see how these games could make the iPad a more social activity - something that’s more like the modern-day equivalent to what was once the family board game night at home.
That being said, the test versions I was able to try (admittedly a few weeks behind the versions of the apps launching today) did have some kinks. I found, for example, that the shapes game “Tangram” would sometimes not see the pieces correctly, lighting up to show a match, then dimming again for no apparent reason, then lighting up again, which was confusing.
The sounds effects and music also need work, as they didn’t seem quite as kid-friendly and engaging as they could be. (They actually sound better in the video above, than in person). But overall, the games work as advertised, provided you have good lighting and a flat surface to play them upon. And Sharma says that now the goal is to make Osmo work on any surface, including floors and tables alike.
The company has been piloting the games in over one hundred schools, many near their home base of Palo Alto. From these early tests, the founders came to better understand the potential for Osmo from an educator’s perspective, explaining that their group play nature could help with a child’s social and emotional learning, while other games taught different concepts, like spatial intelligence and creative thinking.
Today, Tangible Play is launching its crowdfunding campaign which will allow it to assemble a core group of early adopters who the team hopes will help to evangelize the product and help Osmo gain traction. Though the gaming kit will eventually retail for $99, crowdfunding backers will be able to get it for a discount at $49, with some limited availability. The goal is to raise $50,000 to help with start-up and manufacturing costs.
However, the company doesn’t really need the crowdfunding in order to get the device to manufacturing, as they’ve previously raised an undisclosed round of seed funding from K-9 Ventures last year.
You can join the new crowdfunding campaign or learn more here: www.playosmo.com.
A more personalized way to pin may be on the way as Pinterest has announced a big press event in San Francisco on April 24th with the teaser image above. We’ve confirmed with the company that this will be a product announcement and CEO Ben Silbermann will speak. So what will Pinterest unveil?
The startup has written that this year it’s focused on helping people discover pins related to their interests. In January it launched a preview of a new personalized homepage that learns from what people have browsed and pinned in the past. This “Explore Interests” page then presents pins related to their tastes, and uses a mosaic of different-sized tiles to highlight certain items instead of Pinterest’s iconically uniform mason grid.
A full launch of Explore Interests would match the “choose your own adventure” theme. It would also mesh with what Pinterest head of engineering Jon Jenkins told me last year was on the roadmap for 2014. At the time, he said “Pinterest isn’t fundamentally about connecting people to other people. It’s about connecting people to interests…We try to identify interests through collaborative filtering, associative rule mining, natural language processing to provide discovery. I can pin five shirts I like and Pinterest derives my interest in fashion.”
A personalized home page could use all these signals to provide a relevancy-filtered feed, much like Facebook does. That could make Pinterest a more relaxing place to visit and browse. Instead of having to hunt through topic-specific boards or know what you’re looking for with search, Pinterest will bring what you like straight to your digital doorstep. That could make it more addictive for hardcore users and more accessible to rookies. As the majority of Pinterest’s traffic now comes from mobile, I’d expect this personalization to show up on the small screen too, not just the desktop.
We’ll also be on the lookout to see if Pinterest announces any more plans on the monetization front. Pinterest raised a jaw-dropping $225 million at a $3.8 billion valuation in October, and everyone wants to know how it will make good on that investment. After months of testing, Pinterest plans to formally launch its “Promoted Pins” ads this quarter,according to the Wall Street Journal. These ads look like organic posts from users, but brands pay to make them appear in search results and category pages related to specific topics.AdAge says Pinterest is looking to charge a pricey $30 to $40 per thousand impressions (CPM), and has been asking for $1 million to $2 million commitments from advertisers.
In my opinion, this kind of keyword-based advertising could be a very lucrative for Pinterest, because its visitors often come with a great deal of purchase intent. Promoted Pins won’t be scattershot demand generation, which has historically been Facebook’s wheelhouse. Instead, these will be demand-fulfillment ads, similar to Google’s bread and butter of search keyword ads.
And they could rake in cash for Pinterest by helping people make big purchase decisions. Dream vacations, ideal homes, children’s nurseries — there are the expensive things people pin. People know they want to vacation on St. John, buy a crib, or rent a lake house, but don’t know exactly where to spend their money. A beautified Pinterest ad could make the difference between which resort you visit, what home you lease, or where you shop for all your baby gear. With big cart sizes, e-commerce advertisers could quickly earn a return on their investment. eMarketer now gauges Pinterest at 40 million monthly users in the U.S., an audience big enough to drive serious ad revenue.
We’ll be there at Pinterest headquarters for the event on April 24 at 6pm PDT, and you can expect live updates from TechCrunch. Until now, Pinterest has acted almost like a clearinghouse for subscribing to magazines about your specific interests. But soon, it could employ big data so rather than having to subscribe to what you like, that content (and related ads) will come find you.
The invention of the tablet PC has created a new medium for book publishing. Interactive books are everywhere, and have revolutionized the way people consume the printed word. With the recent software available to allow easy creation of interactive books and with the race to bring these products to market, there seems to be a more and more dilution of quality and a loss for the meaning of interactivity. When publishers create new eBook titles or convert a traditional printed book to a digital interactive eBook, they often miss the added value this new medium can provide.
It’s important to understand the distinction between apps and eBooks, as it's something that often confuses both publishers and consumers. It basically comes down to formats; apps are mostly native iOS orAndroidsoftware, whereas eBooks are documents of a particular format, such as the open standards EPUB and Mobipocket (.mobi). And eBooks can be further distinguished from “enhanced eBooks,” which use formats such as ePUB3 for iBooks (Apple) and Kindle Format 8 (KF8) for Kindle Fire (Amazon).
eBooks were the first to appear on devices such as the Kindle, and have very limited interactivity. You are mainly able to flip the pages, search for content, or highlight words to see a dictionary definition. These devices also allowed font size to be increased to enable visually impaired readers enjoy books more easily. This gave publishers the unforeseen benefit of regaining a large population of users who couldn’t read printed books.
Enhanced eBooks (ePUB3) are a new digital publication standard that allows easy integration of video, audio, and interactivity. I expect this format to advance the future of textbooks and other educational material. Future textbooks might be able to "read themselves" with audio narration, perhaps preventing students from actually reading. But the benefits outweigh the downsides; for example, the new text books might also offer the ability to make and share annotations without destroying the book, interactive self-tests throughout the chapters, and generally a much more enjoyable learning experience.
Apple has recently released iBooks Author, a free eBook creation software that lets anyone with a Mac to create iBooks textbooks, cookbooks, history books, picture books, etc. iBooks Author generates a proprietary format for books that will only be available for sale on Apple devices. Adobe has also made available a Digital Publishing Suite via InDesign for the iPad, Android, and Blackberry platforms. Mag+ and Moglue are two other independent publishing platforms that are worth mentioning.
Interactive eBooks is a category for apps designed specifically to utilize the powers of tablets to enable users to interact with the storyline in sight, sound, and touch. I like to think of interactive eBooks as an evolution of the printed book with added interactivity in order to create an experience beyond the printed format. Examples of interactive eBooks include pop-up book apps for kids, interactive travel guides that utilize the device GPS capabilities, cookbooks with built-in timers and video recipes, or any traditional book that now uses the tablet to enhance the experience with interactivity.
Grimm's Rapunzel ~ 3D Interactive Pop-up Book
On a touch device, interactivity is the ability to engage with the user interface, including the ways you move your fingers on the screen, the way you to select an app, or how you browse the Web. Interactive eBooks are, by definition, an enhanced book-like experience that have a different core premise than other types of apps (with the exception of games perhaps). Whereas in most applications, interactivity focuses on menu navigation and interaction with the user interface as means to achieve a goal (view an image, find an address, read an email), interactive eBooks provide interaction with the content and storyline, and therefore offer a unique experience each time. A good example of is Richard Dawkins’ The Magic of Reality, where you interact with the storyline through interactive demonstrations and games that allow you to get hands-on with the science discussed in the book by, for example, letting you simulate the effects of heat, pressure, and gravity on different states of matter.
The experience of interactive eBooks should not be confined to animations based on touch-and-response interaction, or merely flipping the page; when designing these Books one must ask what is the enhancedexperience—why to move from print to digital, and how to create value and fun.
Interactivity for the Sake of Interactivity
If a book app does not use interactivity in order to enhance the reading experience, it does not belong in the interactive eBook category. In the race to bring interactive books to market, some of the books have only featured very superficial interactivity—what I call “interactivity for the sake of interactivity”—where, for example, touching an image activates a simple animation such as making a butterfly fly, or a tree drop leaves to the ground. These interactive experiences do not add value to the story, and are therefore somewhat meaningless.
There are a few exceptions where this type of interactivity is actually a success. For example. one of the first books published as an interactive app for the iPad was Alice in Wonderland. This book was a phenomenal success though offered nothing but eye-candy interactivity. When the app was first published, the reviews called it "a reinvention of reading” that made clever use of the accelerometer to make Alice grow as big as a house or to throw tarts at the Queen of Hearts and watch them bounce. Although these activities through the 52 pages of the book are fun, I think they distract from the actual story. The reason this book was such a success is due its having been published when the iPad was fairly new, and touch interactivity was still an exciting experience.
Another book that was fairly successful at the time was The Pedlar Lady of Gushing Cross, which offers narrated animation with very basic interactivity, but was considered revolutionary when it came out because reading the story while seeing the animation unfold was definitely an enhanced experience to the young reader. However, this book did not offer any real value through interactivity, and might as well be classified as a short animated movie. The limited interactivity of seeing letters animate while you tilt the device was merely a gimmick, as you can see in the video below
Cozmo's Day Off is an interactive eBook that was on the top-seller list for many months, and is packed with interactive elements that made it a great success. It contains over 100 unique audio and animated interactions. However, this app would be better characterized as a game for young kids and not as an interactive storybook because the story seems secondary to all the bells and whistles, and it’s written in style not intended for young audiences. But perhaps this is a case where interaction simply for the sake of interaction can be the whole point of a book.
The image below shows all of the hotspots that trigger an animation sequence for one page of the book:
Interaction for Value
It is possible for interactivity to go beyond the superficial, to add value to the book and create an experience that would be impossible in print. Here are a few examples of such cases.
Al Gore's Our Choice is a great example of how meaningful interactivity creates an engaging and fun learning experience. With clever use of interactive infographics, animations, documentary videos, and images, this book is a great example of what the future has in store for digital publishing.
The Martha Stewart Cookies iPad app is a wonderful example of an interactive recipe book. Besides just offering great recipes, it also allows you to search recipes based on ingredients and cookie type to find the perfect cookie for your needs. For example, you might use the app’s search wheel (below) to look for bars and biscotti-type cookies with oatmeal as the main flavor component. This is a great added value because this type of interaction is unmatched in print.
Paris: DK Eyewitness is probably the most complete travel guide you can find for the iPad. It features beautiful cutaways of buildings that can be explored by tapping and zooming, complete offline maps for all the central districts of the city, interactive city and park walks with “hotspots,” and extensive listings of the best sights relative to your current location. No more searching aimlessly for your location on a map or looking through index pages; the interactive app shows what's around you within walking distance, making the iPad a must-carry on in your travel bag for an experience unparalleled in a traditional travel guides.
Bobo Explores Light is an educational experience for young adults. It puts a fully functional science museum in the palm of your hand, teaching you about lasers, telescopes, lightning, reflection, bioluminescence, and sunlight. This is great example of using simple interactivity to explain relatively complex topics through science experiments that you can actually perform on your iPad. Bobo, a friendly robot, serves as a guide, taking the young reader through space, land, and sea, to learn all about the science of light.
In my book, Timor the Alligator, kids participate in the story by picking toothpaste and helping Timor brush his teeth. This story could not have been told in a printed book because, without the use of interactivity, young kids would not be able to visually understand that brushing actually helps keep a clean mouth. The simple process of choosing a toothbrush, adding toothpaste, and brushing Timor’s teeth until they turn white serves as an educational experience for preschoolers and toddlers reading the book.
With the Numberlys app, kids (and adults) learn about the alphabet through a series of fun interactive games. This book probably has the most spectacular visuals I’ve seen to date. Its aesthetic is inspired by Fritz Lang’s silent film, Metropolis, so the app offers a unique cinematic experience and gameplay to engage users to learn about the (fictitious) "origin of the alphabet."
As you can see from these examples, interactive eBooks are no longer just about a touch-to-animate type of interactivity, nor simply the touch interface controls. Rather, they are about adding value through interactivity by using the full capabilities of a touch device to engage the user and enhance the learning and reading experience. These engaging experiences are what I call a true reinvention of reading.
Android and iOS users in the US spend an average of 2 hours and 42 minutes every day using apps on smartphones and tablets (up just four minutes compared to last year). Of that, 86 percent (or 2 hours and 19 minutes) is spent inside apps, while the remaining 14 percent (or 22 minutes, down 6 percentage points compared to last year) is spent on the mobile Web using a browser.
These latest figures come from mobile firm Flurry, which provides analytics and ad tools that developers integrate into their apps. The company collected data between January 2014 and March 2014 and concluded that “apps, which were considered a mere fad a few years ago, are completely dominating mobile” while the browser “has become a single application swimming in a sea of apps.”
Here are the results in graph form:
Just like last year, games took first place with 32 percent of time spent. Social and messaging applications increased their share from 24 percent to 28 percent, entertainment and utility applications maintained their positions at 8 percent each, while productivity apps saw their share double from 2 percent to 4 percent.
It’s worth underlining that Facebook’s share dipped a bit from 18 percent to 17 percent. Nevertheless, Facebook still has the lion’s share of time spent in the US, and was able to maintain its position with the help of Instagram. Flurry argues that position will become even more cemented, if not increased, once the acquisition of WhatsApp closes.
This year, Flurry broke out YouTube separately, which shows us it owns a whopping 50 percent of the entertainment category. We’ll be watching closely to see if it manages to grow its 4 percent share of time spent.
“It is still too early to predict the trajectory apps will take in 2014,” Flurry admits. “But one thing is clear – apps have won and the mobile browser is taking a back seat.” Unless this trend reverses, we can expect many more acquisitions from tech companies the size of Facebook and Google.
A cloud company known for products that enable mobile workstyles, Citrix has a Customer Experience organization lead by Senior Vice President Catherine Courage. Her team is focused on empowering all divisions of the company, from executives to individual contributors, to make innovation and customer experience central to their thinking. Judges were inpressed by a robust program that spreads design thinking throughout a large organization using a multi-layered organizational approach, and felt like the documentation provided with the application could be useful to the experience design community.
“When people hear that Adobe is getting into hardware, for many the first reaction is ‘why?’,” explained Michael Gough, Adobe’s vice president of experience design, at the South by Southwest conference in Austin, Texas. “But, this really is within our wheelhouse. We’ve always built creative tools and these products are really just another example of that. This isn’t just another stylus.”
Adobe’s pen currently wears the codename Mighty, while the ruler is going by the name Napoleon—because “it’s a short ruler,” Gough said.
The two products, which Gough demoed at SXSW, as you can see in the video above, are built with clean lines and shod in aluminum and white plastic. They look not mistakenly like something Apple would design.
The two devices work in tandem with an iPad drawing app that Adobe is also developing, one that enables the hardware to mimic an architects ruler and wide array of drafting templates—the greenish, flat pieces of plastic you’ve seen if you’ve been down the art aisle in any office supply store.
With a click of the lone button on the ruler, circles, squares, triangles, arcs and other shapes found in drafting templates appear onscreen for the pen to trace—just as architects, designers and engineers have done repeatedly for decades with a paper and pencil in the analog world. The ruler and pen, which features a pressure sensitive tip, also make drawing a straight line easy—something that can be difficult with a tablet stylus.
And while Mighty and Napoleon are built with the needs of architects and designers in mind, Gough said that Adobe’s first hardware wouldn’t have a steep learning curve—something Adobe software is known for.
“This is an opportunity for Adobe to make creativity accessible to everyone, because anyone who can use a pen and a ruler will be able to use this as soon as they pick it up,” he said. “That’s a sweeping, beautiful mission, but it’s also good business sense. We want everyone to be a potential Adobe customer—not just creative professionals.”
The consumer retail experience is being disrupted thanks to the growth of technology and social media. These have changed the way consumers look for product information, find reviews, and shop for their clothes, gadgets, amenities, and food, all from their phone, tablet, or laptop.
It is the omnichannel era, and the consumer is driving changes across the entire retail industry. Join retail leaders at Omnichannel 2014 to learn how to better connect with the new consumer from the retailers and suppliers who are successfully doing it today.
We can point to three distinctive disruptions that are all having a major impact on how retailers and suppliers can and should connect with their customers.
1. Shoppers expect the same experience with your brand
When shoppers walk into The Gap or Best Buy, they want to see the same brand, look, and colors on Gap.com and BestBuy.com as well as on mobile sites or apps. Consumers expect a more detailed level of product information on the website than they find in the store.
This means retailers and consumers need to focus on providing as much product information as possible. They need to make content marketing efforts more about being helpful than touting specs and features. And they need to make sure they’re listening to customer feedback and testimonials and responding whenever possible.
2. Social media makes sharing of experiences easy
Thanks to smartphones and social media, everyone’s a critic, journalist, and publisher. If you go into a restaurant and have a good or bad experience with the staff or food, you can take a photo and share it and a review with your friends on Twitter and Facebook.
Nowadays, people are sharing their experiences, good or bad, about restaurants, stores, products, websites, and even government agencies and highway traffic. Many of their friends will then help spread the word by sharing those messages. So if something bad happens at your store or with your product, you’d better count on it appearing on social media.
The moral is: Customer service and quality need to be top-notch. That may only earn you a few kudos on social media, but a failure to provide those will absolutely be called out and magnified.
3. Shoppers can use mobile devices to check availability and pricing
Apps like Barcode Scanner, RedLaser, and Shop Savvy enable people to use their smartphone to scan a product barcodes, QR codes, or other systems to check the price and local availability of a particular product. Bookstore visitors can even use Amazon’s smartphone app to scan a book and order it via the website (with free shipping for those with Amazon Prime). This practice is known as “showrooming,” and some stores are embracing it while others fear it.
Some stores are using proprietary barcodes that standard devices can’t scan. As a result, many retailers are missing out on further opportunities to use this functionality as a way to improve shoppers’ experience, to give them something they can’t get at their competitors.
Stores like Burberry and Sephora are providing upscale and personalized shopping experiences. Lowe’s holds educational sessions both for adults and kids. They’re providing a valuable service or experience the other stores can’t. As a result, they don’t worry about showrooming.
New technology has changed shoppers’ expectations for the things they buy. Retailers who want to survive these disruptions need to embrace and use this new technology, rather than run from it and wait for it to go away. It’s not going anywhere, and it’s only going to get bigger.
Apple's in-car infotainment system has been a long time coming. After it was announced at the company's annual WWDC conference in June last year, "iOS in the Car" flew under the radar, only to undergo a rebrand and launch publicly yesterday under a new moniker: CarPlay. Sharing part of its name with the company's AirPlay media-streaming protocol, CarPlay combines all of the iPhone's most important features and mirrors them inside the car, allowing car owners to call, text, navigate and listen to music (and more) using touch- or Siri-based voice inputs. The new in-car interface is compatible with new Ferrari, Mercedes and Volvo models unveiled at the Geneva Auto Show, and it's there that we got the chance to test Apple's automotive assistant inside a suitably equipped Ferrari FF coupe.
Will CarPlay force you to buy an iPhone to go with your car (or vice versa)? Not really -- the Ferrari we tried actually deployed Apple's dash system alongside its own, while Mercedes-Benz and Volvo (two of Apple's other partners) have said they'll continue todevelop Android and MirrorLink solutions for their new models. Compatible with the iPhone 5 and up, CarPlay is "loaded" into the Ferrari's built-in navigation system by way of a Lightning adapter located underneath the armrest. Wireless connections are coming, at least from Volvo, but our test was limited to traditional cables. Once it's connected, Ferrari will continue to utilize its own infotainment system, but users can load CarPlay by hitting a dedicated dashboard button, allowing all touch and voice inputs to be diverted to your iPhone. This loads the CarPlay dashboard, which features a familiar array of icons and services you'll recognize from your iPhone. From here, it's a case of using the touchscreen or calling upon Siri to load each of the services -- the latter of which can be summoned with the Siri Eyes Free button located on the reverse of the steering wheel.
The first thing we noticed is how speedy everything is. Apps load quickly, and Siri's contextual algorithms hastily recognized our voice commands and responded appropriately. Apple has also implemented safety features to ensure services do not draw your attention away from the road and push forward its "hands-free" theme. For example, when we sent or received a message from a contact, Siri would only read the message back to us and we never once got the chance to see its contents. An Apple representative was able to talk us through each CarPlay feature, so do make sure you check out our in-depth hands-on video above to get a better idea of what Apple and its car maker buddies are aiming for.
Why can't great smartwatches look like normal watches? Smartwatches, for the most part, can be divided into two categories: vague approximations of the future like the Pebble, Gear, and Gear Fit, or conventionally styled watches from companies like Citizen and Cookoo that offer far less functionality. While it's true the Pebble Steel is making inroads in the aesthetic department, its blocky construction and oversized buttons aren't likely to appeal to the masses.
Gábor Balogh is a freelance designer from Hungary who, like many of us, wants an attractive, watch-like watch that just happens to be smart. The difference between Balogh and the rest of us is he went ahead and designed an interface he believes could enable regular watch designs to include a full bevy of smart features.
After posting his concept for a smartwatch on Behance, Balogh took some time to talk through his interface ideas withThe Verge. The actual watch pictured in the mockups is almost incidental, as the concept simply takes the Swedish watchmaker Triwa's Havana timepiece (with the company's permission) and replaces its face with a circular display. This proposal is about interface paradigms, not product design. "In this concept the UI does not have a predefined style," says Balogh, "but it would match the housing. Only the navigational patterns have to be taken into consideration."
Although the interface itself will be down to watch and phone companies to decide, Balogh offers up some simple but polished ideas that go very well with Triwa's design. Pairing your smartphone to its watch will make the appropriate app icons appear on the display, with notifications, maps, and music information streamed from the device itself. When you don't want it to be a smartwatch, it mostly looks and behaves like a regular watch.
"I LIKE PRODUCTS WITH DISCREET TECHNOLOGY."
"I like products with discreet technology," explains Balogh, "when they serve me, my real needs, and make my life easier rather than simply changing my days." He calls out the Nest thermostat and Apple's Airport Express as prime examples of technology being applied discretely without obscuring functionality. "They're just ticking away in the background, making your life easier."
In an attempt to avoid obfuscation, Balogh's concept doesn't utilize a touchscreen or voice control. Instead, the interface uses the buttons and bezel found on most watches. The bezel is key to this interface. It can rotate to, for example, scroll through a long message or switch functions in an app, or be clicked to make a selection. The rotation element doesn't necessarily need to be physical — Balogh says he could imagine a more classical watch going with a physical dial, or a sporty design opting for an iPod-esque click wheel.
Using the bezel for controlling apps and other smartphone-related tasks frees up the three side-mounted buttons to control "native" functions like time, date, and alarms, as well as switching between modes. This clear separation of native and app functions should make the interface easily accessible to users familiar with how a regular watch works, while the lack of a touchscreen will stop the display from picking up smudges and grime from your fingers, and also stop your fingers from obscuring the display. "The size of the watch is a very limiting factor, so we don't have to make it very smart. I see the watch as a piece of jewelry, and wanted to add an interface that would be familiar on a classic watch."
Of course, Balogh is a designer, not an engineer, and there are technological issues that will need to be overcome before we can hope to wear something like his concept on our wrists. Circular screens, although not impossible, are a rarity, and squeezing a battery and the necessary circuitry into the tiny space that usually contains mechanical watchworks would be difficult. That said, the guts of a Pebble are actually fairly small, and larger watches may be able to contain them.
As a busy freelance designer, it's unlikely Balogh will be able to muster the time or funds to assemble a team and make his concept a reality. But as technology advances it's easy to see a future where tech giants like Samsung rein in their "futuristic" designs and attempt to take on the Breitlings and Tag Hauers of the world with something like Balogh's idea.
Apple’s CarPlay is close to being available in the wild via partnerships with a handful of car manufacturers, and Volvo is already showing off what that will look like in practice. The car maker just posted a video to their YouTube account that provides a glimpse at how the system works.
CarPlay will work with a variety of different kinds of infotainment systems, including those with touchscreens, as displayed in the video, and those that use physical controls. Volvo’s integration also allows them to control features and services using steering wheel-mounted controls, and the first vehicle to sport the interface will be the XC90 SCUV, which is coming to market later this year.
Volvo offers up some interesting technical tidbits about how CarPlay works, too. The connection works via H.264 video streaming, that then gathers touch input from the console screen and relays it back to the connected device. The name ‘CarPlay’ is evocative of Apple’s AirPlay, and it sounds like the tech is similar in some ways between the two.
One final detail shared by Volvo in its press release: while currently CarPlay requires a physical Lightning cable connection, Volvo says Wi-Fi connectivity is coming in the “near future.” That could potentially open up access to devices like the iPhone 4S, which is still on sale but which uses a 30-pin connector, but Apple’s CarPlay site clearly states iPhone 5 and newer required for use, so it’s more likely this will just provide another connectivity option for owners of those devices.