Has the Role of the Google Glass Designer Reverted Towards an Art Director and Copywriter?

Will the lack of standard options throw the digital designer?

Will the lack of standard options throw the digital designer?

I recently ran a Google Glass hack day where ~40 developers and designers were tasked with pioneering new creative uses for Google Glass. One of my favourite parts of the day was when I briefly caught up with the head of design and I asked how his team was doing. He said to me that his input as a designer using the mirror API was limited and often his design choices were reduced to choosing an image, a few words, maybe an icon or two, and the use of colour to get his key message across. This made me question: is the role of the Glass designer more similar to a traditional art director and copywriter than it is to a digital designer?

Google Glass currently only let’s you design content through the Mirror API where only cards of images, copy, icons, and colours are permitted. As Glass places content directly into your field of vision, choosing the right content is essential to stay relevant and therefore installed. This means the choice of image, copy, and iconography is more important than ever before and a designers role is now more to choose the perfect image, write (or work with someone to write) the perfect short form copy, and use iconography and colour in significant, meaningful ways on the tiny real estate.

Designing for the Glass Mirror API calls for considered, concise design choices. Whilst designing for a smartphone app could be compared to writing a blog post, with room for flourish and explanation, designing for Glass is like composing the perfect tweet, say only what is relevant with minimal media attached to get your point across in a couple of seconds.

Google Glass: The Next Era of Personal Computing

Recently I wrote up some initial impressions on using Google Glass, but Glass represents something so new that my impressions form and change every day. It has been very difficult for me to neatly arrange my thoughts for this post as I feel Glass represents so much and is, arguably, a culmination of Google’s finest work yet.

It has been widely discussed that Glass isn’t yet a final product and will evolve into something more sophisticated and powerful. The more I discuss this idea with the Somo innovation team and friends around the industry the more I realise how exciting and powerful Glass will be, so I wanted to take a stab at why I think Glass has such massive potential, and look at the impact it will have on our lives.

Google are changing the way we interact with computers

Glass represents some of Google’s finest work in one product; it follows a few recent significant strategic moves by the tech giant.

In 2012 Google changed the way it indexed information; the Knowledge Graph was created to understand the relationship and connection between objects, moving away from just searching for strings of characters. This helped Google to “understand the world in the way [we] do”. Cool.

2013, Google announces Conversational Search, utilising the Knowledge Graph to the fullest. Forget the fact that Google’s speech detection is as good, if not better than Siri, using the Knowledge Graph now allows Google to ‘hear’ questions you are asking it and respond in a human way. Ask Chrome ‘how old is Obama?’ and it knows you are very likely asking ‘how old is Barrack Obama?’. Then ask ‘how old is his wife?’ and it knows that you are really asking ‘how old is Michelle Obama?’. Subtle difference, massive implications.

Again, 2013 and Google launches Google Now, their predictive assistant that learns from your behaviour across the web and serves you content that you want, when you want it. On Android this is amazing. Stick with it…

Later in 2013 and Glass is soft-launched. Glass has a, largely, hands-free UI that enables the user to talk to it, and it talks back – a big step towards Natural User Interfaces (NUIs). Super.

Right. Now Glass does not perfectly implement all of the above at the moment but Google have now released a device and technology that learns from you, serves you relevant content at the right time in a couple of unobtrusive ways, it will talk to you, you can talk back, it will understand you. Game. Done. Changed.

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Wearable tech needs to be fashionable

Say what you want about Glass v1; some think it’s cool already, others do not. For wearable tech to be mainstream it needs to be cooler. It needs to be in the arm of some Tom Ford specs, not look like a Bluetooth headset on crack. No doubt Glass will be refined when released to consumers, but I believe that we will see ‘now with Glass technology!’ claims on Tom Ford, Burberry, Oakley etc. glasses. It will become integrated into fashionable goods. A brilliant article on why wearable tech needs fashion to thrive should be read for a detailed explanation. Continue reading

What mobile means to the Xbox One

I recently contributed to a piece on the Somo blog looking at the Xbox One announcement and what it means for advertisers and users. A little rushed, both in my thinking and the urgency of posting the piece, I think my opinion comes off a little harsh. After a little time to reflect on both my opinions and those of my co-writer Naji El-Arifi, I felt like I should add comment to my initial reaction.

The Xbox One, controller, and Kinect

On my initial opinion:

First off, let me set the record straight – I’m a huge Xbox fan. My gamerscore is over 20,000 (in your face Naji). I used to work for both EA and Codemasters so I have a keen interest in the next generation of entertainment hardware. I was counting down the days to May 21st but am left just a little unfulfilled. Here’s why…

WHERE’S MY SMARTGLASS?

SmartGlass is a brilliant, yet underused feature that allows you to control your Xbox with any tablet or smartphone. SmartGlass also displays supplementary content to the big screen, giving a really great in-built second-screen experience. This integration of mobile to console opens up the opportunities for mobile interactions in the connected living room. I really want to see where Microsoft have taken this as I believe it will be an emerging space to deliver mobile experiences on. Currently non-gaming activity accounts for around 40% of time spent with an Xbox, as we use an Xbox for TV and films, there is an opportunity here for brands to deliver supplementary content and engagement

 

I’m sure we will hear more about what Xbox are doing with SmartGlass at E3 as it was only mentioned once at the announcement event. The reason I was disappointed we didn’t hear more about SmartGlass is because I think it is the perfect second-screen experience just waiting to be used. If I was Zeebox or Monterosa or similar I would be worried. Even Shazam for TV should be worried as this can potentially do the same job. I can see SmartGlass becoming the most used input method to the Xbox One, more than the Kinect, as people start to watch TV, movies, and internet content through their Xbox. What do have PlayStation have to compete…?

The original SmartGlass hasn’t really changed since it was launched. What does the Xbox One have in store for it?

IS IT ALWAYS-ON?

Whilst the ‘always-on’ rumours are still a bit murky, being strongly encouraged to be connected to the internet means the home screen of the Xbox One will be a prime position for advertising. I remember the long-gone blades UI with no advertising (except for my Discovery Channel sponsored Gears of War theme). Nowadays the Xbox home screen is choc-a-bloc with branded advertising, and we can expect even more advertising, branded apps and sponsored content to come.

The now-infamous tweet from Microsoft CD that sparked the ‘always-on’ backlash

This one is relatively straight-forward. Internet connection required = advertising. Combine this with Kinect recognising your face and you have some really tailored advertising and content recommendations.

MOBILE XBOX

At the moment there isn’t much news at all on the mobile Xbox platform except for an early discussion about how Ubisoft game ‘Watchdogs’ will enable mobile gamers to interact with friends’ games in real-time. For some reason no one is talking about this and what this means for Xbox on mobile!

I expect to see Xbox games made available across mobile platforms, and I expect to see apps that interact with Xbox content in a meaningful way. I would like to hear about how games like Plants Vs Zombies can work across mobile and console, bringing the Xbox Live gaming platform to a much wider mobile audience.

This one’s a lot bigger than I can go into now… however, in short, Xbox Live is awesome and bringing it to mobile would be a huge win for Microsoft. The Watchdogs reference above I highly recommend reading as it talks of mobile gamers influencing friends’ Xbox gaming sessions in real time. This will be huge when released and I can see this an essential part of every AAA game – having a companion mobile app that keeps you playing on mobile when you are away from your Xbox. Eventually I see this moving to social platforms also.

On Naji’s opinion:

XBOX ONE THE ONE PLACE FOR YOUR MEDIA NEEDS

Microsoft have played up this angle for the Xbox One, it aims to be the entertainment hub of the living room. Hopefully you will be able to have all channels going through the Xbox and integrate Netflix. The perfect solution for me would be if I could search for a program on my Xbox One and it would rifle through Netflix, Sky and Lovefilm for me, I don’t care which service I watch a program or film on I just want to be able to watch it.

This is interesting when we add mobile into the mix (#SmartGlass). It’s obvious that Xbox want the living room, but what happens if you replicate the Xbox home screen on the mobile? Could you watch your content through the Xbox app on your phone? Do you organise your watch lists cross Netflix, Love Film, and iPlayer on the Xbox app?

KINECT, WE CAN SEE YOU BETTER THAN YOU THINK

The most impressive piece of technology announced was the new Kinect sensor which pulls in 2Gbs of data and so gets a very accurate reading of your environment. It can actually see up to six people and even the orientation of your extremities.

The hardware has also been upgraded and it now films in 1080p which is far superior to the previous Kinnect.

These improvements mean it is now technically possible to track a user’s facial expression, so you could see someone’s reaction to a particular advert or program – provided Microsoft allowed you to pull that data. Users’ heartbeats can also be captured by the Kinnect which could be used to great effect in games.

Overall, I think these improvements are all good, but I’m not tempted to pre-order. I’m hoping they will announce more than just exclusive game titles at the E3 event in a couple of weeks. There has to be more to come.

My first thought on this was a sarcastic ‘wow, HD Kinect. Now my Xbox can track 200 points of my body fumbling another kick in Kinect Sports’, however, I like Naji’s point that it can now track emotional responses to content. Whilst this doesn’t relate directly to mobile it’s interesting as this idea has been around for a while for smartphone front-facing cameras. It will be interesting to see how this idea is implemented successfully and how these learnings get translated to mobile.

In hindsight it seems so obvious – the Xbox One announcement was just the basic ‘hello, we’re here’ from Microsoft giving the basic overview of what they are offering for the next generation of home entertainment. Over the next 5 months we will get the full low-down of each and ever feature detailed and discussed to gain maximum buzz and coverage followed by 12 – 18 months of developers finding their feet and really innovating with the Xbox One’s multimedia and mobile integration capabilities.

I’d love to hear what you may think about the Xbox One announcement, and especially how you think mobile impacts the console in the comments below.

What does the mobile future look like? A look back at a 2010 UK government prediction

Tim Dunn has just posted an interesting look back at the mobile future piece he wrote for the UK government in 2010. At 30,000 words the original piece is a bit of a slog to get through but is actually a great way to get to know lots about mobile in a short time, even if some isn’t super current. 

What I like about Tim’s post is the summary of what is not covered in the 2010 piece that would likely make it into a ‘mobile futures’ piece if written today. When discussing potential topics for inclusion, Tim writes:

I welcome your ideas below the line, but as a starter for 10, perhaps we would be looking at:

 

  • Natural interfaces – the growth of new intuitive ways to control the device, such as eye-scrolling and gesture recognition
  • Socio-economic dimorphism of mobile adoption and behavior based on geography and class. Will we see 4G simply extend and deepen the rural ‘not-spots’ we already see in broadband coverage? And will open OS smartphones truly enable digital participation regardless of earnings?
  • ID – I really don’t think we’ve scratched the surface of this. Smartphones should be able to carry secure and inviolable credentials such as passports and driving licences, but I don’t see much work in the field. Also, we should surely be able to scan or verify ID without the need for peripherals such as Square? Surely mobile will be able to deliver the vision of people like Dick Hardt as shown in this bravura performance from 2006
  • Enterprise – at Roundarch Isobar we do huge amounts of work in the Enterprise space that would be mind-boggling to my European colleagues. But I still think there’s a long way to go in B2B and B2E, specifically with BYOD in mind. Microsoft guys such as Matt Ballantine are providing leading thinking in this space
  • Location – this might seem like an old chestnut now, but the fact that mobile is, well, mobile, has not been mined to anything like its full potential. The capabilities have been very much held back by lack of physical infrastructure and lack of standardization, but payment and vouchering should now be on the up as business gears up to match consumer behavior in the converged world.
  • Connected Devices – with the smartphone packing the same processing power that a mainframe could deliver not so long ago, your phone is likely to be the center of your own local cloud services before long with anything from your watch to your soccer team to (whisper it) your fridge hanging off it for processing power and network functions

Whilst all points are key, and would pull out enterprise and location as key. Not necessarily for the obvious reasons. Whilst I believe topics such as the internet of things / connected devices is far more exciting, and will have massive impact on how we use physical and digital products together, I can see first hand the changes that mobile devices are having in the enterprise world right now. Businesses are embracing BYOD and modern smartphones – the iPhone is the most used enterprise device in the US – this has already opened up the possibilities of what can be delivered on business devices, where does this go in a couple of years?

Location is interesting because of how this impacts on content and UX. Whilst people argue about whether a mobile web site should include full site content or not, what is interesting to start to think about is how whatever content included reacts to the environment in which it is used. How does a mobile site accessed on a 3G connection, near a car showroom, directed to by specific Google search terms react when combined with the same user’s previous desktop behaviour on the same site? How does a supermarket mobile site react when it picks up chemical signals from a banana using sensors such as the Node?

Head on over to Tim’s blog to read the full article and get a load of useful links.

 

 

Microsoft extends the gaming user experience off screen with Xbox IllumiRoom

via Edge

Microsoft have just released a video at CES for their proof-of-concept IllumiRooom, which uses the Kinect and a rear projector to improve the user’s gaming experience by lighting up the area around the TV screen and displaying contextually relevant content.  As you can see in the video below, the content projected can be subtle, complimenting the on-screen experience, see the falling snow at 0:48, or more full-on and intrusive by extending the on-screen area of a game, such as the Halo example at 0:27.

At first this looks like a more sophisticated version of Philip’s Ambilight concept (from 10 years ago!), something that obviously never caught on, but what caught my eye with this is the recognition from Microsoft that user experience is much wider than what can be displayed on-screen. Extending content onto the area around the TV screen adds atmosphere, focus, and makes for a more immersive gaming experience. I have half-watched films whilst playing on my phone, browsing the internet on my laptop, or tidying the room, all having a detrimental effect on my view of that piece of content because I was not focussed on the content that a studio had carefully crafted. I love the fact that this IllumiRoom product helps you to focus tightly on the content you are consuming.

It’s worth remembering that what consumers experience when interacting with your product or content is only partially what is displayed on-screen.

Read more about the IllumiRoom here.

Why Google’s Nexus 4 Photo Sphere will transform Google street view

Like every other phone nerd I am pawing over the new Nexus 4 from Google. Not only does it come in staggeringly cheap at £279 for the 16GB version from the Play Store, it’s packed full of great hardware and software features, thanks to Android 4.2. The feature that has caught my eye the most has been the new Photo Sphere function.

Google’s Photo Sphere

Although the Photo Sphere is essentially the same sort of thing as Microsoft’s Photosynth, and not largely disimilar to Apple’s own panorama feature in iOS 6, Photo Sphere immediately reminded me of the type of view available in street view. This led me to then wonder if Google would look at a way to integrate these ‘spheres’ into street view. Of course, Google are two steps ahead and already have a Google maps street view contribution page where you can upload your own, or view all of the community uploaded Spheres.

An example of a Photo Sphere

So with the Nexus 4’s Photo Sphere function, GPS, and automatic image uploading, it is surely a matter of time before we get good market saturation of Spheres and a great alternate view of street view. Excellent stuff Google, yet again. It is this sort of innovation that strongly entices me back to the Android world…

How to upload a Photo Sphere to Google Maps. via Cnet. 

Mobile & TV Interactions Through Xbox SmartGlass App

Xbox SmartGlass has been around for a little bit now, but I only just got my hands on it after finally getting around to fixing my broken Xbox 360 thanks to Halo 4. I personally think it’s one of the best mobile innovations of 2012 and a great product all round – especially for a first release! In case you haven’t seen what SmartGlass is capable of, this video is a nice walkthrough.

Answer “What could Xbox SmartGlass be used for?” on Quora. What else could this technology be used to do?

Download the free Xbox SmartGlass app for iOS and Android now.