The ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems is the premier international conference of Human-Computer Interaction. A team from our Toronto office recently held a Lunch & Learn to share what they learned over four very full days of talks, courses and demos, covering everything from best practices in research to robotics.
Over the past few years, marketing video after marketing video has touted the benefits of digital personal assistants, describing with great enthusiasm how they are going to simplify our lives and transform how we interact with the world. In reality, Siri, Cortana, and all of the other digital personal assistants aren’t nearly as helpful as they’re purported to be, although Siri is pretty reliable for a laugh or two.
JIBO, the world’s first family robot and current Indiegogo superstar, is poised to change all that. Invented by robotics pioneer Dr. Cynthia Breazeal, JIBO is friendly, helpful and intelligent. Much like a human assistant, JIBO can see, hear, speak and learn. What makes JIBO different from its digital predecessors is that it can not only help you, but also relate to you. JIBO can recognize members of your household and relay messages accordingly; JIBO can also snap a family photo, conduct video conversations and read stories to your kids.
Will you be adding JIBO to your family?
As digital trends go, wearable, connected objects and the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) appear to be reaching maximum volume 11 on the hype scale these days. The promise of a world where everything is somehow tethered to the Internet—thus controllable via any and all connected devices—has a certain Utopian appeal, for sure, but the reality is somewhat more mixed. While some reports indicate a steady and rapid rise in IoT technologies over the next decade or so, that unabashed enthusiasm increasingly has been tempered by more skeptical points of view.
An oft-cited report from Gartner that indicated the growth of IoT objects to 26 billion units by 2020 certainly added interest to the conversation, but skeptics would claim that some other positive stats are merely adding to the hype machine for more self-serving purposes, since hardware, software, and infrastructure providers have the most to gain (or to lose) in our all-things-connected future.
The truth about the future of IoT may lie somewhere in the middle, where connected objects are gaining traction, but primarily in specialized sectors such as healthcare and sports. In the healthcare arena, the application of smart technologies that utilize Internet connectivity seems to have already yielded advancements, improving quality of care and the ability to more effectively monitor everything from insulin levels to diaper usage.
But in no other consumer category has IoT technologies taken as strong a hold on public imagination and interest than in sports, particularly in personal fitness. Indeed, in a category that is already inherently preoccupied with stats and data, sports and fitness activities are ripe for the kind of monitoring and statistical information gathering and sharing that connected objects can provide. Consumer wearable devices ranging from from Fitbit to Jawbone UP to Misfit Wearables track a variety of activities from steps taken to sleep (had or not). For more serious athletic activities, a new crop of devices and applications from makers such as Under Armour and Simbionics promise to take personal fitness monitoring to the next level by providing biometric data and feedback.
Taking the concept of wearable tech literally to the clothes that athletes wear, this summer, OMsignalwill introduce a line of biometric smartwear, a compression shirt made from a smart textile that connects to a monitor that tracks fitness activities and delivers data to users’ smartphones. This follows the introduction of GPSports’ connected compression vest—which looks like a kind of smart sports bra for men—that’s already been seen on Australian rugby players, and may soon make appearances on football and soccer players worldwide.
Currently, a Kickstarter campaign for a new wearable wristband hopes to do for tennis what Fitbit has done for walking and running. Created by Australian product designer and self-proclaimed “tennis tragic” Rob Crowder, the Smash band is a wearable band that promises to not only monitor your performance on the tennis court, but also provide feedback to help improve your game—a virtual tennis coach on users’ wrists. The funding period concludes on July 10, and, thus far, it has reach about 30% of its fundraising goal.
While wearable tech may seem like the flavor du jour among mostly tech cognoscenti, there’s no denying that it’s more than simply a trend. In fact, wearable tech can claim a history that goes back more than 50 years. Separating the hype from reality can be a fool’s errand, but when it comes to sports and connected objects, it seems that the Internet of Things may have already found a playing field in which it can win.
This article was originally published on MediaPost.
Steve Tremblay also contributed to this article.
While the transition from desktop/laptop to smartphone in the post-PC era is still ongoing for many people, yet another technological evolution is slowly making its way onto our bodies: wearable technology. Already, dozens of different wearables have entered the market and the opportunities for users and tech firms are beginning to permeate through the collective psyche. In order to gain a deeper understanding of the technical aspects of developing for wearables, Nurun reviewed the Pebble, Sony SmartWatch and Android Wear platforms.
The first similarity between the different wearable platforms is the dominant placement of notifications coming from the handheld. Notifications are also the simplest way to add wearable functionality to an existing app, since this leverages the notification system of the handheld device.
With Wear and a handheld Android 4.3, the operating system automatically sends notifications to the watch, with optional wearable-specific rich notification parameters such as voice input for actions and extra pages to provide additional information.
With Pebble, any app using the handheld system notifications will see the notifications also displayed on the watch. On Android, a Pebble application is required on the handheld; on iOS no application is required on the handheld, since any third-party device can use the Bluetooth Low Energy Apple Notification Center to subscribe to the system notifications.
With the Sony SmartWatch, an application on the handheld is also required to catch notifications coming from other apps and display them on the watch.
Commonality: Hardware Capabilities
An important constraint for wearable apps is the wearable hardware capabilities, which are constrained by the form factor.
Commonality: Application Architecture
The architecture of a typical wearable application has been guided by these hardware constraints, and particularly by battery life concerns. It is useful to place wearable apps along a spectrum of “independence from the handheld,” going from standalone apps to extensions of a handheld app, to distinguish the architectural approaches of the applications. On one hand, standalone apps live entirely on the device and do not require a companion handheld application. They typically (but not exclusively) take the form of custom watch faces. It is important to note that custom watch faces on the Sony SmartWatch do not run completely on the device and are therefore not standalone. On the other hand, extensions on a handheld application have different architectures depending on the device:
In both of these approaches, the battery is preserved on the wearable and the handheld’s computing power, and easy access to the web is leveraged.
The Best Platforms for Prototyping
It is crucial that developers can quickly test their ideas to get a better feel for the actual user experience. Therefore, the easier it is to prototype on a certain platform, the faster the platform will develop. In fact, the easiest platform to prototype on will likely determine which platforms the prototypes are built on exclusively.
Among the factors that influence the prototyping speed on a platform that we have identified:
Cross-Platform Development and Fragmentation
At the moment, it’s very difficult to say how many wearable platforms will share the market once everything has settled down. However, if the situation is similar to today’s, the fragmentation in this space will be very high. While developing natively for iOS, Android, and Windows is very often undertaken in the handheld market, it is unlikely to be sustainable to develop for all wearable platforms natively if the current fragmentation remains. Cross-platform development for wearables would therefore be very useful, even more so than for handheld platforms. However, there are many constraints that currently make it hard to imagine effective cross-platform development:
Looking to the Future
Wearables are at their early stage, and it shows in the tools available for development. As we have discussed, the ease of use for prototyping varies between platforms, and we hope that these tools will improve in the future, especially for platforms such as the Pebble, which are falling behind in that regard. We also hope to see some cross-platform development tools emerge, but in the meantime, we can rely on the open-source community to provide tools and sample code to accelerate the development for each platform, such as the Salesforce Wear collection of starter apps. Finally, we are eager to see how the market will settle down, especially with power-players like Apple, which has yet to enter the wearables market.
The future is hard to predict for the wearable realm, but it sure looks exciting!
In the age of the desktop web, where every web browser was conquered by Google and its iconic search, Search advertising ruled. Search advertising was the business that made the legendary tech giant we know today. As the facilitator and mediator of the desktop web, Google reaped the benefits of connecting every web user with a relevant site, selling advertising alongside every use. It was masterful and Google became the undisputed king of the Web Economy.
In 2006, Facebook and the social web emerged as a challenge to Google. Could a completely different kind of service sap the attention and position of Google? Could the “Social Web” be the new starting point for web interaction, siphoning away the eyeballs and attention Google had won? Luckily for Google, no. Google scrambled to develop Google+, but in the end, it didn’t matter. Facebook, though successful, could not beat The King.
But, Mobile is a whole different class of threat. And Mobile is not Social. Facebook tried to shift attention on the same platform — the desktop web. Mobile, instead, scrambles everything. While the desktop web economy is driven by advertising, Mobile creates value in much more inter-connected ways.
Mobile — the rise of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet — doesn’t create value with each page or ad delivered. Mobile doesn’t really create value in the selling of apps or in-app add-ons. Mobile’s real power is enabling products that connect digital data, sensors and displays in the real-world, with multiple devices. Mobile has become the primary interface to the modern everything-connected world, not the desktop world that Google ruled.
As users rely on their smartphones more and more, and rely on traditional web search less and less, Google’s undisputed reign is under siege. In this fight, Google does not have an answer. Android, despite its incredibly wide adoption, does not make money on its own and it doesn’t feed Google’s ad business. It’s a technology stack that Samsung and a flock of Chinese handset manufacturers have built a hardware business upon, but left Google with the hard, expensive work of creating all the plumbing.
Will the ad business go away? No. Web ads will be as relevant as much as newspapers, magazine, radio, and TV ads are still relevant. But, ads will no longer drive the development of digital products and services. New services can worry less about massive user acquisition and monetizing it with ads. With Mobile, it’s now possible to create completely new kinds of things that are interconnected, multi-device, and mobile at the core.
Google will not go away. But it won’t rule over the digital economy like it did for that fleeting decade where the web browser ruled supreme.
This article was first published on Albert’s blog, Citizen Al Writes Longer.