TIME magazine recently launched Timelapse, an amazing project that combines NASA’s satellite imagery and Google’s mapping technology. Satellite photos taken between 1984-2004 were seamlessly stitched together and animated to illustrate how the planet has changed over the past 30 years. Users can explore landmarks like Dubai, Las Vegas and the Columbia Glacier or search for a specific location.
This is the first installment of the Nurun IT Download, with the latest news stories in the technology industry with insights from Nurun experts.
1. Google I/O retrospective: At the Google I/O keynote, a heavy emphasis was placed on services such as Google+ and Google Maps, but surprisingly very little on Android and Glass. Later in the conference, Google introduced several developer tools to accelerate Android development, announced several enhancements to its App Engine platform (Google’s cloud infrastructure) and presented the impressive cutting-edge web technologies that Google is either developing or embracing.
The bottom line: From a technological standpoint, the future looks bright for Google developers. Unfortunately the conference didn’t reveal anything unexpected, leaving many in the industry disappointed.
2. Nissan Leaf makes data available: The Internet of Things is slowly but surely making its way into the automotive space. After smartphones and smart TVs, the era of smart cars commences. On-board computers are nothing new, but until recently, the data collected by a car’s sensors was only available to the manufacturer. With Ford leading the way with its OpenXC program and now the Nissan Leaf, this data is becoming available for developers to use.
The bottom line: If the same innovation that is seen in the smartphone space reaches automobiles, the driving experience might change dramatically over the next few years.
3. Aereo TV launching in new cities: With more consumers cutting the cord, serious alternatives to traditional cable TV are emerging: full-featured IP TVs. These new offerings utilize newer technologies such as the cloud, tablets and smart TVs to deliver content, all without a cable subscription. While the technologies involved are not revolutionary, it is Aereo’s ability to acquire content and licenses that is most impressive.
The bottom line: Growing consumer demand has pushed Aereo, a U.S. company, to destabilize the broadcast TV industry. Already a success in New York City and Boston, the service will soon be expanding to Atlanta and other U.S. cities. Aereo, however, is not the first in its category. A similar service, Magine, is already available in Sweden.
4. Adobe Creative Cloud becomes the only option: Adobe announced that the traditional software version of Adobe Creative Suite will no longer be updated. Users will have to use Creative Cloud, Adobe’s subscription service, to access new tools and program updates. This is a growing trend in software, with many companies now offering a cloud-based subscription model for their license. Microsoft is beginning to do this with Office 365 and we would not be surprised if they eventually transition to a subscription-only model like Adobe.
The bottom line: This is an important change in the software industry. Businesses and individuals alike will need to consider how they use Adobe products and how they can transition to Creative Cloud.
5. Cube 3D Printer now available at Staples: The Cube 3D Printer is now available at Staples for $1,299. Replacement cartridges are priced at $50 per colour. The printer is targeted to a broad market of consumers and is available in select stores and online.
The bottom line: 3D printing has been gaining momentum in the last few years, but the printers have always looked more like experimental products than ready-to-market ones. Things have been evolving quickly and this announcement confirms that the technology is ready to go mainstream.
6. Microsoft presents the Xbox One: The new Xbox One is centred on being an integrated source of in-home entertainment. Through its online streaming features, HDMI connection to your set-top box, second screen integration with mobile devices and the new Kinect, Microsoft hopes that the Xbox will be at the centre of your living room. Gaming continues to play a large role, with a redesigned controller keeping the best from previous iterations.
The bottom line: Based on an operating system adapted from Windows 8, it is likely that applications from Windows 8 mobile or desktop can be ported easily to the Xbox One. This creates a huge window of opportunity to start developing TV apps on the platform. The new console has been met with polarized opinions, so we’ll be following this story closely in the upcoming weeks during the E3 expo.
7. Sharp launches 4K TVs in Japan: With retail prices of $8,000 for the 70-inch version and $6,000 for the 60-inch set, decreasing prices are making 4K TVs more attractive to a larger group of early adopters. As an increasing number of movies are created based on 4K transfers, the trend towards 4K sources and materials becoming more widely available will continue.
The bottom line: These increased resolutions will bring about new ways of developing interfaces for large TVs.
Intrigued by the viral video phenomenon? YouTube has released a new Trends Map that highlights the most popular videos at a moment in time across the United States (other countries coming soon). A visual representation of YouTube’s Trends Dashboard, users can observe who’s watching what videos and where. They can also filter by gender, age, video views or shares.
What makes a retail experience fun?
Person 1: “I don’t think shopping is ever fun for me. It’s a chore.”
Person 2: “The pleasant surprise.”
Person 3: “Well, for me, it’s two things. The first one would be the successful shop, where I go with the intention to buy something, I find it, I love it, and I buy it. The second would be where I go shopping [without any intention]…and I find something unexpected and I buy it.”
These were some of the replies I heard recently in casual conversation. Retail fun isn’t for everyone it seems, and is a mixture of personal, emotional, and contextual factors.
When I attended the 2013 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January, one of the sound bites that stuck with me came from the “State of Tech Retailing in 2013: Showrooming, Battling for Online Supremacy, OEMs Going Direct, Private Label and more” panel:
“What’s missing in retail these days is fun…giving customers a reason to just come in and see what’s there.”
-Tony Chvala, Global GM of Merchandising & Buying at Groupon Goods
I would agree, and have found that retailers could be working harder to inject more fun into experiences. I’ve since started retail funspotting, a new word I’m using to describe sightings or stories of fun in retail, not unlike the foodspotting movement that sets out to capture, share, and find great dishes.
A couple of my favourite retail funspotting examples include Stella & Dot’s trunk parties and the Bi-Rite Market’s approach to eating good food. One of my fellow Nuruners recently hosted a Stella & Dot party, which in my opinion borrows from the Tupperware party model, except that it involves jewelry and accessories such as smartphone cases and necklaces. The party was a success and everyone who attended had fun. Not to mention the buzz about the merchandise that has come up in conversations for the last couple of weeks. What I find fun about the Bi-Rite Market in San Francisco is that they set out to get customers excited about eating good food. The staff is trained to strike up conversations with virtually all customers and help them learn about the possibilities of the food in front of them (via FastCompany).
If you have any retail funspotting stories to share, I would love to hear them here or on Twitter @jenchow with the hashtag #retailfunspotting.
If you’re a retailer, have you thought about how you might inject more fun into your customers’ experiences?
A crucial part of the creative process is researching current trends and advances in the design industry. This is a time consuming task involving inspecting the CSS of sites, taking notes of design elements, and evaluating them before choosing a design direction. We discussed how there was an opportunity to make this process easier, and Stylify Me was born.
Stylify Me was created to help designers quickly create a style guide of an existing site, including colours, fonts, sizes and spacing. It’s a tool that allows the designer to research the CSS styles efficiently without the need to inspect each element, in order to be aware of current design trends and inform their design decisions.
In our processing instructions for PhantomJS we analyze the text and background colours of all elements on the page and order them by quantity, giving some, for example, the main background and the main text colour, a higher priority. Next we look for the main text element. For proper HTML5 markup this is simple, we just need to look for the role=”main,” but in reality a lot of websites use old and irregular markup, which requires us to look for common id and class names. If this does not work we simply use the middlemost element – in the hope that this is part of the main copy and not the side navigation. Based on this selection we extract the CSS styling of the text and headlines and return everything as a JSON response back to the user.
If you’re interested in learning more about the technical side of Stylify Me, you can check out the source code of the service layer on Michael’s GitHub.
Stylify Me was a fun, collaborative project to work on. We hope it becomes a useful tool that helps make the design process a little easier.
Over the past few months, physidigital objects have been regularly appearing on Digital for Real Life. Last week, Adobe announced the launch of Mighty, a cloud-connected pen that allows designers to draw on a tablet or smartphones. Features like pressure-sensitivity help create a natural drawing experience that is supplemented with 1-click access to Adobe’s suite of tools. The company also introduced Napoleon – an enhanced ruler – that makes it easy to draw straight lines and arcs on tablet interfaces all while maintaining the tactile feedback that comes from drawing in a natural way.