Amazing Acrobats Playing PLastic Mobile’s Twist ‘em!

Yesterday at the Spring IAB Mixx conference, our Plastic Mobile take on an old board game favourite was revealed at IAB’s MIXX conference and turned out to be a huge success among attendees.

“Twist ’em” allowed two players to compete to knock down the opposition’s bendy acrobat – yes, there were real acrobats on the unique Twist ‘em board. The two players combat using an iPad application to light up the positions and colours on the Twist ‘em board, causing the contortionists to try to twist away without falling over.

The iPad apps allowed the users to choose one of four colours and one of the left or right hand or a left or right foot (very similar, if not exactly the same, to Hasbro’s Twister). The mobile twist came of course from the mobile app controller on the iPads, as well as from the Twist’em board, which was 16 iPads that would light up to identify which square the acrobats should use. The person with the bendy acrobat left standing, won, and it was very challenging because those contortionists were REALLY flexible!

Needless to say, the Twist ’em game was a huge success for event attendees so we can’t wait to play it again!

One of our favourite tweets of the days was: “Wow, flavored oxygen at @TCTranscontinen and acrobats at@plasticmobile, bringing out the big guns! #MIXXCanada@iabcanada

Stay tuned for our video of “Twist ’em: The making of…,” a documentary of sorts (not really) about what happens when a creative agency decides to take their event booth to a whole new level…

Our creative team at Plastic Mobile has come up with a ridiculously fun way of showcasing how we approach everything with a slightly twisted sense of humour.

We’ll be showcasing our comedy at tomorrow’s IAB Mixx conference, taking place at the Carlu Theatre in Toronto, Ontario.

Don’t miss the one-day conference, sponsored by IAB Canada, where techies, media and marketers unite to learn more about the interconnectedness of all that they do.

AND, don’t forget to drop in to our our booth to work out some frustrations on a mobile powered game of twists and turns.

See you there and feel free to tweet us and let us know if you’ll be visiting our booth.

In my weekly blog post, I normally prefer to comment on some of the large scale challenges or successes affecting the mobile industry, but this was too special to pass up.

Our team  made some time earlier this week to mobilize our Ping Pong matches. It all began with one of our Android developers creating a tablet app that could actually keep a proper game score (there seemed to be a recurring discrepancy in the scoring of our afternoon table tennis matches). The idea was that an Android tablet would sit atop the Ping Pong table and the app would keep an accurate, un-biased score of the Ping Pong games while in action.

How it works is pretty awesome. The “Plastic Paddle,” as it has now been dubbed, is good for a single’s or double’s match, and scores in terms of three sets per match and follows the proper rules of Ping Pong prior to 2000, meaning every 5th point the server changes. You can pre-set the serve, or use the server randomizer by clicking in the middle. A voice not entirely unlike Siri (but, better) will tell you who’s serve it is based on the scoring system. She will also tell you who’s advantage it is or if it is a deuce. To compensate for the inevitability of human error (if you click a point on your side when you did not actually receive a point) you can minus out the score. Last, when you win, the voice will tell you that you are the winner, and then a prompt will appear to allow you to post your results to the server.

It proved such a huge success around the office that it’s currently being developed for web to include such things as player stats with loss and win ratios and real-time tracking so matches can be carried over and rivalries can be tracked.

While this is an amazing first step, I’m looking forward to an even more advanced Ping Pong tracking system – Got that, team?

A big congrats to our developers for their ingenuity and drive to maintain a civilized game playing environment, and stay tuned for the coming improvements!

Great job team!

Plastic Mobile and the Luxury Institute banded together to conduct a study of affluent Americans and their smartphone use. The study covers everything from how many wealthy folks are using mobile, to what they are using it for.

Yesterday, the luxury institute announced the study in an initial press release, to be followed by a more comprehensive report on the findings. The study produced some information that even shocked our team here at Plastic Mobile – who just assume that everyone is on mobile ALL the time because, well, we are!

Check out the initial press release below and stay tuned for the complete findings to come out in the next month:

Wealthy U.S. Smartphone Users Reveal Details on Shopping, Spending and Use of Mobile Apps; Facebook, Angry Birds and Words With Friends Top List of Favorite Apps

Happy Birthday Twitter! The social networking phenom turns the ripe old age of six today. On this date (March 21st), 2006, Jack Dorsey tweeted the very first tweet…ever! Since then, Twitter has grown from its 500,000 followers in the first 18 months, to more than 500 million real-time users. With colossal ad revenue and more than 900 employees, Twitter continues to be a growing force in the social media space. And today, Twitter, we salut you for six years of # tags, @ mentions and teaching us all a little lesson in brevity with you 144 character limit. Cheers!

Also today, according to our team (and digital spy), Nokia just registered a patent application that involves users having vibrating magnetic tattoos to notify them of incoming phone calls or texts. They have developed technology that uses magnetic markings on people’s arm, stomach, finger or fingernail, which could alert the person to new SMS messages, calls, calender alerts, changes of time zone or low battery warnings.

Filed at the US Patent and Trademark Office, the Finnish mobile handset giant’s application details stamping or spraying “ferromagnetic” material on to someone’s skin and then linking it to a mobile device – basically, your tattoo can vibrate when you are getting a call.

From The Toronto Star Article on Nokia’s Patent Application

Nokia’s patent filing is part of growing investigations into “haptic” (touch) feedback in mobile devices, which it is thought could create the next level of interaction.

We’re not sure if this has retroactive capabilities or if it would just be for the new generation of ink lovers, but we’re also not sure we want a constant reminder of the mistakes we make when we were 17 and obsessed with daisies…

Happy Bagel Wednesday everyone!

PM UX: Two of a Kind

By on March 20, 2012

A few weeks back, we reviewed a productivity app called Clear, which impressed us with its simplistic UI, as well as clever and creative single- and multi-touch gesture controls. I was recently excited to find a calculator app taking a similar approach to creating a great user experience.

Rechner is a calculator app with just the right amount of functionality to handle simple, everyday mathematical calculations – so don’t stroll into your final calculus exam thinking this is your ticket to an A+.

What makes Rechner Calculator stand out from the competition is that it doesn’t have some of the buttons you would expect to see on a calculator. For instance, you will not find a plus button for addition or a minus button for subtraction. Those buttons, along with a couple others, have been replaced with gesture controls, making everyday mathematics just a little more fun.

This is the first screen presented to the user after launching Rechner Calculator for the first time. Its an Instructional Overlay outlining the five gesture controls available to the user. Form here, you tap the screen and the overlay will fade out so you can get started.

 

Gesture Controls & Visual Feedback

Even though there are only five gestures to master, they can take a few minutes to get familiar and comfortable with. Initially, I found that even the most simple calculations (such as 1+1), were taking me way too long to execute. However, as I started to get more comfortable with the gesture controls, my speed improved considerably.

One thing I found to be quite useful when I first started using Rechner, was the visual feedback I was given after inputting a gesture command. For example, after swiping to the right, a bright yellow circle with (+) in the middle appeared in the center of the screen and gradually faded. This visual feedback was especially helpful when I first started to use the app and wasn’t totally comfortable with each gesture.

The visual feedback, appearing then gradually fading.

One Hand is Better than Two

The only problem I had with Rechner, was that the gesture for the clear function was a two finger swipe in any direction. Because this gesture requires two fingers, it also requires two hands (one to hold the phone and one to input the gesture command). I think I would have enjoyed the app even more if I could have done everything using just one hand.

200% More Efficient?

 

In the app store, the creators of Rechner Calculator boldly claim that it is “200% more efficient,” though they don’t specify what exactly this app is two times faster than – a regular iOS calculator app? I assumed as much, so I decided to put the two apps to the test.

I handed my iPhone to a friend and asked her to take five minutes to get familiar with both apps. I then gave her three basic math problems with their answers and asked her to execute all three problems, one after another, while I kept time on a stopwatch. We did one time for the three equations on the iOS calculator app first, and then one time for the three equations on the Rechner Calculator, second.

Here are our very scientific findings:

Calculations IOS Calculator Rechner Calculator
6 + 8 – 4 – 3 + 1 = 87 × 4 × 3 ÷ 6 × 7 = 98

5 × 8 ÷ 2 + 8 – 4 = 24

29.8 seconds 34.6 seconds

The Verdict

Overall, Rechner is a fun and interactive twist to the conventional calculator app. The simple and uncluttered interface is very easy on the eyes and its use of gesture controls is pleasantly different.

As for the claim that Rechner is “200% more efficient,” if they mean compared to a regular iOS app, our experiment shows they need to re-think their slogan. In fact, we found that it’s around 16% less efficient. However, it is important to note that our test was light years away from even coming close to being considered “scientific,” so perhaps they do have a leg to stand on. It is also important to consider that most of us have been using standard calculators since elementary school and only five minutes with the Rechner Calculator can’t match that.

Even though our speed test didn’t pan out so well, I nonetheless consider Rechner Calculator a great app. I know that with more use, any users’ speed will increase substantially. As far as I’m concerned, Rechner did the job I expected it to do, but in a fun and different way, and all without any unnecessary bells and whistles to clutter the interface and distract me.

Doe you have the Rechner app? What do you think? Tweet us @plasticmobile.

That was the question posed to me by our UX expert on Tuesday when writing our PM UX blog post.

So I thought I’d weigh in with my take on the tool tip. Here goes…

Our foremost concern when creating a mobile solution at Plastic Mobile is the end user – the person who will actually be using our product for their entertainment, everyday lifestyle or as a tool. Ergo, it’s my thought that if you have to explain your app, website, etc., you have probably missed the mark in terms of user experience; if they don’t get it right away, you’ve basically #Failed.

That being said, I am not naive. I understand and appreciate that certain things require subtle cues to prompt or gently nudge the user to properly deploy certain functions or get them started. For instance, on any iPhone, the very first screen has a sliding bar along the bottom. It actually says “slide to unlock” in faint type which is illuminated by a pretty sparkle that lights the path of the sliding bar. This is what I consider a subtle cue. Just a helpful hint to get the user started that, while clearly explains to the user what to do, doesn’t interfere with their experience. We’ve used a few of these similar nudges with various apps, including our award-winning Pizza Pizza app to help the user along the ordering process.

What I’m mostly taking issue with, is the idea that a mobile initiative should come with a manual, or require a tutorial or full explanation in order to make it useful. For me, that says that you over-complicated the application and didn’t properly consider the fundamentals of UI and UX.

What do you think? Are tool tips good, or would you rather it just be clear from the get-go? Tweet us @plasticmobile and join the conversation.

Shopper Marketing Forum, March 2012

The Shopper Marketing Forum, held on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week, was a huge success. Canada’s leading conference for the development, education and advancement of Shopper Marketing had a number of great presentations, interesting speakers and interactive workshops. One of which was basically a lunch and learn. These round table discussions with topics varying from mobile to were one of the show’s highlights. Our President and COO, and resident mobile guru, Melody Adhami, was of course manning the mobile table. Her round table discussion may have actually been the most popular, with all the seats full, and more than five other people pulling up extra chairs just to join in!

One of the most interesting aspects of this conference focused on the changing consumer behaviours, was seeing the distinct limbo the industry is currently in straddling. With a community of senior marketers known for their traditional practices, paired with a group of new marketers who hold a more technologically inclined approach, the world of Shopper Marketing is at a cross roads of transition. However, by including areas like mobile to forums like this, we’re confident that the current divide will get streamlined and that we’ll see a lot more digital shopper marketing in the near future.

Ultimately, the goal of the forum was to enhance the collaboration between manufacturers, retailers and agencies, and, based on attendee feedback and our own conversations, we’re so pleased that they achieved their goal.

Today, the Bagel Wednesday team really shook things up in the office and pretty much changed the way we will think about Bagel Wednesday forever. Instead of bringing bagels to our mobile sharing meeting, they made pancakes. Holy flap jacks batman!

Needless to say, the excitement over the pancakes made prying mobile news from full mouths a challenge. But, we did learn more that we can expect the new office iPads to arrive any day now, that Apple may have purchased patent rights to mobile payment controls and that I found an amazing mascara that actually gives your lashes some serious oomph (Benefit “they’re real!” mascara, available at Shoppers’ Drug Mart for $26).

While there was actually very little mobile news shared, the experiment in a breakfast favourite resulted in some great bonding and a long lasting sugar high thanks to the syrup.

Good job team!

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

Last Thursday, Apple released iPhoto – the final piece of its iLife suite for iOS. A few days later, a friend asked me to recommend an app that she could use to touch up photos taken on her iPhone. I told her to give iPhoto a try. The next time we spoke, I asked her what she thought about iPhoto. Her response was: “It was ok, but it wasn’t worth the $4.99. It doesn’t do much.”

Apple #Fail? Is that even possible?

I decided to check it out for myself. Maybe the reason her experience with iPhoto was so mediocre was because she’s a fairly new to iPhone and lacks the experience to get the most out of the app.

So I installed iPhoto on my iPhone and was greeted with a pretty straight forward, simple and intuitive home screen. I could see what was clearly my Camera Roll (as an album) sitting on a glass shelf.

The Home Screen

When I selected my Cameral Roll, my individual photos were presented in a cool scrollable thumbnail view along the bottom. So far, so good.

Camera Roll

The trouble starts when you realize that auto-enhance is the only real photo editing tool in the main view. It works really well for an automatic editing tool and is simple and easy to use, but I then had to go into the toolbox icon on the bottom left to slide out a tab with additional editing tools. Since there were so many options, it was difficult to figure out what each tool did and how to use them.

Tool Kit

The problems continue when I clicked on the cropping tool and could pinch to zoom and move the grid to crop my picture as desired. As an experienced iPhone user, pinching to zoom while moving an image was intuitive. However, iPhoto also throws image rotation into the mix, and there seemed a bit too much going on. I also noticed that, after I had zoomed into my desired amount and started to rotate my image, my zoom level would unwontedly change. This was really annoying.

Only after further exploring the copping tool did I realize there was an alternate option. After pinching to my desired zoom level, I could tap on the rotate dial at the bottom of the screen to rotate my photo by actually physically rotating my iPhone. This was not only a cool feature, but I found it made for easier image manipulation that was much more user-friendly.

Rotate

Overall, iPhoto delivers a lot of functionality with many ways to edit, tweak, optimize and share your photos. But when the high amount of functionality equates to increased complication for the end user, tooltips for each tool or on-demand tutorials might be a good idea. That way, users who don’t want or need help won’t be bothered. But users, like my new-to-iPhone friend, can get the help they need.

That being said, after going through all the editing tools and options in iPhoto, I couldn’t believe that my friend said that iPhoto doesn’t do much. What I can believe, is that she might have never gotten to the cool effects because she wasn’t prepared to put the effort into learning about all the tools. So she gave up before she had a chance to really bask in the glory of all that iPhoto has to offer.

It just goes to show how important a user’s first impression of an app is, and that the fine balance between having too much and too little is a delicate relationship. Even if it does everything the user wants, there’s a chance that if they can’t do it easily, they won’t do it at all.

The good news is, I hear the iPad version of the app does offer tooltips to users, so hopefully the iPhone version of the app will incorporate some much needed tooltips soon.

According to Mashable.com, the KONY 2012 video has become the most viral video in history. Yup. You got it. War criminal and leader of a brutal rebel army in Uganda is now the most popular man on the web.

According to Invisible Children, the makers of KONY 2012 YouTube video, “KONY 2012 is a film and campaign by Invisible Children that aims to make Joseph Kony famous, not to celebrate him, but to raise support for his arrest and set a precedent for international justice.”

Is this kind of awareness positive or negative? Will it help the plight of the likes of Jacob, KONY 2012′s protagonist? Or will propagate further senseless violence in Uganda? Or, and this is possible, will it have no impact at all?

We’re really not sure. But what we do know is this: the capacity for video sharing has reached a new level. In only six days, this video hit 100 million views. To put that into perspective, the video featuring Susan Boyle on Britain’s Got Talent in 2009, hit 70 million views in six days. And, The Old Spice “Responses” campaign didn’t hit 70 million until five months after it launched.

KNONY 2012 has outpaced other viral videos by leaps and bounds and set a new record. We’re wondering how many people watched the viral video from their mobile devices? Did you? Let us know at @plasticmobile.com.

As I sit in the Apple Store waiting for Genius Ted to tell me all will be well with my iPhone 4s (and, by default, my life), I am not surprised to see the number of people filtering into the store to inquire about or try to purchase the iPad3, or the new iPad.

Apple CEO Tim Cook presented its iPad as “the ultimate poster child of the post-PC world” in the event. “The iPad is about post-portable computing.  And it’s outstripping the wildest of predictions. The momentum behind iPad has been incredible and has surprised virtually everyone.”

But what is really new with this Apple product? What is the real deal? Is it as amazing as the wait time to make an online order suggest?

With mixed reviews from colossal #Fail to “sheer brilliance,” I sought an impartial review from the one person I could think of who could keep a level head in this time of excitement; our resident tech guru and CEO, Sep Seyedi.

“The iPad 3 has some really fantastic new features. For instance, it sets a new bar for resolution on tablets and imaging. The 4G is fantastic to promote it as a tool for collaboration (i.e. things like video calling / conferences). Work places that are worried about data consumption may look to the iPad 3 in the work place and offices to support their infrastructure.”

Basically, what i got from him is that the iPad 3 doesn’t have all the features Apple fans were hoping and wishing for, BUT, it seems to be a pretty great product with a fresh look, processor, increased screen resolution, new firmware and a set of other advanced features that at least make us go  ”oooo,” if not also “aaaaa.”

The stylus has been a heated topic of conversation around the office ever since last week’s Bagel Wednesday. Today, the battle continued between the pro-pen vs. anti-stylus fanatics during our discourse of baked goods.

A key component to the dispute is, of course, Apple vs. Android – with Apple users in the office suggesting that a stylus is more suitable for an Android device because iOS products are (their words) “superior.” WELL. According to this article in Gizmodo, there is a stylus for iPad that might actually be better than our “inferior” phalanges.

Ten One Design’s Pogo was one of the first styluses designed for use with iOS devices and has recently out done itself with the pressure-sensitive super stylus (code name: Blue Tiger).

Using a low-power Bluetooth 4.0 connection it wirelessly connects to your iOS device without the huge, heavy battery pack that can make a stylus quite the cumbersome utensil. Also, as long as an app supports it, the Blue Tiger can accurately relay information about how hard you’re pressing. This technology is amazing for the artist group – probably the stylus’ no. 1 supporters. The Blue Tiger allows the users to vary the thickness of a stroke based simply on how they apply pressure. Pretty cool for artists, but what does that mean for the rest of us?

Is the Blue Tiger awesome enough to convince the skeptics in our office to choose a pen over our handy (get it, hand – y?) fingers to conduct every day iPad use? Tell us what you think on twitter @plasticmobile.

Blue Tiger Stylus. Photo: Gizmodo

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

The Smashing Cartoons by Smashing Magazine

Last week we covered Clear, a nifty task management app that delivered a highly positive user experience. This week, we dive into the realm of photography with Microsoft’s Photosynth.

Photosynth is a free app available on multiple iOS devices, which allows users to create really cool panoramic photos in a fun and engaging way. Depending on how much time you spend on creating these photos, you can create anywhere from fairly common wide-angle photos to amazing full spherical panoramas.

Over and above making super cool photos of late night dance parties to share on Facebook, the app extremely easy to use. Even first-time users can enjoy the process from start to finish without feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. From the moment you open the app to the final photo masterpiece, you are carefully guided through each step of the process. Even if you veer off course, there are plenty of audio and visual cues to gently nudge you back on track.

Short and sweet
When the app is launched, you are greeted with a pleasantly simple user interface and the words “Tap to start” – and that is it. There are no lengthy tutorial screens that bore users into losing interest before they even get started. In Photosynth, the tutorials are integrated in a subtle way that makes the app forgivingly intuitive.

From there, you simply tap where you want it to start and then move the camera slowly in a horizontal or vertical sweeping motion, then let the app work its magic. When you’re happy with the image, just tap the finish button and the app will begin to stitch the images together to create your panorama. It’s pretty awesome, actually, and comes in really handy around the office when we’re trying to take a group shot.

Users hate waiting
The stitching process is quite fast and accurate, which is beneficial to the overall UX. For larger full spherical panoramas, the stitching process may take a little
over a minute to complete, but the progress bar makes waiting a little more palatable as you can count down until the finished product.

Facebook, but no Twitter?
Photosynth gives users the option of sharing their masterpieces with others in five ways: Facebook, Bing maps, Photosynth.net, email or camera roll. We would
have liked to seen Flickr, Tumblr and Twitter on that list, but for now users can just export their panoramas to their camera roll and share them from there. Having to insert an extra step to share on Twitter or Tumblr is annoying and makes us drop the Photosynth grade to an A-, but we’ll forgive with the hope that function will come in an update (because, seriously, where there is Facebook, there should be Twitter).

Overall, the app delivers a positive user experience by handling the complexities of stitching algorithms and panoramas, leaving the user the simple tasks of pointing and shooting. It also helps that it is packaged in a well designed and intuitive manner. Good job Microsoft!

Pros:

• See your panoramas take shape with each picture you take

• Simple and easy to use, even for beginners

• See most panoramas within seconds of taking your last picture

• Zoom, pan, stretch and view your panorama in landscape or portrait
mode

• Share with friends on Facebook as images or interactive panoramas

Cons:

• Missing Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr

Suggestions:

• Add more popular social networking avenues such as Twitter, Flickr and
Tumblr

• Make “My Library” more interactive (maybe with the use of a carousel
similar to itunes)

What do you think? Love it or hate it? Tweet us @plasticmobile and join the conversation.

The App in Action:

All you have to do is take a look around you to see that mobile is fast becoming a ubiquitous part of our society. Mobile is everywhere, but especially retail locations.

Specifically, the proliferation of mobile in relation to retail has left marketers scrambling in a frenzy to re-evaluate their audience and understand how consumers are interacting with mobile – and how to take advantage of this new relationship.

In order to do this successfully, brands need to better comprehend how current trends are shaping the mobile environment, who this new audience is and how to best interact with them.

This is no easy task. As a brand, where do you start? For me, I think there is an expanding dichotomy between retailers and the mobile + social spaces, which marketers should be conscience of for 2012.

Let me explain.

Many 2011 reports, like comScore’s 2012 Mobile Future in Focus, identify various mobile users demographics. Still, retail marketers seem to glaze over the 20- to 30-something GenY-ers (or, as this Mashable article calls them, “Generation C,” the C standing for “connected.” A bit cliche, but probably accurate), who I tend to think are the ideal demographic for brands as they use both mobile and social media for commerce.

Sure, the stats say that moms are the decision makers and dads are the money makers, but the “young influencers” are a generation of digital-hungry consumers who covet cutting-edge tech and are spending on everything from the latest tablet to Vegas vacations and chic urban condos.

Perhaps this demographic is so often neglected because, as Shane Smith of Vice Media pointed out at the Young Influencers Conference in Toronto last week, most brands don’t really “get” that generation. And, as he suggested, there’s absolutely no point focusing on that demographic just because you think you should – they’ll see through that kind of fake like a bad boob job.

Regardless, to me it seems obvious to focus efforts on a group that’s poised to shop and who’s lives are hinged on mobile, as well as social media – an area that has seen significant growth on mobile, with its overall popularity in accessing social networking sites on mobile devices becoming nearly common place last year. Basically, it’s the same people who are using their mobile devices for social sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. who will then flip to a new browser window or app to research or buy that great item they just read about in a tweet or post.

I foresee this super trifecta of young influencers + mobile + social making an impact for brands in 2012 as marketers recognize this spectacular opportunity to increase customer conversation and conversion by tapping into the young influencers through the device that houses their entire life.