Technology is amazing. Seriously! It seems every day we wake up, there is some new incredible device, software or application being invented somewhere. With technology being developed at such an exponential rate, there are countless ideas, products or tools that can be overlooked – perhaps ocassionally in favour of ones that are more noise and hype than they are worth – just sayin’ is all.
And, sometimes, an invention just needs time to quietly permeate the consumer consciousness at its own rate before it becomes readily adopted by the masses.
One of these is “Augmented Reality.”
AR may be one the best examples of a really cool (albeit somewhat still theoretical) way to tear down barriers between people and the world. In a nutshell, AR represents being able to access information about anything, anywhere and displayed in a manner we choose. Whether it is in a digital contact lens, a mobile device or a pair of glasses, Augmented Reality at it’s heart is designed to personalize the world around us while providing only the most relevant information.
But what is being done with AR right now? Well, a few things. Brands, mostly car companies, are using AR to provide an interactive experience for consumers within their advertising channels. Volvo also recently used AR for their trade show tour early 2012. With the release of the Volvo V40, the car maker also had an app developed that would be used as a “X-Ray Scanner” for the V40. While feeling a tad gimmicky, and providing minimal real-life solutions to consumers, the X-Ray Scanner is still a fun and innovative way to capture an audience at a tradeshow. I am also a fan of how Volvo is almost saying “we’ve got nothing to hide.” Good on you, Volvo!
Publishers are also experimenting with AR to provide more interactive content by unlocking additional copy or videos, or seeing alternative views of a product. For instance, IKEA just launched their new catalogue app, which can be used in tandem with the print version to view additional content through a type of augmented reality. While it seems strange to have to use the catalogue app to use the additional features in the print catalogue, it is still a smart and attractive step in the right direction for IKEA and mobile AR strategies.
So we have two examples of AR in the market right now, but is that all? Is the future and destiny of AR to be used as a one-trick pony?
We don’t think so and neither do the people working with it. With Google’s Project Glass under development, Digital contact lenses being developed, and with Micro and Nanotechnologies regularly achieving breakthroughs, the era of Augmented Reality might be right around the corner.
Check out this video and pay particular attention to the amazing suggestions of what role augmented reality could play in our lives.
Let us know what you think of AR – tweet us @plasticmobile.
There has been a lot of conversation about mobile payments lately, but I feel much of it is simply future predictions and speculations. While I understand why – widespread adoption on the retailer’s side, although growing, is still lacking – it’s time for some action. So when, “Pitch the Plastic: The Mobile Payment Era Has Begun,” showed up on my radar, I was pleasantly surprised. Not only does the title carry our company name (Plastic Mobile, woo!), but also a few examples of some great startups pushing the movement forward with innovative new mobile solutions.
The first of the two, iCache Geode, launched just a couple days ago and hopes to thin out your wallet (while bulking up your iPhone) significantly. iCache Geode is an iPhone case that carries a detachable card with a rewritable magnetic stripe within it, which performs as any of your credit cards. Also, it offers an e-ink display on it’s exterior which displays barcodes in substitution of loyalty and membership cards.
How secure is it? Each time you open the app, you must first pass a fingerprint test to enter. To use either feature, download the app and input your credit card numbers and take pictures of barcodes on existing cards. With just a few clicks, the card within the case becomes whichever card of your choosing and the barcode whatever you’d like to display. Take the card out and swipe/scan at any existing POS system. Pretty neat.
While I obviously 100% support mobile innovation, I can already see a few things potential going awry. For instance, if I purchase iCache Geode (at $199 I might add), I would absolutely have to justify the buy by not carrying my credit cards, loyalty and membership cards with me. But what if my phone dies? What if I drop my phone and break the case? Just like that, there goes my investment.
My clumsiness aside, I’m afraid that retailers’s adoption rate will be very slow. Most retailers have been trained to be careful when accepting credit cards as it is, checking the card, name and signature. Will there be hesitation on their part when seeing the unfamiliar? Do they need a dotcom giant, Like a Google or PayPal, behind them to give them the necessary cred?
Last, many of us are anxiously waiting for the next generation iPhone later this year. If there is a hardware redesign, this case won’t do. It’s been designed solely for the iPhone 4 and 4s and that may pose an issue in the future. In addition, with rumors of Apple bringing NFC to the iPhone, this product might become all together obsolete.
All in all, it’s great to see some headway with mobile payments and I’m on the edge of my seat waiting to see how the iCache Geode delivers and hopefully helps to move this space forward. What have you heard about the iCache Geode? Tweet us your thoughts @plasticmobile.
I recently experienced one of the worst cases of smartphone withdrawal after losing my iPhone while fishing on Balsam Lake in Ontario. I’m not sure exactly when and where it happened, but I’m fairly confident that my phone is currently baffling a school of minnows.
The following two days without a phone proved difficult, to say the least. I found myself reaching for my nonexistent phone every time someone else’s started ringing. Finally, on day three, I was able to find a replacement. Much relieved, I then proceeded to devote more than four hours playing around with my new device as though trying to make up for lost time.
I first recovered all my data from a backup, then reacquainted myself with all my go-to apps, setting them up just as they were prior to losing my phone. Once I had finally got that out of my system, I moved on to installing and trying out a collection of new apps. Frankly, it had been a while since my last visit to the App Store, so I needed my fix.
During this App Store binge I cam across some pretty cool apps – two in particular. The first app, Timegg, is a fresh alternative that is perfect for those who have grown a little tired of iOS’s native clock app and are craving some change. The second is a great photo-editing app that uses gesture controls to deliver a great experience.
Timegg is a sexy and well-designed app that can be a fresh alternative to the native iOS clock app. The interface and the navigation are extremely simple and intuitive. Especially, when you consider all the functionality that is essentially displayed and accessible from a single screen.
Users can easily navigate between the colour-coded Alarms, Reminders, Timers and D-day sections by either swiping horizontally near the header section at the top of the screen, or by tapping the corresponding corner in the bottom portion of the screen.
I especially liked this because it works great as an alternative to the conventional iOS style tab navigation that you usually see at the bottom of the screen. Moreover, it allows for better consistency among all four sections. This consistency makes learning to use and navigate the app extremely easy (once you learn to use one, you have essentially learned them all).
I’ve been using Timegg mostly as an alarm for the past few days and am very pleased with it. You are able to set up to 8 alarms and doing so is very fast and easy.
You are able choose from one of 16 pre-loaded wake-up tones, or set a song from your music library, as I like to do.
I really enjoyed how easy it was to set up repeating alarms. It was much quicker than the native clock app and delivered a superior experience. Instead of being taken to another screen to individually tap each day that I want my alarm to go off, I could quickly select multiple days without multiple taps. More importantly, I could do it without having to be taken to another screen, only to be returned to that initial screen.
Overall, Timegg is fun and a little refreshing. It may not offer some of the functions that the native Clock app does (World Clock & Stopwatch), but it offers its own unique set of functions and does so in a user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing way.
I have read one review complaining of unreliability. Citing that the app sometimes fails to deliver notifications if left running in the background for long periods of time, and only delivers those notifications once the app is re-opened.
I haven’t experienced any such problems myself, but I also haven’t been using the app for that long. I’ll keep you posted as I continue to use it, and will let you know if I come across any reliability issues in the future.
Snapseed is one of many photo-editing apps that can be found in the App Store. In Canada, this app is currently sitting in the #5 spot on the Top Free chart, and I can see it climbing even greater heights.
Even though I found the overall app great, the selection of tools and filters to be extensive and the sharing capabilities to be on par with other similar apps, the thing that impressed me most and made Snapseed stand out, was the use of gesture controls.
These gestures are intuitive and don’t take much time master. They make switching between adjustment options within each tool or filter very simple and fast. Users can swipe up or down to switch between the various adjustment options and swipe left or right to adjust how heavily that option is applied.
I found that the use of gesture controls in the app worked great to increase efficiency and enjoyment. I almost always enjoy using apps that employ gesture controls, because I find that tapping has become slightly repetitive and mundane.
There finally seems to be a general consensus amongst most mid- to large-sized retailers that mobile is going to be the primary channel through which they will communicate with their customers in the next five years.
Statements like that one often get me the, “how can you be so sure?” look.
So I’ve come up with a short and simple explanation for my certainty:
Your mobile phone is on you for approximately 16 hours a day. It’s the first thing you look at in the morning (for time, weather, news) and the last thing you plug in before you go to sleep. You’re so acutely aware of its constant presence on your person that if you don’t touch it or look at it every 10 minutes, a quiet but serious panic sets in.
So, I ask you: is there any other medium that can compete with that kind of intimate relationship?
Billboards, TV, even radio don’t come close to having that kind of face time with an audience.
While most retailers are now grasping this concept, they’re still not producing mobile experiences that their customers appreciate. Part of this can be attributed to the novelty of the mobile platform, and the other part of it is because customer expectations are rising at unprecedented rates. When your customer clicks on a link that takes them to your site, they expect it to be optimized for their device. If that expectation is not met, well frankly, they feel betrayed. Yet only 36% of the top US retailers of 2011 (as per stores.org) have a mobile offering on iOS, Android and mobile web.
Mobile has given the customer more power than ever. The average consumer can tell a brand, and millions of other customers, exactly when and why they’re happy – as well as when and why they’re not. It’s the age of the customer; so why not give them what they want?
Here are a few basic guidelines for retailers to consider when going mobile:
1) Browsing in app should be as easy as browsing in store.
2) Provide some value through smart innovative functionality. Use device intel to create context-rich experiences.
3) Either optimize existing sites for mobile, or build stand alone mobile sites. This is not an option – it’s a necessity.
4) If you’re selling beautiful things, make them just as beautiful in the app. Don’t let your IT team tell you it can’t be done – Plastic’s team will tell you, it can.
5) Promotional notifications are secondary.
While most retailers are missing out, few are getting it right. Amazon makes it so easy to purchase on your mobile device that it has enraged the rest of the retail community. Starbucks is taking mobile to where it ought to be, right into the store.
The success stories that are spread far and wide are the ones that made some little detail of life better for the customer. When you start with what your users want, and now demand, your user will continue to use your offering and will share their happy story with others.
Do you have some more tips for retailers? Tweet us about them @plasticmobile.
Today at our weekly Plastic Mobile Bagel Wednesday meeting, one of our QA developers introduced us to Leap Motion, a company doing some pretty crazy things. Leap has developed a small USB case that offers an entirely new way to interact with your computers. They say that it’s more accurate than a mouse, as reliable as a keyboard and more sensitive than a touchscreen. For the first time, you can control a computer in three dimensions with your hand and finger movements. As our Plastic techy suggested, “you can control your computer just like Tom Cruise does in Minority Report.”
Created by former NASA scientist, David Holz, the innovative new gesture control product can be pre-ordered for e mere $70. Mr. Holz says that Leap is 1000 times more accurate than any other device recognition 3D gesture control and its technology already interests many other companies that are ready to integrate it into mobile devices. We can’t wait!
Our pals at Mashable.com are already looking to a post-mobile world, where these five trends will determine who succeeds and who gets left behind.
1. Augmented Reality - Look in the mirror and what do you see? Today’s weather? Your day’s appointments? Then you must have the latest mirror from Cybertecture, a Hong Kong firm that’s making tomorrow’s smart homes a reality today. We may not all have money to burn on a high-tech mirror, but brands are certainly looking at ways to capitalize on this technology and make it the norm.
For example, the wizards at Corning provided an inspiring look at how touch screens made of glass might soon be seamlessly integrated into our environments. Brands such as Starbucks are already seeing strong revenue from their mobile AR program.
2. The New Biotech - When I say biotech, I mean data comes from everywhere, including from within. Companies like FitBit andNike are finding new ways to record and utilize that data. For now, they seem to be focused on helping athletes (and wannabes) build better workouts, but it’s only a matter of time before brands begin to look more closely at how such data might be used to develop new customer relationships.
Nike has already opened its FuelBand API to allow music platforms to experiment with incorporating personal physical data. As these technologies gain traction and developers look at new ways to leverage information, one day soon we could see insurance companies providing discounts to individuals who share their device data. This would be the equivalent of auto insurers, such as Progressive, offering savings to drivers who share their driving behavior.
3. Consumer-controlled Media – One of the most interesting trends we’ve seen is the fragmentation of ownership. Technology has empowered the masses, and they’re leveraging that power in new ways. If brands want to remain relevant to their audiences, they’re going to have to engage in these contexts and in a media landscape where the traditional publishing model no longer exists. In this not-too-distant future we will watch all of our programming online in whatever form that takes. And we will engage with media that we create (not what the media “owners” create) or remix, re-purpose, and pass along.
4. Multi-platform Marketing - Consumers don’t think in silos, so neither should your company. Prepare your brand to work on multiple platforms. As you do that, consider what unique aspects of your offering, your history, and products will resonate with the consumer of the future?
Communicate your brand’s essence through new channels and devices, in an integrated, cohesive manner. But be aware of how and when they want to interact with brands, and the new possibilities to bring them value and not just marketing noise.
5. Innovation Without Borders - Brands and products are no longer geographically confined in the way they once were, and neither are marketing campaigns. Big brands are increasingly tapping into local talent and culture, testing new approaches in one market, and re-purposing them elsewhere.
Coca-Cola took the best of gamification, Shazam, and the second-screen experience and ran with it in China. Tesco is testing out interactive mobile shopping experiences in Seoul that the U.S. is not quite ready for, technologically or socially. It is clear that in the near future, brands will pitch locally but think globally
While all of the above insights offer a tremendous amont of food for thought for the future, it was the fifth point that struck us as the most interesting. Not only are brands and their marketing campaigns no longer geographically confined, but neither are their users. We can now shop in Japan and talk to friends down under straight from our mobile devices while picking up our morning copy.
What does it all mean, you might ask? A lot. While mobile has stealthily been infiltrating our lives over the past few years, it has also been evolving in ist own right. As experts start to look at future mobile trends, they are more and more recognizing how mobile is poised to transcend our actual devices and start to shape our worlds in other ways, through alternative channels.
Take m-commerce, for instance. Not only has mobile changed the way we are able to shop, allowing us to browse and buy from our smartphones, but it is now gearing up to change the actual brick and mortar shopping experience, with mobile devices powering NFCs so we can pay with a swipe and file our receipts in an app, as well empowering sales people to know more about the customers walking through the door by giving them devices that connect with our devices.
The future is mobile and we can’t wait! Can you? Tweet us @plasticmobile and let us know what you think about Mashable.com’s points, or taking mobile out of the phone and into other devices.
This week we’ll be looking at Figure, a neat and super simple music-making app by Propellerhead Software. Figure allows even the most off-beat, tone-deaf, musically challenged individuals to create fairly decent sounding music.
Unlike other music apps, such as Garageband, Figure takes a much more simplistic approach that lets users pick up and play without much of a learning curve.
How it Works
Figure keeps things easy by minimizing the functionality available to users, making it more of a beat making app than a full-out music production tool. It only gives users a variety of bass, drums and lead synths to work with.
Users also don’t have the ability to input notes as they can with other more complex music production apps. Instead – and we think for their own good – they are limited to using a pre-quantized range of notes.
Figure provides users with some pretty cool rhythm wheels, which play notes in preset patterns and rhythms. The use of these rhythm wheels makes it very easy to stay on the beat and not stray off into the weird noise area.
Figure is all about interacting and touching, which I believe makes the experience more engaging and enjoyable. It utilizes the iPhone’s touchscreen beautifully by using every last bit of touchable real estate. I was impressed with how intuitive the touch controls were and how natural it felt to tap, drag, swipe and draw while making music.
The interface in this app was simple, intuitive and looked pretty darn cool to me. Th colour coded tabs to spread out the functionality worked well as I never found myself taking time to search for anything. I could always see where everything was and didn’t need to put any thought into how to get there.
At first, I found the blue touch fields in the pattern tab to be a little too small for my liking. Then I learned that by rotating my phone into landscape view, I could have just those four touch fields take up the entire screen, making it much easier to tap out some beats.
After creating my first masterpiece, I was pretty disappointed to discover that I couldn’t save or share my craftsmanship with the world. At the very least I think we should be able to save a few of our creative audio endeavours, but find the lack of sharing particularly perplexing as most apps have some sort of social networking element built in. I’m curious to know the reason behind this and if these options were even considered. The search for answers continues. Have any insights? Tweet us @plasticmobile and put my curiosity to rest.
The Final Beat
Figure is a fun way to pass time and be creative. It doesn’t require much to learn how to use it and, more importantly, doesn’t require any musical talent to use.
However, it is missing two pretty significant and obvious features. The option to save would give users the ability to go back and listen to their creations, and the option to share would let them brag to all their friends about their beat-making skills!
This morning one our QA Analysts brought this Samsung Galaxy SIII teaser video to our attention. While the end of the video seems to be a clear jab at Apple, suggesting that all iPhone owners are but simple sheep to Mac’s overwhelming marketing power, our Analyst pointed out that Samsung sells more mobile devices than Apple, which confuses the metaphor a bit.
Nonetheless, the video shows that the most highly anticipated Android phone of 2012, the Samsung Galaxy S3, is still stirring up some serious hype.
We look forward to seeing what other features, like “unpacked,” the Android version of the cloud featured in the video, will be included in the final new product.
Are you excited for the Samsung Galaxy S3? Tweet us @plasticmobile and let us know.
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.
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!
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!