The Consumer Electronics Show was back for 2011 and our team was on the ground in Las Vegas. We have a number of initiatives going on at CES this year.
First, our team was involved in the Microsoft Surface 2.0 launch. We’ve been working with the Surface team for a few months on the next generation of Surface. We’ve been porting our applications to run on the latest version. We can proudly announce that we are Surface 2.0 ready and we look forward to supporting the new platform and bringing the solution to our clients. The Microsoft Surface announcement caught the media by surprise – it’s been over 3 years since the original Surface was announced. The new device is faster, leaner and costs less than the previous version of Surface. We’ll have an in-detail analysis of Microsoft Surface 2.0 posted on the blog shortly.
Second, we were involved in the launch of another experience for one of our clients. We created a solution that will be experienced by millions of consumers in the market. Unfortunately our involvement must remain confidential so we can’t go into too many details. Let’s just say it was definitely one of those opportunities that we could not pass up!
We took the opportunity to explore the trade show floor in an effort to educate ourselves on the latest technology offerings. We hope to bring some of these technologies to our clients in 2011. Here are some of the technologies that we’ve got our eye on.
2011 has been declared the “year of the tablet”. There were certainly no shortage of tablets at CES. In fact, about 80 new tablet form-factor devices were announced at CES this year.
From a hardware perspective, tablets are getting thinner, lighter and more powerful thanks to innovation around chip technology from companies like Intel, ARM, nVidia and Qualcomm. There are a variety of new form-factors hitting the market. The Eee Pad Transformer tablet can be docked in a base which transforms the device into a traditional laptop form-factor. The Dell Inspiron Duo tablet features a reversible screen to accomplish the same thing.
There were a variety of different screen sizes available. One of the interesting debates between amongst members of our team was around the usefulness of the small screen tablets. These “tweener” devices feature screens between the size of a typical phone and an iPad. The smaller size means they are more portable than an iPad, however they still can’t fit in your pocket and they can’t make phone calls.
One of the most impressive devices was the BlackBerry Playbook. The device features a brilliant user interface which makes use of NUI design principals – direct interaction of content through the use of gestures. In addition, the performance of the device was exceptional. We can’t wait to start developing for this platform.
For the first time, we had the opportunity to see the new Android Honeycomb tablet OS. The exerience is decidedly Android retaining much of the same design language. Improvements have been made to the user interface to take into account the additional tablet real-estate. In all honesty, we were slightly disappointed with the user interface. We were hoping for something game-changing from Google and instead, they delivered an experience that was transitional, not transformational.
One of the major disappointments was the lack of direction from Microsoft on tablet devices. We were crossing our fingers for an announcement around a tablet operating system that was lightweight and provided an exceptional user experience similar to what is being provided on Windows Phone 7 platform. And we wanted this platform soon.
Microsoft did acknowledge they are behind in the space. Right now, their story is positioning Windows 8 as the solution for tablets by supporting system-on-a-chip architecture. By supporting this hardware platform, Microsoft will be able to deliver Windows experiences on tablet devices while taking into account battery life and OS performance.
Unfortunately, no announcements were made around the Windows 8 user interface. Delivering an exceptional tablet UI will be essential to their strategy. It is likely Microsoft will adopt the “Metro” design language currently being used for Windows Phone 7 and Microsoft Surface 2.0.
Gesture Control and Natural Interaction
With the release and success of Xbox Kinect, the gesture control market is heating up. Much like the original iPhone brought touch interaction into the mainstream by putting millions of devices in the hands of consumers, Xbox Kinect will do the same for gesture control. The way we interact with computers is fundamentally changing and we are getting in on the ground floor.
We’ve taken the opportunity to develop for the Kinect platform, however we were looking for a commercial-grade solution to bring to our clients. Enter PrimeSense.
PrimeSense licenses their technology to Microsoft for use in the Xbox Kinect, therefore they seemed like the perfect partner to deliver the hardware and software to support commercialized gesture control solutions. We are actively working with PrimeSense to develop for their platform. Their OpenNI initiative hopes to create a framework for standardization of natural interface development across devices.
We see gesture control technology being used in an in-home setting and also in retail environments. This technology can be utilized to create at-home shopping experiences which combine natural interaction and augmented reality. Imagine being able to virtually try on clothes from the comfort of your own home. Or order a pizza with a flick of the wrist from the comfort of your couch.
We have been champions of the use of interactive experiences in the retail environment and we have the statistics to prove it. To date, the majority of our experiences have utilized touch. This technology provides a new user interaction paradigm and offers an entirely new world of possibilities in the retail space.
Touch screen technology is evolving rapidly. Devices are becoming larger, cheaper and more reliable. Exciting new form-factors and multi-touch hardware will help us deliver new experiences to our clients in 2011.
3M Touch Systems has exciting new hardware and form-factors hitting the market which utilize their massively multi-touch projected capacitive technology. This technology provides extremely stable multi-touch that supports a large amount of touch points. 3M is brining 23” and 32” screen sizes to the market. In additional, the screens can be integrated into a multi-device array to build large size touch wall and table experiences.
We also had some hands-on time with systems from PQ Labs and Multitouch.fi. Both vendors offer touch solutions that are unique and exceptional. We look forward to working with these companies in the future.
Displays are getting thinner, lighter and more energy efficient. 3D technology is also evolving quickly. Much like last year, 3D display technology was everywhere. The most impressive innovation in the 3D TV space comes from LG. They demonstrated how their 3D technology has been standardized – every TV on display in their booth could utilize the same pair of glasses to deliver an exceptional 3D experience. They also demonstrated flicker-less 3D which produced a better 3D picture than we’ve seen on any other consumer device.
The glasses-less 3D technology was a disappointment. There isn’t enough discernable depth with the current iteration of the technology. Certainly this will change over time, however the promise of ditching the glasses has yet to be fulfilled. We wouldn’t be surprised if this changes in 2011.
Ford had the major innovations in the automotive space. The Ford Focus Electric vehicle was announced along with an update to the MyFord Touch interface. The interface features a number of enhancements including the ability to visualize your destination and alert the driver if there isn’t adequate charge in the vehicle’s battery. In addition, an efficiency coach monitors your driving habits to advise changes to your driving style and an “Emotive Display” visualizes butterflies when you are driving in a way that adds range to your vehicle.
MyFord Mobile was also announced. The app allows you to locate charging stations, unlock doors and find the location of the vehicle. In addition, the app goes social with driving behavior monitoring – achievements are awarded once certain milestones are met. These achievements can be shared on Facebook.