Tag: Hardware

CES 2011 Recap

Jan 13, 2011 by in News, Technology

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.

Tablets

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 Screens

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.

Display Technology

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.

In-Car Technology

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.


DaVinci Goes Touchless With XBox Kinect

Dec 02, 2010 by in Microsoft Kinect

The launch of Xbox Kinect has caused much excitement in the open source community. In the last few weeks, developers have managed to tap into the hardware with impressive results. We’ve seen applications ranging from gesture-based experiences to 3D imaging.

We’ve taken this exciting opportunity to port our popular DaVinci experience to the Kinect platform. Gestures are used to create objects and control the physics of the environment. Your hands appear in the interface which allows you to literally grab objects out of thin air and move them in the environment. Additional gestures allow you to affect the gravity, magnetism and “planetary attraction”.

To date, many of the experiments in gestural interface development have not taken into account the hands. Unfortunately, the result is an experience that isn’t precise – users have no context of where they are interacting in the virtual space and 1-to-1 manipulation of objects in a scene proves difficult. By using an clenched hand to signify “grabbing” an object and an open hand to signify “releasing” an object, we are able to create experiences with an higher level of precision which can mimic a touch based experience. In fact, we’ve created a Kinect plugin to enable our entire suite of touch-based experiences to work with gestures – more videos to come!

Gesture-based interaction is great when touch isn’t practical. For instance, on a large screen projected display as shown in the video above it is difficult or physically impossible to control the entire area using touch. Using a technology like Kinect, we can create a virtual canvas in mid-air in front of the user. Interactions within this virtual canvas space are projected into the experience as shown in the DaVinci example.

To be honest, we had a blast playing with this experience. It definitely fulfilled all of our Star Wars fantasies of controlling objects with your mind. We’ll be adding more features in the coming weeks including the Darth Vader death grip. Stay tuned!

“Control, control, you must learn control.” – Yoda


The Technology Behind RockstAR

Apr 13, 2010 by in Augmented Reality, Lab, Multi-touch, Technology

We recently had the opportunity to debut the RockstAR experience at SXSW – check out video of the experience in action. We like to think of it as the classic photo booth taken to the next level with augmented reality, multi-touch and social integration. Let’s go behind-the-scenes and take a look at both the software and hardware that brings this experience to life.

RockstAR

First, let’s talk software. The application was built on the recently announced Razorfish Vision Framework. The framework provides a platform to power augmented reality, gestural and other vision-based experiences. For the RockstAR experience, we are analyzing each frame coming from an infrared camera to determine if faces are found in the crowd. Once a face is detected, it is assigned a unique ID and tracked. Once we receive a lock on the face, we can pass position and size information to the experience where we can augment animations and graphics on top of the color camera feed. This technology has a variety of uses. For instance, face tracking can be used to track impressions on static or interactive digital experiences in the retail environment. Here is a screenshot taken from the debug-mode of the experience which shows the face tracking engine at work using the infrared camera.

face tracking

In addition to the vision-based technology, the experience was fully multi-touch enabled – users can gesture on a virtual joystick to swap out bands and snap pictures.

joystick

Because the classic photo booth experience is a social activity, we took it to the next level with twitter and Flickr integration. As pictures were snapped, we’d immediately make them available online. A QR code was rendered with each picture to quickly allow users to navigate to the RockstAR photo on their mobile device. Once the experience is extended to mobile, users can email the pictures to their friends, set it as wallpaper, re-tweet it to their twitter followers, etc.

RockstAR twitter and flickr

Let’s move on to hardware. Unfortunately, you can’t purchase infrared AR-ready cameras at your local Walmart… at least not until Project Natal comes out later this year. Therefore, we needed to build a dual-camera system that would support the face tracking in infrared and the color video feed for display on the screen. We decided to go with 2 commercial-grade Firefly MV cameras with custom lenses.

camera

One of the cameras we modified to see only infrared light by replacing the IR-blocking filter with a IR band-pass filter. This allows only a narrow range of infrared light to reach the camera CCD.

infrared filter

We also purchased and tested a variety of infrared illuminators. These are used to illuminate the environment with invisible infrared light allowing the infrared camera to accurately track faces in low-light conditions.

infrared illuminator

Sparks were flying as we fused the color and infrared cameras together — just another day at the office.

We created a portable rig for the camera and infrared illuminators. Adjustable camera mounts and industrial strength velcro provide flexibility and portability across a variety of installations.

rig2

We used a presentation remote clicker as an alternative way to drive the experience. We primarily used it as a remote camera trigger which allowed us to quickly snap pictures of unsuspecting people from a distance.

clicker

The experience was powered by a 55″ multi-touch screen and a CPU provided by DFI Technologies. We’ve been working with DFI to build PCs that will power the next-generation of interactive experiences. These PCs are small form factor and can be mounted behind the multi-touch screen.

dfi

Last but not least, we bring you the pink rug. We can’t reveal too much information about this technology… we need to keep some things secret. Just know that it is critical to the overall experience.

rug


Windows Phone 7 Series Launch – Day 3

Feb 18, 2010 by in Mobile, Multi-touch, News, Portfolio

Before we left for the evening, we recorded a quick walkthrough of the Windows Phone booth and EMC (Executive Meeting Center) locations where we have touch experiences deployed to support the Windows Phone 7 Series launch event.

Members of the press and blogging community have been recording video of the experience throughout the conference. These videos have begun appearing online – here are a couple of the videos we’ve found:


Windows Phone 7 Series Launch – Day 2

Feb 17, 2010 by in Mobile, Multi-touch, News, Portfolio

day2-boothday2-booth3

After a long night of celebrating the successful launch of Windows Phone 7 Series in Barcelona, we are back at the Windows Phone booth at Mobile World Congress. The crowds are still huge and the experiences are running great. Each experience is collecting touch and interaction information in the background – we are going to begin processing this information to determine how many sessions we are seeing, average session time, the most popular areas of the experience, etc. We will use this information as a guide to optimize the experience for the next event.

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The Windows Phone team is showing live projected demonstrations of the device in the theatre area – these demonstrations are attracting huge crowds.


Windows Phone 7 Series Launch – Demo of Razorfish Touch Experience

Feb 16, 2010 by in Experience Design, Multi-touch, News

1:13pm (+1 GMT) – Day 2, Mobile World Congress. Video of Albert Shum, Director of Mobile Experience Design at Microsoft, using the multi-touch experience built by Razorfish as a tool to explain some of the thinking that Microsoft put into the user interface. Razorfish partnered with the Microsoft team to deliver multi-touch experiences which emulate a Windows Phone 7 Series device. The experience is deployed on multiple 40″ multi-touch displays at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.


Windows Phone 7 Series Launch – Day 1

Feb 16, 2010 by in Mobile, Multi-touch, News, Portfolio

day1-conference1

Members of the press camped out at the Windows Phone press lounge located across the plaza from Mobile World Congress. Because of the huge turnout for the announcement, much of the press watched the launch event live from the downstairs press lounge. After the show, we launched 6 experiences at this location allowing members the press to touch and interact with Windows Mobile 7 Series for the first time.

day1-conference21

Members of the press who weren’t able to watch the event in the theatre or the press lounge huddled around screens outside in the reception area. We went live with 2 experiences at this location.

day1-crowds1

Conference attendees watching the event live at the Windows Phone booth at Mobile World Congress. We had an additional 2 experiences running at this location.

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Cameras were out as the interface was unveiled for the first time. The phone interface design was kept a secret up until launch day. Preventing pictures and other leaks of information from making it to the press turned out to be a huge undertaking. The Windows Phone team went to great lengths to prevent leaks – in fact, many of the Microsoft employees working on the team never had the opportunity to see the interface until launch day. We based our experience off of some hands-on time in Redmond and videos of the experience. Our team was able to reverse-engineer the design, animation and interaction of the user interface. Accuracy was extremely important and we had to ensure the design and motion in our experience was a perfect re-creation of the experience on the actual device. We built the experience on top of the Razorfish Touch Framework. Using the framework allowed us to rapidly develop the application from scratch in under 4 weeks.

The product launch was a huge success and the Windows Phone team has been celebrating in Barcelona. The reaction from the press and blog community has been overwhelmingly positive. The conference is far from over but so far we are off to a great start!


Windows Phone 7 Series – Launch Event

Feb 15, 2010 by in Multi-touch, News, Portfolio

MWC 2010 Microsoft Booth

Greetings from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona!

We are excited to announce that we’ve been working with Microsoft on the launch of their next-generation mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7 Series. Steve Ballmer and the Windows Phone team announced Windows Phone 7 Series moments ago. As part of the launch, we’ve unveiled multi-touch experiences which emulate the user interface of the mobile devices. These experiences allow conference attendees and members of the press to experience Windows Phone 7 Series for the first time, flicking and gesturing through the 3D user interface and learning about the key features of the operating system on 40″ monitors.

Be sure to check out the Windows Phone 7 Series experience at the Microsoft booth (#1D19). Also join us at Hotel Catalonia (across the plaza from the MWC event) where the Windows Phone team is hosting members of the public and press for hands-on demonstrations of Windows Phone 7 Series.

We’ll be updating throughout the day with behind-the-scenes photos and videos from the booth and press events – stay tuned!

8:11am (+1 GMT) – Day 1, World Mobile Congress.  Steve Dawson (Technology Lead, Razorfish Emerging Experiences) and Luke Hamilton (Creative Lead, Razorfish Emerging Experiences) at the Windows Phone booth early in the morning (see below).  The Razorfish team collaborated closely with the Windows Phone 7 team.  Luke, Steve and team put in some late nights and weekends to make the touch experiences come to life. [jonathan hull]

Steve and Luke at booth

3:59 (+1 GMT) – holy cow there are droves of people watching the press conference! (see below) [lesley young]

mwc_wp7_booth_003

4:20 (+1 GMT) – the Windows Phone 7 Series touchscreen experience is live! [@stevedawson]

4:21 (+1 GMT) – as well as the online demo of the Windows Phone 7 Series, enjoy! [@lhamilton]

4:43 (+1 GMT) – having fun watching all the press interact with the giant 40″ demo of the phone (see below) [@lhamilton]
mwc_wp7_lounge_002
mwc_wp7_lounge_003

5:15 (+1 GMT) – we just posted pictures from the launch event setup to our flickr account … its been a tough, but fun 6 days [@lhamilton]

5:32 (+1 GMT) – users getting a hands on demo of the actual phone experience [@stevedawson]
mwc_wp7_lounge_001

5:58 (+1 GMT) – the Windows Phone team giving interactive demos on the big ass phone (see below) [jonathan hull]
mwc_wp7_booth_002

Hey, we’re going offline now, thanks so much for the touchscreen and online teams in Atlanta, Austin, Portland and Seattle that made this come together in under 4 weeks.


Razorfish & Audi Take Windows 7 for a Spin!

Nov 05, 2009 by in Multi-touch, News, Touchscreen

Windows 7 Launch Event, Germany

 

The Razorfish EE team has been kicking the tires on Windows 7 for almost a year prior to product launch. With great success we’ve been running the Razorfish Touch Framework (RTF) on Windows 7 across a number of multi-touch displays. Recently our Neue Digitale office in Germany had the opportunity to port the Audi Configurator Surface experience to Windows 7 for the Windows 7 launch event. Utilizing the RTF, the team was able to bring the Microsoft Surface experience to Windows 7 in under a week. This makes the Audi Configurator, not only the first Windows 7 multi-touch application on the German market, but also a tool which is hardware independent and can be installed on a variety of multi-touch enabled devices.

 

Windows 7 Launch Event

 

We also had the opportunity to test drive with an experimental multi-touch hardware device named “dreaMTouch” manufactured by Elektrosil Systeme der Elektronik GmbH for the Windows 7 launch. We recently worked with the device for the DMEXCO (Digital Marketing Exposition Conference) in Germany where we showcased the Razorfashion application and our other multi-touch experiences. The device supports an incredible 32 simultaneous touches on a 46″ screen. The device itself only measures a few inches thick. The dreaMTouch is now available for purchase.

 

Windows 7 Launch EventWindows 7 Launch Event

 

Check out more pictures of the Windows 7 Launch Event featuring the Audi Car Configurator.


We’re Taking the Show on the Road

Nov 05, 2009 by in News

Microsoft Vendor Fair

 

We’ve been busy traveling the globe demonstrating our touch experiences. The reaction from clients and the industry has been great – we’ve met some wonderful people along the way. Recently we were at the Microsoft Vendor Fair showing our Surface and vertical multi-touch experiences. With the Windows 7 release, the excitement within Microsoft is understandable. Much like our other clients, we’re working with Microsoft in realizing the potential of touch related experiences from a sales and marketing perspective. To see evidence of this look no further than the Microsoft retail store.

 

dmexco

 

Razorfashion goes international. We jumped at a chance to support our Neue Digitale team in Germany at DMEXCO (Digital Marketing Exposition Conference). To support the effort, we’ve been working with a company in Germany on an experimental multi-touch device named dreaMTouch. Once we figured out how to get the pre-release device through customs, we were able to integrate the hardware with the Microsoft-based Razorfish Touch Framework in under a day. Since integrating with the hardware was so easy, we decided to feature the Razorfashion application during the conference as well.