- Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
- Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
If you follow this blog, you know we love the use of panorama / 360 views to immerse a viewer in a scene, destination, world, whatever. Recently, there have been some great examples of Panoramas including a virtual, interactive view of the Sistine Chapel and a panorama with Google Earth type functionality in Prague. Now we have the Playboy Mansion tour where you can virtually interact with the home that Hef built. This is mostly safe for work and you won’t come across anything worse than what you’ve seen in PG-13 movies. It’s really just an overview of all the different areas in the Playboy Mansion.
Overall, navigation is a bit clunky and highlighted areas only use text where video would have enhanced the virtual walkthrough. Despite that, it’s a decent effort though don’t expect an entirely fluid experience (pun intended…)
- Tuesday, June 29th, 2010
- Friday, June 25th, 2010
Infoworld has 2 great articles that explain differing viewpoints on how Flash and HTML5 will advance the web. Though this is being positioned as a “vs.” situation in the press, it’s most likely that Flash and HTML 5 will compliment each other in the future. One of the articles has a good point that even with HTML5 reducing the need for plug-ins, for video in particular, we’re really just replacing plug-ins with codecs. So real battle will probably be between H.264 and WebM. The more things change, the more they remain the same….
HTML5 vs. FLASH: THE CASE FOR FLASH
HOW HTML5 WILL CHANGE THE WEB
- Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
In response to Apple’s recent shutting out of anything Flash on the iPhone, iPod, and iPad, Mike Chambers, Adobe’s product manager for the Flash platform, made a statement about Apple mobile development.
“As developers for the iPhone have learned, if you want to develop for the iPhone you have to be prepared for Apple to reject or restrict your development at any time, and for seemingly any reason. . . The primary goal of Flash has always been to enable cross browser, platform and device development. The cool Web game that you build can easily be targeted and deployed to multiple platforms and devices. However, this is the exact opposite of what Apple wants. They want to tie developers down to their platform, and restrict their options to make it difficult for developers to target other platforms.”
In one of the most interesting official statements to come out of Apple in a while, Apple spokesperson Trudy Miller responded,
Let’s take a second to get away from the spin and run through the facts about which side in this argument is more “closed and proprietary” than the other.
- iPhone: Apple maintains a closed distribution model (the App Store) that is the only way to get applications without breaking the warranty of your device. Apple also maintains a very profitable closed distribution method for music and video, and only allows select partners to deliver media outside of it.
- Flash: While the Flash plugin is proprietary, it is available for use through all major web browsers and practically every smart phone, other than the iPhone, at no cost to the user and without limiting other interactive content platforms. Also, with Flash, the user has open access to many sites that offer free delivery of music and videos.
- iPhone: In order to develop for Apple’s mobile devices and distribute to the majority of users, the developer must pay Apple $99 a year for the right to not only submit applications and keep them in the App Store, but just to test them on a device. Compare this to Android, where all of that is 100% free. Also, a developer must sign an extensive terms of service agreement that effectively gives Apple the right to steal their application and release it as their own intellectual property.
- Flash: While the Flash CS5 and Flash Builder development environments cost about $500 a piece, Adobe also provides the Flex SDK, which has the exact same coding abilities, completely free. It is relatively easy for a developer to make and distribute Flash applications, including desktop apps through AIR, at no charge and with no approval process or possibility of having it stolen by Adobe.
Other “Closed and Proprietary” Things That Apple Does on Mobile
- Apple doesn’t allow fully functional third party apps that “duplicate functionality.”
- Apple doesn’t allow apps that “ridicule public figures,” though the 1st Amendment does.
- Apple limits how apps can use public data that can be accessed through the browser anyway.
- Apple limits how third party Ad systems can send statistics.
- Apple limits what languages can be used to make applications. Note that not one of Miller’s supported “open and standard” languages is Object-Oriented and capable of delivering native quality applications, through the browser, like Flash can.
With this list, I’m not trying to say that one side is morally better than the other, but Apple calling out Flash for being “closed and proprietary” is most certainly hypocritical, if not downright ridiculous. Personally, it’s getting annoying to have to regularly break down the spin, and sometimes logical inconsistencies, of an Apple statement to come to an estimate of the real reasoning behind the action (something I must do, because their decisions affect my profession). I can’t help but think that if the real reason was at all benevolent, such as supporting open standards, there would be no need for these types of blatant cover-ups.
Follow me on Twitter: @blakecallens
- Friday, April 2nd, 2010
Let me pose a question: where would personal computing technology be today if software developers had always been subject to any and all of hardware manufacturers’ approval guidelines and whims?
Imagine a world where:
- You are forced to use your desktop or laptop’s bundled web browser, email client, and media applications, because other options “duplicate functionality.” That means no independent solutions like Firefox, Thunderbird, or VLC.
- There are no P2P clients, like Transmission or uTorrent, not because the software itself is illegal, but because the consumer might use it for “infringing third party rights.”
- Great games, in the traditions of Duke Nukem and Leisure Suit Larry, are unavailable because they contain “objectionable content.”
- You can not manually manage files, but can only edit, save, and delete them from within the approved applications that they were created in. You can not download a file from the web and open it.
- Software can’t use the rights of parody and satire, granted by the First Amendment, because the hardware manufacturer won’t approve an application that “ridicules public figures.”
- Even if the software didn’t break the previous guidelines, manufacturers could deny its release, negating a developer’s months, if not years, of hard work, just because they felt like it.
- Developers who write groundbreaking applications have to agree to give the hardware manufacturer the choice of duplicating the application and releasing it as their own intellectual property.
Sounds Orwellian, doesn’t it? This is exactly how the closed mobile development space works right now. And, as the distribution model is gaining popularity among other hardware developers, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine a near future where personal computers have adopted this format (a vision held by Popular Science’s Tom Conlon).
Although the closed development model is overtly damaging to the software industry, developers are flocking to it in droves, disregarding their best interests for a chance at being one of the lucky few to make a killing off of a popular application. At the same time, fully aware of the downside of the process, they are less likely to submit any software that is truly groundbreaking. This leads to a mobile marketplace containing mostly ports of browser based applications, information reference software, minimally functional “one task” applications, and games.
If you doubt that statement, and own one of these devices, write down the number of third party applications you have installed, then list the applications that aren’t games or just clients for things you can do in the device’s web browser (if the device doesn’t have Flash, pretend it does). Here’s my list:
- 117 Third Party Applications
- 80 Games (I play only 6 of them regularly)
- 8 Qualifying Applications, comprised of:
- 1 Remote Mouse Application
- 1 Earthquake Warning Application
- 2 Location Check In Applications
- 4 Augmented Reality “Lite” Applications
Out of 117 third party applications on my device, only one provides both a practical, utilitarian purpose and something I can’t already do in the browser (the remote mouse). If you think my results are biased, I wrote one of the 109 applications that didn’t make the cut. There are some other truly useful applications that I could purchase for my device, but they’re as much a needle in the hay stack as the one I already have installed. Also, if I find an application that I want, but it wasn’t approved for release by the manufacturer, I can’t get it without breaking my device’s warranty or going through black market-like ad-hoc distribution. How would you feel if a desktop computer, for sale in an electronics store, were hindered by those limitations? Would you still buy it, or would you choose something else?
The best way that the software community can keep closed development from spreading to the desktop, or at least ensure that there will always be an “option B,” is to support open mobile platforms. In my next post, I’ll describe paths towards accomplishing that without forsaking profits.
Follow me on Twitter: @blakecallens
- Tuesday, March 30th, 2010
With all the focus on emerging media and technology, new online media models, new mobile ad models and so on, sometimes effective yet basic online advertising is overlooked. I thought this online ad from Southwest was one of the best I’ve seen in awhile mainly due to the relevance to what I was viewing at the time (Marketwatch.com) and context around publishers desire to build ‘pay gates’ for content. Nice way to tie that message in with the “your bags fly free” messaging of Southwest.
- Thursday, March 18th, 2010
There’s been a lot of talk lately about HTML5 and how it will completely change the landscape of the web. Folks as high up on the technology food chain as Steve Jobs tout it as the ultimate replacement for Flash. So, in an effort to be a good programmer, I spent some time learning HTML5 (specifically the canvas component) to compare capabilities. I can emphatically say that HTML5 will not be a Flash killer, with the only possible exception being video, and here are the reasons why:
Just try to get a programmer to drop OOP
Flash is run through the ActionScript language, and AS3, the version of ActionScript that’s been around for almost four years, is object oriented. For those not familiar with OOP, it’s by far the most preferred method of coding for experienced software engineers, most of who consider non-OOP languages archaic (probably the nicest thing they would say).
I have to manually support different browsers?
A Flash application will run on any operating system in any browser. The only possible issue is the display of system fonts, which can easily be averted by embedding fonts in the application. HTML5, though, brings with it all the same browser compatibility problems that currently plague web designers. A HTML5 application playing sound or video will have to support every codec used by all major browsers. So, instead of having one mp3 for every sound in Flash application, the developer will have to make a mp3, wav, and ogg for every sound that needs to be played and write code to test the browsers supported codecs.
The same goes for video. Websites that want to support video playback will have to encode all their videos in both the h.264 and Ogg Theora codecs. Imagine a site with a video repository the size of Hulu’s deciding to go through every single one of their thousands of h.264 videos and re-encoding them for Ogg, especially when their Flash video player works just fine for them already. YouTube recently launched an HTML5 player, but decided not to support Ogg, so the only browsers it can be viewed in are Safari and Chrome. Beyond the codec issue, the HTML5 video component actually does work very well, and I suspect that we’ll begin to see it used more often.
I’ve also noticed some screen redrawing issues that vary between browsers. When redrawing large bitmaps on the canvas, the area would flicker sporadically, as if the browser couldn’t catch up to the redraw calls. Once again, this is not an issue in Flash, since it takes care of redrawing the stage automatically.
Code obfuscation, anyone?
To help illustrate the current issues with code obfuscation and the canvas component, here’s a little Pong game I wrote in HTML5. You’ll only be able to play it if you have a capable browser, such as Firefox, Chrome or Safari.
Flash to the rescue
The idea behind HTML5 is a solid one. The kind of functionality that Flash delivers is ultimately something that should move out of a plugin and in to the browser, but this isn’t an easy change to make. The main roadblock is the core difference between web and application programming. HTML has never been more than a document format, and through the last fifteen years of mass marketed internet, developers have tacked on external languages to give it greater functionality. In the last few years, Flash has become the most used way to bring native application functionality to an HTML page, and it was able to do it because AS3 is a language of substantial depth, based on OOP principles.
Because of this, I think the best hope for HTML5 is for Adobe to add an “Export To HTML5″ feature to the Flash IDE and Flex SDK. I suspect talk of it is already floating around their headquarters, because, despite what someone said, they are most definitely not lazy.
- Thursday, October 15th, 2009
(This article originally appeared in the WebAward October Briefing Newsletter on 10/13/09)
3 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Using Augmented Reality In Marketing And Advertising
(If you are already familiar with the basics of Augmented Reality, please skip this paragraph)
Augmented Reality is a technology that has to be seen to be believed. In its basic sense, Augmented Reality is just what it sounds like – Augmenting One’s Reality. For a more detailed definition per Wikipedia, Augmented Reality (or AR for short) is a term for a live direct or indirect view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are merged with (or augmented by) virtual computer-generated imagery thereby creating a mixed reality. AR on a computer usually requires a webcam and a marker where a person can hold a unique marker (usually a symbol on a sheet of paper) up to the webcam and an animation will appear on the marker within the feed of the webcam. This is augmenting your ‘video reality’ by adding additional information to your live video feed. You can view examples of Augmented Reality on http://www.facebook.com/augmentedreality or alternatively, search YouTube for video examples.
Augmented Reality (AR) has quickly become the buzz word du jour for those of us in Interactive Marketing and Advertising. Like every other emerging media or technology that becomes flavor of the month, agencies and marketers are rushing to launch an AR execution to show that they’re hip and down with the latest interactive technologies. To say this is becoming a problem is an understatement. Most of the AR executions coming out lately are one-off executions that don’t seem to be part of any well thought out strategy and don’t make any sense for the brand. AR is here to stay so it’s important that brands and their agencies start looking at the utilitarian aspects of AR that can help promote their product or service in a meaningful and engaging way for the consumer.
Unfortunately, utility based AR examples are few and far between. Listed below are some recent AR initiatives that are utility focused and based upon a simple objective – using AR to solve a problem for the consumer or end user:
- AKQA launched an AR based shipping solution for the U.S. Postal Service
- This IKEA Prototype focuses on using AR markers to measure out how furniture would look in your living room
- The Webcam Social Shopper by Zugara uses AR and Motion Capture to let consumers view digital apparel on themselves as they shop online
However, these are the exceptions to the flood of recent AR executions. Most current AR examples are really nothing more than animated 3D demos that are exploiting the novelty of this new technology. As a result, the AR space is quickly becoming overcrowded and it won’t take long for the novelty of AR to wear off.
Over the next year, more consumers will be exposed to AR based initiatives, so it will be critical to rise above the current ‘gee whiz’ factor of AR and develop well thought out AR initiatives that provide a benefit or enhancement for your consumers. For AR to be effective for both your brand and your end consumer, you should be asking yourself 3 questions before getting started:
1. Is this something I can already do on my site within a normal browser?
Too often, we’ve been seeing AR executions that are AR just for the sake of using AR. Do you really need to launch a video in AR? Or a 3D asset? Too many recent AR executions are guilty of this and scream, “WHY!!!” Why are you making your consumer go through unnecessary hoops when they can just as easily view the video or 3D asset in a standard player on your website? An AR initiative should not be exempt from Best Practices online, so it’s always important to put usability before the ‘experience’. AR is already asking a lot of the consumer – that they have a webcam and, in some cases, will need to print out a marker to view the AR itself. In addition, there are AR platforms or technologies that will require an additional Internet browser plug-in or will only work in Internet Explorer so doing your research beforehand will be vital to the end consumer experience.
2. What am I trying to communicate or accomplish with AR and what is the experience I’m providing for my consumer?
Gimmicky executions of AR are not the way to go so if you are going to use AR effectively you should first outline your objectives for using AR. Are you using AR to show how your product can solve a problem for the consumer in a way they might not have seen before? Will AR help enhance an experience for your consumer that they otherwise would not experience through other interactive channels or technologies? In regards to the Webcam Social Shopper above, we focused on the aspects of AR that we could use to help bridge the gap between offline and online shopping. This specific AR application would not have been possible without AR so it’s important to focus on the utility based aspects of AR and how it can potentially solve a scenario or problem for your consumer, and subsequently your brand. One brand (that shall rename nameless) was guilty of doing AR just to do it and suffered from severe backlash on the web. The AR had nothing to do with their product and in fact, targeted a demographic that was least likely to be engaged by AR technology. If you’re not careful, the AR experience can hurt your brand or product rather than help it.
3. How will Augmented Reality interact with or enhance other aspects of my Integrated Campaign?
It’s very easy to get caught up in the hype and amazement of viewing AR for the first time. I know we all did the first time we saw AR in person. However, that should not stop you from asking the hard questions about any AR initiative that might be part of your campaign. Will your AR effort tie into any other integrated efforts or are you only looking at the ‘cool’ aspects of AR that function as a one-off for your product or campaign. Many well thought out integrated campaigns lately are using print and AR together to provide a unique experience. Mobile AR has also become much more prominent on smart phones like the iPhone and Android and can be leveraged with retail or OOH components of a campaign. There are even examples of AR integrated with Social Media that help transform AR from an individual to community focused experience.
Augmented Reality is not only here to stay but is the future of how we will view and access virtual information in the real world. However, in the marketing and advertising worlds, it’s going to take some restraint by agencies and marketers to not rush out multitudes of gimmicky, non-utility based AR executions that will quickly turn off consumers and overhype the technology. AR has the potential to be a unique technology that can enhance the product or brand experience for the consumer – especially when paired with other emerging media and technology. It’s an exciting time right now watching AR evolve into a science without the fiction.
For the AR examples mentioned above and more, please visit the Facebook Augmented Reality community – http://www.facebook.com/augmentedreality. If you have any questions related to AR, please feel free to reach out to me at Matt@zugara.com.
- Monday, August 31st, 2009
Crowdsourcing has become a new and sexy target in the interactive marketing world when a project brief lists ‘engage the community on a limited budget’. Unfortunately, it seems that lately, both brands and agencies have been exploiting crowdsourcing thinking they can have their cake and eat it too. In essence, crowdsourcing is an attempt at trying to get professional and premium results for amateur pricing. (Note: for this blog entry I’m not referring to legitimate attempts at crowdsourcing such as the Netflix initiative but rather attempts at crowdsourcing that are blatantly trying to commoditize specialized services relevant to marketing and advertising.)
Cripsin, Porter + Bogusky (CP+B) is at the heart of a current controversy involving the design community and CP+B’s intent to crowdsource a logo design for their client – Brammo. Not only has this put CP+B in a poor light (both in the design community as well as interactive marketing community) but it’s not making their client look so hot either. CP+B sent out an RFP for logo design and is offering $1,000 for the winning logo. How much money CP+B was paid is anybody’s guess, but this again shows how crowdsourcing is being exploited for monetary gain. Not to mention, why would a brand need an agency if all they’re going to do is create a RFP and post it on a site for community submissions? Does crowdsourcing even need a middleman in this instance? The irony here is that as crowdsourcing becomes more popular it makes an agency less relevant.
Then you also have another form of crowdsourcing exploitation that are thinly veiled ‘community contests’ which offer little to no prizes in exchange for the glory and prominence of associating a designer or developers name with a popular brand. Gap is the latest culprit here using an iPhone App crowdsourced contest whereby the winning developer ‘wins’:
- Their app to be noted as the ‘official’ iPhone app for Gap
- 2 months of free office space (which was recently added to most likely entice more entries)
- The winning developers name in a Gap press release
Yes, you read that right, the big prize for spending all that time and effort is a name along with Gap in a press release. And what could the 2 months of free office space be for? You draw your own conclusions there… Furthermore, the second tier prizes range from $100 to $500 gift certificates which is really helping to ‘commoditize’ iPhone App development in general. Has any development platform in recent memory (iPhone App in this instance) gone from premium pricing to commoditized pricing in such a short time span?
Most professional designers and developers are already aware that by basically performing these crowdsourcing initiatives, for free, they’re in effect helping to commoditize their craft. Even if a designer and / or developer is in it for the glory of having their name associated with a brand, how would other agencies or companies view the winner when it comes to real world pricing? My gut tells me that any agency or brand would figure if the winning designer / developer would do something for free, they’ll be more than happy to do a paid initiative even if it’s ridiculously low budgeted and barely above the cost of ‘free’.
Crowdsourcing is just another example of User Generated Content but in a more controlled manner and specialized environment. With any brand sponsored contest, prizing / monetary value is always key to attracting the best talent and most qualified entries or results. In addition, it is also important to offer monetary value that correlates to the effort of work involved. It seems in these recessionary times, there’s an attempt to skip over that small detail. Unfortunately though, as the last 3-4 years have shown for UGC, some things still hold true – you get what you pay for.