Highlights From the 2017 Apple WWDC

Apple held their annual WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference) in San Jose, CA on June 5, 2017.  Tim Cook, Apple CEO, kicked off the keynote to 5,000 developers  by declaring this will be the biggest WWDC (I had to chuckle because he says this every year).  Here are the things I found interesting in the two hour and half hour keynote.

 

Apple HomePad

As predicted, Apple announced, HomePad, which directly competes with the Amazon Echo and Google Home.  They positioned it as a cross between a high end wireless speaker (specifically comparing it to Sonos) and voice assistant (aka Amazon Echo).   They spent a lot of time focusing on the quality of the speakers and it seem like the voice assistant was more of an add-on.   I think they did so to justify the $350 price tag to differentiate it from the other voice assistants which are substantially less expensive.

 

VR Support

I have to admit, whenever they do the hardware demo at the keynotes, I usually find it cliché …wait for it…it’s the most power Mac ever (duh).  What was interesting was their demo of a Star Wars virtual reality scene being developed by Industrial Light and Magic.   Apple is not known for being a gaming platform but they’ve beefed up the iMac Pro to accommodate VR development .

 

Send and Receive Money with Apple Pay

In demoing the updates to iMessage, Apple showed the ability to send and receive money through Apple Pay.  Wait a second; that sounds like Venmo.  Looks like the Peer-to-Peer payment space just got a big competitor.

 

ARKit

One of the more interesting and exciting things I saw as developer is Apple’s announcement of ARKit .  This allows developers to make Augmented Reality apps for the iOS.  For those of you unfamiliar with AR, Pokemon Go is an example.  It will be interesting what developers will do with ARKit.

 

watchOS 4 features Machine Learning

One of the faces of watchOS 4 is that it will use machine learning to display relevant info to the user.  Pretty cool, but I still don’t plan to wear a watch any time soon (why do I need a watch when I already have an iPhone).

There was actually a lot more stuff announced at the keynote.  This was just  the things I found interesting.  To see the entire keynote, just click here.

 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

CAL FIRE Ready for Wildfire App

California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) fights over 5600 calfireiconwildfires that plague California annually.  CAL FIRE has a new weapon in their arsenal to help prepare the public for when the next wildfire strikes, it’s their new mobile app called CAL FIRE Ready for Wildfire.  The app is currently available on both the iPhone and Android platforms.  The app has three primary functions:

  • Providing Educational Content on how to prepare for and help protect property from wildfires
  • Notifying citizens of wildfire incidents with custom alerts
  • Providing incident information and maps on California wildfires

Education

The main purpose of the app is to help educate residents and property owners in high risk wildland areas on how to prepare for wildfires.  The app has a series of checklists that is broken down as follows:

  • Ready (Maintain Defensible Space and Hardening Homes)
    • Create Defensible Space
    • Harden Home
    • Prepare for Bark Beetles
  • Set (Create a Wildfire Action Plan)
    • Wildfire Action Plan
    • Emergency Supply Kit
    • Design a Family Communication Plan
  • Go! (Evacuation Guide)
    • Pre-Evacuation Guide
    • When to evacuate
    • What to do when trapped

 

The app has nine separate check-off lists that also provide educational material in the form of articles and videos.  The videos can be viewed as part of the checklist or in the video library.

Cal Fire education

Notifications

The user can sign up to receive custom wildfire alerts for a physical address and/or for the user’s device location.  The user can opt-in for push notifications and/or SMS messages for wildfires that are reported in selected California counties, or within 30 miles of the user’s device, using location services.

Push Notifications

Push Notifications require the user to have the app.  The push notifications are generated using integration with Urban Airship.

SMS

The user can also opt to receive text messages about latest wildfires.  The advantage of using this option is that the user doesn’t need the app to receive the notification.   The SMS messages are generated through integration with Twilio.

CAL Fire alerts

Information

Basic information from CAL FIRE can also be found on the app.  The app has embedded CAL FIRE’s mobile website for incident information, and there’s a feed from CAL FIRE’s Twitter account.  In addition, there’s a Statewide Fire Google Map that displays all the active wildfires in California.

Cal Fire Info

CAL FIRE launched a campaign to promote the app that directs residents to this resource as tool to prepare their Defensible Space in advance of the 2017 wildfire season. The campaign also includes an incentive for user downloads through an App Sweepstakes that is available now through May 21, 2017. The Sweepstakes offers users a chance to win a home hardening prize package. The Sweepstakes is co-sponsored by Apptology and iHeartRadio. No state funds are used for promotion or prizes. The CAL FIRE app was developed by Apptology as a contractor to CAL FIRE’s marketing agency, Sagent. For more information on the Ready For Wildfire Campaign, visit www.readyforwildfire.org

Understanding UX and UI Design

I’ve read a number of articles referencing “UI vs. UX” design, including blogs asking the question “which is better?” There is no “versus” or “better” when it comes to User Interface and User eXperience. A professional mobile app developer will tell you that the User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are equally important.

User Interface Design (UI):

I’ll begin with the User Interface Design (UI) because it includes some of my favorite app elements! UI = the visual design, the colors, the layout and the typography. A successful UI is efficient and easy to use. Tasks and navigation should visually appear to be simple and intuitive, and the technical functionality should balance nicely with the visual elements to create a system which is usable (and also flexible as the users’ needs change).

“Good user interface design facilitates finishing the task at hand without drawing unnecessary attention to itself. Graphic designand typography are utilized to support itsusability, influencing how the user performs certain interactions and improving the aesthetic appeal of the design; design aesthetics may enhance or detract from the ability of users to use the functions of the interface.”

In User Interface Design, we ask: what are we making? Then we apply the visual elements, making it appealing with a focus on the tools. It’s basically the stuff the user sees. However, we cannot get to this piece and have a great UI without the UX.

User Experience (UX):

With UX, rather than asking “what are we going to make?” we focus instead on “what are we trying to achieve?” It’s in the name! The User eXperience Design focuses on the experiences and the feelings you get while using the app. With development expertise guiding the way, design collaborates with development to focus on the interactions (the broad scope of the project). In fact, I usually describe the UX Design as the interaction process. To be more precise, the COMPLETE package is what makes a good UX; whereas, good User Interface Design is essential, but only an element of a successful User eXperience.

Understanding the User

To get a sense of how UI and UX work together, we first require a complete understanding of what the user needs before we even get to the UI process. This includes a lot of the behind-the-scenes work: wire-framing and prototyping, the information architecture, research and the scenario interpretations. We identify functionality and goals for our clients’ app through significant communication and research. Looking at the broad scope of the project, we tie everything together to translate the client’s ideas into a successful UX.

Then, moving into the information architecture and wire-framing phase, we essentially create the framework and “bones” of the project. We strip out everything and focus simply on content, flow and navigation. With the client’s approval, we then have enough information to move through the User eXperience foundation to create the User Interface Design (the stuff you see).

Once the UI is complete, we continue through the UX process and support the UI with development, API integration, QA testing and finally an upload to the app store.

Both are Critical!

It’s not UX vs. UI! If a mobile app looks great but is difficult to use, this means it has a great UI and a poor UX. On the other hand, if the app is very usable but looks terrible, it has a great UX and poor UI. And if you’re in the business of creating successful apps or websites, User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI) are equally important, delivering the best product to clients and users.

By Shellynn Finstad, Apptology Chief Creative Officer

How Do You Turn Your Idea Into an App?

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I will always remember my first convention as a vendor representing Apptology. As we set up our booth, I was nervous for a number of reasons: Did I understand our technical services well enough to answer questions? Would convention-goers suspect I was new at this? Should I have worn the Apptology-branded baseball jersey versus the outfit I’d purchased specifically for this event?

In short, none of this mattered. As people slowly migrated to our booth, they watched our video presentation and read our marketing materials… it was surprisingly comfortable. However, what I noticed more than anything was that most of the people stayed to chat! Some even waited in line simply because they had an idea and they wanted to talk about it.

If you have an idea for an app but have no clue how to get to the next step, it really is easy to have the conversation. Don’t be intimidated! It’s okay if you aren’t tech savvy. It’s okay if you have only jotted down a few notes. Of course, it’s wonderful if you’ve come fully prepared with a wireframe, a flow and navigation document and an architecture diagram, but in my five plus years in the Mobile Application Project Management world, very few clients actually come to us fully prepared. It’s okay! That’s our job!

To get started, we will want to have a clear understanding of your vision for your app. If you have sketches or samples of things that inspire you, we can begin there. If there are functions in other apps that you love, but they have nothing to do with your product and you’re not sure how that could translate to your specific app specs, we can help you get there. In fact, many clients come to us with their ideas and ask us to collaborate with them. We are happy to research and suggest solutions that will enhance the performance or user experience of your app,

Once we are ready to move forward, we can initially provide a package that helps define the project scope and creates the “bones” for your app from concept through submission. With the client’s constant input, we provide:

• Page Schematics with explanations of page-by-page functionality and features required for all screens.

• Site Architecture (both user and admin when applicable)

• Presentation of Final Site Architecture

Once these documents are created, we have a clear and precise roadmap to move forward with design and development.

If you plan to develop an app, my advice is to have fun! Research other apps to see what is out there! Find colors and designs you like! Our job is to adapt our development methodologies to meet the technical specifications of your project by helping you determine resources needed depending on your app’s complexity. Whether you have Post-It notes or detailed digital files, it’s okay! YOUR job is to be the expert of YOUR idea.

 

Shellynn Finstad is the Chief Creative Officer for Apptology and Project Manager for Apptology’s Custom App Division.

7 App Advertising Models

madmen

The smartphone app ad market is at a paced to hit $100 B in 2016. Consequently, numerous mobile ad companies have sprouted up. The mobile ad companies are wooing developers with various monetization models that can easily be integrated into an app with their SDK. This post lists 7 mobile ad monetization models.

1. Banner Ads

This is what most people think mobile ads are. They typically will occupy the real estate at the top or bottom of an app. If the user taps the ad, all sorts of possibilities open up from watching a video to the option of downloading an app.  I personally think this is pretty ineffective method of advertising and cheapens your app.  Users have become blind to banner ads.   The dominant players for banner ads are Google’s AdMob and Chartboost.

2. Interstitial Ads

These are inserted at transition points in an app like right before an app starts or in a case of a game after a level is complete. It’s like watching a commercial on television. It’s typically a video that can drop the user off to the advertiser’s desired URL or to download another app. Some of the mobile advertisers that use this model include TapJoyRevMob, and Flurry.

interstitual

3. Rewards Ads

They are my favorite because it’s a win – win for all involved. The reward is triggered by some event in the app like getting an achievement. The user will see a pop up where they will get a discount, gift card, coupon, etc. The owner of the app will also get compensated too. So everyone’s a winner. Players in this space are Kiip and Avocarrot.

 

rewards

4. Offer Walls

These are typically used in games where virtual goods are sold for real currency. The offer wall gives the player the option of earning virtual goods by performing some action on the wall. For example, a player can earn virtual gold by signing up for a trial Netflix account. Mobile Advertisers that support Offer Walls are TapJoyStartApp, and Fiksu.

offerwall

5. Notification Ads

I’m not a big fan of notification ads. Apps that support notification ads act like a Trojan horse (To be fair, users have to Opt-in). They will be able to push notification ads even when the app is dormant. Notification Ads are only supported on Android. My theory is that the reason that it’s not supported on iOS is that Apple rejects it because of the Trojan-like nature. AirPush and LeadBolt offer this mechanism.

 

notificationad

6. Native Advertising

This is used for apps that are content based and typically show up in the apps’ news feed. Facebook adopted native advertising and has done exceptionally well.  This ad model is probably the most effective way to generate revenue through mobile advertising.  Mobile advertisers that offer native advertising include AdRoll,Sharethrough, and PubNative.

nativeads

 

7.  Data Collection

When I originally wrote this article, I listed 6 mobile monetization models.  Recently, I met the team at Beacons in Space that developed a new revenue model that essentially collects data about users near beacons.  As such, I had to update this article with a new revenue model that  I’m calling Data Collection.  Essentially, the model passively collects data about the user.  Specifically in the case of Beacons in Space, the developer integrates their SDK into their app.  After the user downloads the app, it will track when users near a beacon and rewards the developer accordingly.  The biggest downside is that the app will ask the user to enable location based services for the app.  It’s not a big deal if the app already uses location services but if it doesn’t, it may set up a red flag for the user.  The upside is that this model doesn’t change the user experience.

datacollection

 

If you plan to develop an app that incorporates mobile advertising, my advice is to research the different mobile ad models, select one, then design the app to support that model.

 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event. 

How much does it cost to make an app?

“How much does it cost to make an app?” As a developer, this is the most common question I am asked. This is like asking “How much does it cost to build a house?” Following the house analogy, are you looking for a mansion or a shack? Do you want a house made of straw, sticks, or brick? Do you want a custom home or a tract home? Just like a house, the variables in developing an app are endless.

Develop a Storyboard

The first place to start is defining what you want your app to do. I normally recommend our clients storyboard their app (the technical term is wireframe). The wireframe is like the blue print in the house analogy. The goal for developing a wireframe (or storyboard) is to capture functionality and flow. This is not the time to worry about the actual aesthetics yet. It’s important to start from the beginning though, when a user first launches your app. Think about what’s the first thing they will see? On the home screen, if they tap the first menu selection, what happens next? And so on.

To create our wireframes, our designers use a design tool called Sketch.  When I wireframe, I personally use PowerPoint.  My wireframes are ugly but effective.  I send our clients a PowerPoint template where they can either use PowerPoint’s drawing tools or they can even print it out and hand draw it.  My general recommendation is to use a graphics program that your’e comfortable with.

Other Factors

Beyond the storyboard, other factors that will impact the development and cost are:

  • Integration to an existing backend / Development of backend: Most of the apps we develop now either need to talk to an existing backend or we have to create a backend to support the app.
  • Integration to third party vendors: A lot of features that typically used to be expensive to develop can now affordably be added by leveraging third party vendors. Examples are push notifications and mobile commerce.

In addition to the wireframe, if you’re app requires extensive integrations to third party vendors, you may need to put together an architectural diagram.

Getting a Quote

For the most part, a developer should be able to provide you a quote to develop your app based on your wireframe (and architectural diagram). You can find reputable U.S. based developers at thumbtack.com and theymakeapps.com.

You can also find freelancers and offshore teams at upwork.com and guru.com.  Just beware. I’ve talked to clients that have used developers from these sites and it’s a mixed bag. I’ve talked to a few people that have had good experiences and I’ve heard of some horror stories.

If you feel like your app concept is the next Uber, it’s okay to ask the developer for an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement) or to ask them to sign your NDA. When you go through this process, you’ll find a vast range for the quotes. My recommendation is to look at other when selecting a developer.

(Shameless plug – we also would, of course, be happy to provide a quote for your project. Just visit us at Apptology.com)

Alternatives

App development, like most technology has become commoditized to some extent. If you have little budget for app development, you may consider DIY (Do It Yourself) App services like ibuildapp.com or seattlecloud.com. There is also a middle ground where a developer can create a robust but cost effective solution based on templates. Apptology offers a cost effective app development solution using templates (called ReadyBuilt). Mobile Roadie is another developer that uses template. Apps based on templates are primarily used to promote a business or to provide content and are typically a fraction of the cost of developing apps from scratch.

Final Thoughts

My answer to the question, “How much does it cost to develop an app?” is “It depends.” If you are thinking about developing an app, I highly recommend taking a little time to create a storyboard or wireframe. This step will help you flush out your concept and greatly assist a developer in providing a solid quote for your app.

Best Apple Apps and Games of 2016

best apps 2016

Apple has announced their annual list of best apps and games on the Apple App Store for 2016 and here they are.

App of the Year: Prisma

PrismApp Store Editors’ Notes: Prisma’s gorgeous pictures are almost too cool for words, but if we had to pick one to describe our 2106 iPhone App of the Year, it’s would be “sublime.” Powerful AI re-creates our photos as breathtaking images that really look hand-painted, complete with natural textures and stylish, spontaneous strokes. The only thing more fun than experimenting with the effects is showing off the results to our friends.

App of the Year Runner-Up: MSQRD

msqrdApp Store Editors’ Notes: You won’t like yourself -literally- in the outrageous selfies you can take with this fun app.  Transform your face into dozens of digital masks that blend with your features like magical special effects.  Featuring celebrities, animals, and spooky creatures, MSQRD’s hysterical filters will have the whole family laughing. Best of all, some masks animate depending on your expression.

 

Game of the Year: Clash Royale

ClashRoyaleApple Store Editors’ Notes: Colorful chaos awaits in our 2016 iPhone Game of the Year.  Supercell’s awesome card battler delivers excellent deck-building mechanics and fast-paced fights in a package that’s easy to understand and undeniably fun.  Upgrading, unlocking, and experimenting with cards gives the game endless replay-ability, and deciding just where your heroes makes each battle distinct. But no matter how good your deck is, there’s no substitute for skill and quick thinking.

 

Game of the Year Runner-Up: Reigns

reignApp Store Editors Notes: This game absolutely floored us. It seems straightforward at first — you’re a king, and you’re presented with choices about how to rule as a deck of cards.  Swipe right to choose one path, swipe left for another. But there’s so much more going on, and without spoiling anything, Reigns’ cleverness, humor, and sometimes agonizing choices routinely surprised and always delighted us.

 

 

Breakout Hit: Pokemon Go

pokemonApp Store Editors’ Notes: Once again, the world’s gone crazy for Pokemon.  This time around the lovable pocket monsters have invaded our parks, roads, even homes. We can’t stop running around the neighborhood collecting items — and capturing 3D monsters with the futuristic augmented reality makes it feel like they’re actually there.  Becoming a real-life Pokemon Trainer is as cool as it sounds, but the hook here –as always–is trying to catch ’em all.

 

 

 

 

Below is a complete list of Apple’s 10 Best Apps and Games for 2016

10 Best Apps of the Year

 

 

10 Best Games of the Year

With over a million apps in the app store I do appreciate Apple’s annual top ten list. Many of the apps, I haven’t heard of,  but I now plan to download and try out.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

The 2016 Presidential App War: Clinton vs. Trump

clintonvstrump

The 2016 Presidential App War:  Clinton vs. Trump

As the 2016 Presidential Campaign comes to a climax this Tuesday, as an app developer, I’m going to take a few minutes to compare the official apps from each campaign.  Because of the importance of mobile, I see that apps will be a crucial tool for political campaigns and it’s interesting to see how the major party candidates have implemented their mobile app strategy.

Hillary 2016 

Debuting last July on iOS and now available on Android, the Hillary 2016 App is about making the election fun. It has the feel of a mobile gaming platform while incorporating strategies similar to Duolingo to rapidly gain support and simplify the ways in which users can do so. Over 100,000 people have downloaded the app and completed over 800,000 built in activities. For instance, users can be quizzed on Trump’s controversial statements or share Clinton’s photos on social networks. There is also the option of earning points by, for example, registering to vote. Users are also able to get a lot more interactive and make them feel as if they play an active role in the campaign. Gamers can experience the view of her office by swiping away on the touch screen. They can even water the plants and pet the presidential dog, Winnie! Lead developer, Stephanie Cheng, said that users pet the virtual Winnie dog an average of 5 times per day. People also have the option of contributing to the campaign, signing up for future events, checking in to current ones and read related news. The Clinton administration said that the app has caused thousands of new supporters to step up and get involved.   The app has a clean and crisp look and is definitely geared towards millennials.  It uses gamification and encourages users to do political focused activities with both virtual and real awards.  The top award includes a signed post card by Hillary Clinton.

hillary2016-app-lineup-points-02

 Trump America First 

Trump’s team responded shortly after Clinton’s app launch with their own called ‘America First.‘ It providers users with news, videos, articles, a donation processor and social networking links. The last option allows people to contact other Trump supporters in their region. There’s also a countdown with the words that explains ‘Time Left Until We Defeat Crooked Hillary.’ The more that users participate and use the app, the higher they climb the rankings. There are a total of 8 levels starting from the ‘apprentice’ and ending with the ‘Big League.’ Users can earn points as well and even compete with others based on how deliberately they show support. The app is a lot more simplistic and was designed for an older audience despite the main consumer aged 18-29.

trumpappAnalysis

The main difference between the apps is the audience it targets.  The Clinton app is geared towards millennials with a big focus on gamification and it has a much crisper look.  As a Gen Xer, I found the app a bit annoying; I would be more interested in getting news and information which is a layer below the gaming aspect.  The Trump app is geared towards an older crowd with news being in the forefront which I found more useful.  With that said, I found the Trump app to be a bit cluttered and dated from a visual aspect.

One of the things that Trump app does consistently is that it sends out regular push notifications whereas in the Clinton app, I haven’t received any.  I actually do wonder if the Clinton app purposely avoids sending out push notifications in fear of the user deleting the app for being annoying.

Where the Clinton app beats the Trump app in a landslide is ASO (App Store Optimization).  When I searched for “clinton” in the Apple App store, as expected the official Clinton Campaign app appears first.  Whereas a search for “trump” the official Trump app appears 9th (after 8 Trump satire apps).

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Similarly, on Google Play, the official Clinton app comes up first and the official Trump app comes up 5th.

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Recommendations for Future Political apps

In conclusion, for future political campaigns that are thinking about developing an app, here are some of my recommendations:

  • Focus on ASO:   Don’t make your supporters have to search for your official app behind a sea of satire apps.
  • Engagement is crucial: Give a reason for the user to continually use the app.
  • Know your audience: design the your app for you’re the demographic that you’re targeting

 

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

 

Augmented Reality Use Cases (That’s Not Games)

Image Source: Gov Loop

Augment Reality (AR) has received a lot of attention with the success of Pokemon Go. AR aims to extract animations and place them into real-world environments. It has essentially merged the gap between reality and computer generated simulations by manipulating what the user experiences via sight, sound, smell and touch. In brief, AR integrates animations into your reality so the general setting looks the same but with some few added details. Although AR is related to Virtual Reality (VR), the two technologies are not synonymous. VR produces computer generated simulations of an environment that users can experience by wearing a helmet or gloves with built-in sensors. Read my previous blog on VR for more insight. AR on the other hand allows users to experience the technology simply by glancing into the screen of an Android, iPhone or other mobile device such as a tablet. AR is altering the world as we know it or at least changing the way people experience the world. The Pokémon explosion is probably the most well-known platform that has utilized AR for gaming. It may sound silly to some, but the game is highly addictive. To understand specific reasons behind this obsession, read my previous blog to learn why Pokémon Go has become so successful. To gain a better understanding of how app developers have taken advantage of this innovative technology, we will look at a few providers who have successfully used AR for non-gaming purposes.

Health and Education with AR: Anatomy 4D

This app is a cloud-based, interactive examining simulation resource for academic uses. It offers users with online access to anatomy data while analyzing detailed bone structures and organ systems. This can be done by downloading specialized research templates or by enabling structure projection and layer blending. Anatomy 4D allows project structures to synch with skin to analyze coordination and position. Users can also adequately balance the layers to reveal discrete anatomic implications. You can also hover over objects or images to reveal detailed information via label view. It is these perspectives that produce enhanced learning retention by granting students an in-depth look at any part of the body they are studying. This also is useful for medical instructors who can organize image and structure curriculums along with managing lessons and tests.

Image Source: mzstatic

Shopping with AR: Pair

This app enables users to place animated images of furniture into their space so they can perfectly visualize how it would look in real life.  Pair’s tag line is “The New Way to Try Before you Buy with Augmented Reality.” Indeed the app grants prospects an easier method to experience the end result of their interior design project. For example, let’s say you just purchased your first home and the space is completely empty. You would be able to walk room to room while viewing how you would want it to look through your mobile device. You’d be able to put furniture, pictures and other items in designated areas of the space, swap them out, switch them around etc. Cool right? Still, Pair has a much more expansive purpose than simply furniture and can enhance scientific, educational and commercial projects by giving spectators a 3D demonstration of what a particular vision would look like. I was able to see Pair in action during 500 Startups Batch 18 Demo Day and it’s pretty impressive.

Graphic Source: Google Plus

Mechanics and Construction with AR: AMA XpertEye

This month, AMA XpertEye will supply workers of the Keolis Commuter Services (KCS) in Massachusetts with AR smart glasses to improve communication and boost efficiency on their railway transportation system. These specialized glasses stream the video being recorded tethered to a mobile device. The remote supervisor monitors the recording over a laptop. From there, both parties can “exchange written messages and take screenshots of the video, annotate the images, and send them to each other.” Ultimately, their goal is to speed up delays caused from train repairs and other technical difficulties that may get them off track. Additionally, Keolis is considering the technology for training purposes so newcomers can literally see through the eyes of their seasoned field workers.

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Image Source: AMA XpertEye

Sports and Play with AR: RideOn Vision

This cutting edge technology created by Heads up Display is seen with their RideOn Ski Goggles. These one of a kind specs allow users to access heightened assistance while skiing or snowboarding the slopes. Map navigation systems can guide users easily through the rough and diverse terrain better than ever before. You can also communicate with other riders, see their whereabouts and even text them hands-free. In addition, the goggles allow riders to capture their surroundings and share them online for others to see. The company is also developing games that can be played directly through these exclusive lenses. And of course, users can jam to their own personalized soundtrack as they ride, jump, flip and recover from a wipe out.  Although the technology is geared for the snow, it’s useful for motorcyclists, ATV riders and other similar vehicles.

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Image Source: Pintrest

As technology progresses, it will be interesting to see what other AR use cases are developed.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.

Adobe Kickbox: Innovation in a Box

adobekick

Origin

Typically when an organization gets larger, it actually gets harder to innovate.  However, Mark Randall, VP of Creativity at Adobe, had a terrific track record.  In his interview with Startup Grind Sacramento, Randall stated that his boss at Adobe was amazed how quickly he was able to accomplish tasks and meet milestones. Randall was then tasked to develop a method that could show others how to do the same thing. The idea of automating complex processes was an attractive yet equally challenging endeavor that even Randall doubted would be possible to produce. After pondering on it for a few months, he wasn’t sure how something of that magnitude could be done until he looked at the project from a different perspective. “When I started to think about internal innovators at Adobe that were my customers and I wanted to make a product that could help them be an innovator, that sort of shifted everything mentally…to where I said I can do that, I can build that product.”

What’s in the Box?

Adobe Kickbox consists of a 6 step process that shows entrepreneurs the most effective ways to bring their product to the market. And it’s not just limited to the startup world. Government entities and nonprofit organizations all have downloaded this open-source system since offering it for free in February of this year. Randall explained it by saying, “It’s basically this system with essentially 6 levels and starts with level 1 about motivation and there’s a set of actions that you complete at the end of each level and their self-gaining so you check the boxes [required] and move on to the next…” Once all 6 stages are complete, users move on to the post “blue box” which helps you take your product to the next level. The entire system is void of a hierarchy and there’s no central source mediating or regulating how the system operates.

Streamlining Innovation

In a nutshell, Kickbox aims to eliminate the number of hoops innovators must jump through to get their idea approved. Adobe Research Scientist, Hailin Jin, said that, “Before, you had to get buy-in from your own boss, the product team, and other departments. Now, people work on projects without anyone’s approval.” Jin stated that before Kickbox, “risk taking was allowed. Now, it’s rewarded. That has really changed the way people think.” Randall illustrated how Kickbox simplifies tasks that more often than not, established organizations spend way too much time on. He recalls how General Electric asked him how many innovative coaches (out of the 300 available) should work with the Kickbox because they needed to deliver in a 6 month timeframe. He replied by saying that Kickbox doesn’t require many people to operate and it should only take about 3 weeks to complete. He concluded that like many companies out there, General Electric was overthinking an instrument designed to make business easier…much easier.

Randall feels that leading innovators at big companies are often denied the resources to innovate freely. Believing that innovating and creating is a natural human desire; organizations may stand in the way of employees carrying out the activities written in their job description. Why? Because company directors and presidents are afraid of taking risks which is not only irrational but can be counterproductive in the long run. Randall said in Fortune Magazine, “Ideally, you want to highlight that element of risk. Make sure everyone knows about it. Let employees know that you’re betting on them to come up with great ideas.” The most creative people out there can’t stand feeling limited and the bureaucratic structure of the workplace is usually the biggest obstacle when doing so.

Impact So Far

Still who would’ve imagined that a small red cardboard device, that looks similar to a restaurant “to go box,” could accomplish so much in a short amount of time? Inside the Kickbox, Adobe innovators find writing utensils, notebooks, snacks and a $1,000 prepaid debit card that they can spend however they choose. By placing innovators back in the driver’s seat, this allows them to do what they do best: create! However, only 23 of the 1,000 kickbox users have reached the mysterious blue box stage and so far, no Adobe products have been birthed from the concept. Nonetheless, the business model motivated organizations such as Cisco to adopt similar concepts such as “Adventure Kits” while launching a companywide “Innovate Everywhere Challenge.” In Q1 of 2016 alone, Adobe reported a 25% increase in revenue along with a 48% increase in profits. Although these improvements can’t be completely accredited to the Kickbox, it’s clear that Randall’s, “whole culture of experimenting” is catching on and empowering innovators nationwide.

It’s Free

One of the best things about Kickbox is that it’s free.  You can download all the materials here (minus the prepaid gift car).  It’s a great tool to help you develop that innovative idea that’s been spinning in your head and hopefully helps it become reality.

By Rich Foreman, CEO / Apptology and Director of Startup Grind Sacramento. Rich co-authored the book Tap into the Mobile Economy and his blog has been listed in the Top 20 Mobile Marketing Blogs of 2014.  Follow Rich on Twitter at@ApptologyCEO or attend a Startup Grind Sacramento Event.