What occupies our geeky minds

Kinect for Windows Development

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People love technology, but now expect the experience to be wonderful. A large part of making the experience memorable is letting them interact with technology in natural ways, like using movement, gestures, and voice. The new Kinect for Windows technology provide ways to create new class of applications that use natural interactions, and offer us a way to help revolutionise brands, products, and processes in exciting new ways. Adapptor can develop a custom made Kinect for Windows application to match your requirements and wow your customers; whether you’re planning to show off your products, or provide a truly interactive experience to engage them.

We’ve already developed a range of applications that allow people to flip through a newspaper with the wave of an arm, fly around maps with simple gestures, and even allow little girls to try on their favourite Barbie outfit.

Barbie Dream Closet, devloped by Adapptor and Gun Communications for Mattel.

Posted by Richard in Kinect

Keen to join the team?

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Do you like to make things?

Adapptor are looking for a motivated individual to join our dev team. You’re keen to spread your wings and a desire for more; a love of taking designs and concepts and building in interactivity and intelligence; a desire to do everything a little better than the last time. If this sounds familiar then read on!

What we look for in a software developer:

  • Problem solver. We don’t see problems as obstacles, we see them as opportunities to excel.
  • Positive attitude. There is no spoon.
  • Eager collaborator. Work with other talented individuals to make awesome things.
  • Eye for detail. Function and form, both need to be perfect.
  • Quick learner. New concepts don’t stay new for long.

The primary duties for this role:

  • Build iOS, Android and other types of applications as per project scope.
  • Write well-documented, high-quality, well-tested code that meets Adapptor’s coding guidelines.
  • Provide advice during scoping on appropriate techniques to achieve project requirements.
  • Work with UX, strategy and design specialists to deliver projects on time and to a high standard.

This is what we do (the fine print). Bring your own knowledge or pick it up as you go.

  • iOS application development (Objective C, Swift)
  • Android application development (Java)
  • A smattering of web application development (Python, Javascript, Linux)
  • Hard-to-pigeonhole applications (Unity, OpenGL, Kinect)
  • Many other things we haven’t thought of yet

About Adapptor

We’re a small team of experienced team of planners, user experience professionals and software engineers working above a micro-brewery on the beautiful Swan River. Yes, it is as good as it sounds.

 

Posted by adapptadmin in Careers

Introducing “3D Once” – Save money and time by turning one 3D model into VR, AR & fly throughs

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AUSTRALIA, October 19, 2015: A new suite of property marketing apps delivers significant cost and production efficiencies for 3D modelling across virtual reality, augmented reality, fly throughs and print. 3D Once, the result of a six month co­labs project between Adapptor and Glass Ridge, uses a proprietary methodology where the same 3D model is rolled out across the four digital outputs, as well as a chronology to maximise developmental efficiencies. 3D Once saves time to market, whilst delivering incredibly immersive, world class marketing assets. Modelling has traditionally required a huge investment, followed by other similarly substantial investments to adapt the models for fly throughs, augmented reality apps, or virtual reality experiences. Each one of these outputs has required an individual approach and build, often from a different supplier. 3D Once is a best in class, end-­to-end solution for property marketers, allowing incremental savings with the creation of each new output, all of which are built by the same company. Combining advanced modelling techniques with Unity 3D, Vuforia image recognition, VR1 and Google Cardboard technologies, this suite of applications delivers a low­ cost, high value and truly interactive set of sales tools for prospective buyers to use at home, in the sales office or in a pop ­up sales environment. Enabling prospective buyers to visualise an off the plan apartment (or architect designed home), the virtual reality execution delivers a full ‘walk­around’ experience, complete with user aware, embedded signposts. These deliver key messages about the build, fittings and fixtures, decor options, or other pertinent purchase information. Augmented reality turns a static image into an exciting 3D experience, literally in thin air. Watch and walk through the space as it renders in real time. Turn your static brochures into interactive, engaging point of sale ­ for use in your sales office, or for interested parties to take home and explore. The staple fly­ through and print executions are also delivered as part of the 3D Once suite. “It’s time for property marketers to take full advantage of the creative technologies available to them. 3D Once combines technologies to provide an immersive and fun experience for prospective buyers, and one also very cost effective for marketers,” explained Marc Loveridge, Adapptor Managing Director.   For further information: Sarah Sproule sarah(@)adapptor.com.au Marc Loveridge marc(@)adapptor.com.au

Posted by sarah in News

How to Build an App like a Kardashian

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For some time at Adapptor we’ve been talking about building services rather than just apps. We believe it reframes how people think about mobile applications. In reality the best ones offer more than just device specific features, and thinking of them as services sets organisations up to think of the opportunities a lot more broadly. It also helps these organisations consider the implications from a user’s point of view, which is critical in today’s world. It’s interesting to consider this perspective when looking at some apps that have gained a lot of recent publicity. Dark Sky is the app store’s recent poster-child; a mobile service that tells you when it’s about to rain in your exact location. Not something we can get in Australia just yet, and in all honesty, not something we need much of in Perth (given the propensity for the place to almost always be sunny). However, it gets rave reviews in the US and UK. Dark Sky’s secret sauce is its unique weather data service, they rather obviously named, ‘Forecast’. When designing the Dark Sky solution, the company built a very intelligent service that could make hyper-local predictions about weather. It wasn’t simply a cooler design applied to the same data, it was a whole new set of data, which allowed them to create a new type of forecast. This was the key to Dark Sky’s success, and intelligently the company now offers Forecast as an open API with a very simple cost structure: the first thousand API calls per day are free, and then $0.0001 each thereafter. How an iPhone app is revolutionising the way we get the weather Uber is one of Adapptor’s other favourite applications. It’s an easy one to talk about given the publicity, and in most cases people have used the service. What’s more interesting is that it’s certainly not just an app, and what’s more, it’s actually not a new business model; it’s a service that’s improved an industry that hasn’t changed in a long time. What differentiates it is clearly visible with their website’s list of features. Like we said it’s certainly more than just an app. It’s a sophisticated service that involves a company with engineers, designers, marketing, support, operations, finance, and obviously a good legal team. It’s not a throw away 99 cent app. Just to mix things up a bit, we thought we’d throw in the newly launched range of apps from the Kardashians. The Kardashians? Well it seems that after Kim Kardashian’s success with her ‘Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’ game (still in Apple’s Top Grossing list) and apparently making Kim “$43 million in three months,” the rest of the clan hatched a plan to reach out to fans through their own collection of apps. Will Kylie Jenner’s New App Beat ‘Kim Kardashian: Hollywood’? Each app provides content from a family member; a mini-magazine of sorts, with it’s own monthly subscription. It certainly makes you wonder where this leaves gossip magazines and traditional television shows. A brand new avenue for celebrities to reach out to their audience, by-passing television networks and magazine publishers. What’s even more interesting is what it means when you consider B&T’s recent interview with Hewlett-Packard’s marketing director Darren Needham-Walker, in which he says, “Gen Ys Are Interacting With Their Devices 35 Times An Hour,” and that “(It’s) engagement over fan size. I rate someone who puts a comment or share much more than someone who purely likes.” “Gen Ys Are Interacting With Their Devices 35 Times An Hour” Unsurprisingly, the Kardashians are very much in touch with how to engage today’s fickle audience. What all these “apps” teach us is this audience expect more than just a throw away app, they want something with intelligence, depth and ongoing engagement. This means that brands need to create are compelling services, with real and scaleable models that enhance a business, service or product. It takes some thinking, but really does offer some amazing opportunities, you just need to think like a Kardashian.

Posted by adapptadmin in Opinion

Building Services for Wearables: Google Glass App for HBF Fitness

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Wearable devices are oh so hot! Yet only a few years ago the vast majority of Australians had barely heard of them, let alone used one. This year wearable brands are becoming household names, from Jawbone to Fitbit and from Pebble to Google Glass, there’s no doubt wearable devices will be hot stocking stuffers this festive season. And with the IDC forecasting 30 billion devices to be connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) by 2020, Santa’s wish list will be including wearable devices for many years to come.

The big question in corporate IT is how to integrate wearables into a digital strategy. What are the benefits to the wearer, the business and its stakeholders? How can wearable devices improve the interactions between users and business information systems? One thing is clear, a winning wearable strategy will bring measurable benefits to both the users and the business, via disruptive new services that they enable.

As with most new connected devices, most large corporates consider only wearables as a customer device and forget the applications within the enterprise. Not so HBF (WA’s largest health insurer). They identified an opportunity to enhance their members’ experience of HBF Fitness (their free fitness program for members) by offering a more personalised workout in a group fitness setting.

A relatively new service, HBF runs free fitness sessions for its members in 20 locations around Western Australia. Anyone can register to attend a session using HBF’s online booking system, and then checkin to the event with their personalised code. Each trainer is responsible for managing the checkins, being aware of any participant’s health conditions, running the session, teaching activities, and keeping everything running on time. As you can imagine, that’s a big task for large groups.

HBF looked to wearables to help streamline the process, provide its members a more personalised workout and to ensure a standardised workout for all its members, regardless of the location they trained at. It decided to trial Google Glass due to its unique characteristics, specifically that:

– it sits on your face like traditional glasses
– it can be operated hands-free
– and it can record what it ‘sees’

These features make it a great tool for undertaking tasks whilst users are very active. A trainer can focus his/her attention on the class, while still being able to dip into useful functions to assist the participants or keep the class schedule on track.

HBF partnered with Adapptor to build a bespoke Google Glass app specifically for trainers to assist with running their classes. We’re no stranger to Android, so with that as our foundation, we were able to pick up the unique parts of the Glass Development Kit and quickly create the application. The key requirements/features included:

– integrating with HBF’s own Fitness schedules, allowing the trainer to control an intelligent stopwatch that matched the class schedule,
– integration with HBF’s Fitness system to checkin registrations and view participant’s individual health and fitness information so training sessions can be adapted accordingly,
– video record and playback via the Cloud to show a participant how to improve their form,
– and real-time weather information.

When developing for Glass we had to be particularly mindful of some unique UX challenges such as:

– the way the user interacts with the Glass, whether this is by touch gestures, or voice
– and the useable screen real estate (not very much).

Once these UX components were carefully scoped, it was just a matter of us applying our Android skills to the mix. We worked tightly with HBF’s Digital Services team and delivered the final Glass app in just three weeks, ready for field testing.

With everything working as intended in the office,  HBF organised a trial fitness class to put the app through its paces. This enabled us to observe the instructor use the application in a ‘live’ environment and pick up on any UX changes or environmental challenges. Other than leaving our team feeling incredibly unfit, the application worked brilliantly, and feedback from the trainer, Max, was very positive.

Other than being out of breath we were left with a few key take aways from the experience. Insights that lend themselves to most wearable projects:

– understand the device’s unique benefits;
– understand the device’s limitations;
– develop the features based on the user problem, device benefits and limitations;
– pay careful attention to the UX and UI throughout the scope, design, and development process;
– take your testing to the field.

Matching a device’s capabilities to a benefit and knowing its limitations are the keys to building successful wearable services. Fortunately HBF understood how it wanted to use the device right from the start which made our job much easier.

Now to go get fit, so the next wearables project isn’t so embarrassing.

(cover image: Giuseppe Costantino)

Posted by adapptadmin in News

Mobile apps are dead; long live the app-enabled consumer service

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Apple’s announcement this week grabbed plenty of headlines. A couple of new phones, a watch, and a payment service…oh, and something about a new album from U2.

Although exciting for the Apple fan boys in our office, most of Apple’s new offerings aren’t amazing. We’ve already seen larger phones, smart watches, and the ability to pay via a smartphone. The main difference is the attention that the products have gained, and the reach that Apple has not only with consumers but also with major organisations (e.g.: Visa, Amex, MasterCard). Is this the catalyst that will mean wearables hit the mainstream?

However, it’s not just the new shiny objects that really matter, there are a lot of things under the hood that will make a massive difference to the world of mobile in the coming months.

In fact, Apple’s announcements a few months ago were perhaps more critical. HomeKit, HealthKit and add to that Apple Pay (as well as Google’s equivalents) combined with their phones and watch mean that we’re all about to see a new raft of innovation around mobile.

It’s these additions that Australian companies should pay attention to.

Over the last few years we’ve already seen a bunch of innovation in mobile, but most of it has centred around the smartphone. Essentially providing apps that people can use anywhere, but really only dipping into information and functionality. The recent additions by Apple and Google will extend the innovation beyond the smartphone, and out to smart devices that we have in the home, business, or even what we wear.

Why does this matter to Australian business? Think of what services will now be possible in the health industry, for utilities, the media, property, retail, and the Government, etc.

Health insurance companies are already using technology to offer discounts the more active people are; hit your daily step goal, and save money on your health cover. Energy companies are also offering flexible pricing for customers using smart meters (already installed in Victoria).

This is just the tip of the iceberg. With smart devices about to boom, imagine the other innovations that will be enabled.

Australian organisations should evaluate what the boom in the Internet of Things means to their business. What will this technology mean to their existing service, or are their new services they can offer? Will it mean new players can enter their market and flip their business model on their head (look at what Uber has done to the taxi industry recently)?

It’s now not only important that an organisation has a mobile strategy; they need a broader strategy that looks at how technology can enable, extend, improve, or add new services to their organisation. If they’re not, their competitors are.

Mobile apps are dead. Long live the app-enabled consumer service.

Posted by adapptadmin in News, Observations

East coast project wins see leading WA #mobile developer @adapptor launch Melbourne operation

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MELBOURNE, JULY 23, 2014: Respected Perth creative applications company, Adapptor, today announce their Melbourne expansion on the back of a spate of recent large-scale national and international mobile projects.

Numerous projects have launched over the past two months, including a collaboration with Sydney agency HOST to release Play Packs, an app featuring WhatSoNot (DJs Flume and Emoh Instead) for Wild Turkey label, American HoneyTM. Other major releases include an all new iiNet Customer Support App, a Barbie Kinect installation for Mattel® Malaysia and an AR mapping app for development giant Mirvac. “The growth in work originating from agencies in Melbourne and Sydney, combined with the significant competitive advantages we are building in highly technical dev meant that an east coast office was a natural next step for the business,” explained Adapptor Managing Director, Marc Loveridge. With considerable experience across the health, government, transport, tourism and construction/property sectors, the Melbourne office will aim to leverage these capabilities on the east coast – working as a skilled consultancy for agencies, and directly with IT groups and brands. The company has appointed Sarah Sproule as Strategy and Client Service Director of the Melbourne office. Sarah was previously a Director of Gun Communications and, prior to that, was General Manager of Spin, Melbourne. Adapptor plays an active role in the Australian digital marketing industry supporting the OzApp Awards, StartUp Weekend, Adschool, ADMA, AIMIA, Curtin Growth Ignition and the Emergence Creative Festival. Founded in 2010 the company boasts one of Australia’s most experienced iOS and Android developer teams with extensive experience in Objective C, Java and C# for mobile platforms. An invited member of the global Microsoft Kinect and Leap Motion developer programs, Adapptor’s labs program, called ‘The Vat’, actively prototypes gesture controlled applications, working closely with agency partners, to deliver unique digital activation experiences. Recent technological achievements include an OpenGL music mix-deck (for HOST’s American Honey “Play Packs” App), server side geo-mapping of traffic incident impact zones (Right Move Perth), a cloud

based shared family health record (HBF Pocket Health) and fully functioning offline slippy maps within iOS/Android (Experience WA Tourism WA App).

adapptor.com.au

@adapptor

LinkedIn

 

 

For further information or commentary, please contact:

Sarah Sproule // 0418 737 500 // sarah(at)adapptor.com.au

Marc Loveridge // 0413 059 070 // marc(at)adapptor.com.au

 

 

Posted by sarah in News

Barbie Dream Closet tours Malaysia

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The Kinect application we created for the Australian “Barbie® Dream Closet” campaign a little while back has just commenced a tour of Malaysia.  We performed a few tech updates to the Barbie® Dream Closet app, before packaging it up and sending over to the Mattel’s agency in Singapore.

Looking at these photos, it seems Barbie’s wardrobe is as popular as ever with little girls!  Singapore was the first stop on the Dream Closet’s regional tour of Malaysia, taking place over the next few months.

Posted by sarah in News

How We Built American Honey PlayPacks – Part 1

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PlayPacks, a project developed in partnership with HOST and What So Not, is our newest app for Android and iOS, and one of our most sophisticated. It combines augmented reality technology with multiple sample-accurate audio stream playback, all connected to a web sharing backend. Making this work smoothly across both platforms proved to be a real technical challenge. In this post we’ll share some of the techniques we used to get it running across two very different operating systems.

The porting problem

Today there are just two mobile platforms that are relevant to consumers – Android and iOS. Reaching the widest possible audience for your app means releasing on both. Unfortunately this usually requires creating and maintaining two codebases, an undertaking requiring as much work as writing two separate apps.

On the surface Android and iOS development are radically different. Android uses the Java platform as a base, and provides an application framework on top of it. iOS apps are written in Objective-C and built with the Cocoa framework, a library with a history extending back to the ’80s. Between different vendors, languages, and foundation libraries the opportunities for code sharing seem limited.

A native strategy

We have to dig deeper at the operating system level to find the similarities. Beneath its Java layers Android is built on a Linux kernel. And iOS is based on Darwin, Apple’s BSD derivative. Both share a lineage with Unix, the great-grandaddy of modern operating systems. Although their paths diverged a long time ago, there remains a common core set of functionality across each. This is exposed through lower level C and C++ code in their respective environments.

To be clear, this isn’t enough to write an entire app. The common native libraries provide interfaces to low-level plumbing, including parts of the POSIX standard (threading, I/O, system utilities), C and C++ standard libraries, and the OpenGL accelerated graphics interface. Standard platform features (e.g. user interface controls, app lifecycle management, AirPlay) must still be written within the platform framework (Cocoa, Android SDK) and interfaced with glue code.

The payoff for living with these limitations is true code sharing. By writing the core features of the app in native code and using portable native libraries, we can reuse the exact same codebase across both platforms. Within this core set, features are written once, bugs are fixed once, and the changes propagate to both platforms.

Xcode provides direct support for C and C++ code natively. On Android, the Native Development Kit (NDK) provides toolchains to build shared libraries from C or C++. The libraries are packaged with the Java parts of the app and interoperate through the Java Native Interface (JNI), a way to call native code from Java and vice versa.

Porting in practice

With PlayPacks we knew we were going to produce Android and iOS versions in quick succession. This informed us to design the app upfront with portability in mind. Our technique consists of two golden rules:

  1. Write as much portable code as possible using native (C++) code
  2. Strictly adhere to an identical structure for platform specific code

Rule #1 – write and use portable native code

The unique technologies built into PlayPacks are the augmented reality and synchronized audio features. We built these on Vuforia and libpd respectively. These are two cross-platform native libraries built with platform glue code. This is, not coincidentally, exactly the same technique we employ for portability and made it easier to integrate them into our source build tree.

The core parts of the app are written almost completely in native code. This includes code to draw and animate the Mixer and AR views, play back audio, record and save audio sequences, store user configurations and interact with the augmented reality markers.

From the brief we knew we required custom rendering and animation in each screen that required complete control of the drawing surface – tasks that OpenGLES is particularly well suited to. On each platform these OpenGLES views are embedded into customized platform-specific views that integrate with the native UI hierarchy.

Similarly, sound is generated as a final mixed floating point stream and passed to platform specific interfaces to the audio hardware. I’ll go into more detail about the media playback details in a separate post.

Rule #2 – use a shared structure for platform specific code

As outlined above, accessing standard features still requires us to write a lot of platform specific code. In PlayPacks, all the menu controls, video playback, network access and interstitial screens are written against their respective platform libraries – Java/Android SDK on Android and Objective-C/Cocoa on iOS. Obviously reusing the source code in these environments is impossible.

Instead we do the next best thing – reusing the code structure. By exploiting the similarities between Java/Objective-C and Cocoa/Android SDK, the shape of our platform specific code is identical on each platform. Both languages are high level and object oriented. And we can map common concepts between frameworks – see the table below. In this way, we created every Objective-C class with a functionally equivalent Java class containing the same methods and calling patterns.

Mapping concepts between Cocoa and Android:

 

Cocoa Android SDK
Root controller Activity
View controller containment Fragment
UIView View
GLKit GLSurfaceView
NSThread Thread

 

This isn’t quite as low maintenance as reusable source across platforms, but a lot nicer than decoupled codebases. We had the iOS version mostly completed before commencing work on Android, and following this rigid structure made the porting process very fast. Using the iOS code for reference, there were no decisions to be made about structure – instead classes were converted method by method, line by line. Any differences precipitated by the platform library were encapsulated as best as possible in helper classes.

The shared structure also helps with synchronizing changes between the two. When a change is made in one codebase it is easy to find and amend the equivalent code in the other, usually by looking up the same class and method name.

Before jumping into native code, its worth considering some of the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Low level access to system facilities, including OpenGLES
  • Runs across both platforms
  • Modern language features (C++11 support)
  • Works across platforms

Cons

  • Higher upfront development cost
  • Bigger, longer build times – must be built and packaged for each supported architecture
    • iOS – armv7, armv7s, arm64
    • Android – armv7, armv7eabi, mips, x86
    • Harder to debug on Android – stack traces will be your friend

    Closing thoughts

    We’ve been playing with these technologies for a while now – a good chunk of the rendering code was cribbed directly from a long-term internal prototype. PlayPacks is the first app we’ve released where we’ve been able to demonstrate the feasibility of this approach for rapidly deploying to iOS and Android while keeping feature parity. Code sharing with native code enables us to target both platforms without compromising performance along the way. We hope by evolving this technique we can improve our time to market while treating both platforms as first class citizens.

Posted by Dan Venkitachalam in News, Projects