What occupies our geeky minds

It’s that time again!

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Another year in the rear-view mirror and we’re once again looking for a new addition to our awesome tech team.

Does this sound like you?

  • Top notch programming skills. We’re after the best.
  • 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.

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

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

Interested parties may send an email (held in the strictest confidence) to hello@adapptor.com.au.

Posted by daniel in Careers

Barbie™ in The Pink Shoes Kinect App

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Our latest collaboration with Gun Communications lets kids interact with Barbie® through Target’s shop windows. Working closely with Gun’s design team we created a custom XNA app for Microsoft Kinect® to create an interactive 3D storybook. The experience included a suite of gesture controlled mini-games including a Barbie® jigsaw puzzle, spin the ballerina and virtual painting game.

Posted by adapptor in Kinect, News, Projects | Tags: , , , ,

Using Leap Motion to navigate digital maps in open spaces.

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It’s been exciting to track the buzz at SxSW for Leap Motion, probably the hottest NUI controller to hit the market since Kinect for Windows. As with Kinect, the potential of Leap Motion lies not in the hardware (which isn’t anything radical) but in the software and the potential for game changing gesture controlled applications.

Adapptor was lucky enough to be invited into Leap Motion’s Developer Program back in December 2012. Since then, and after a short wait for the hardware to arrive, we have spent some time familiarising ourselves with the SDK and racking our collective brains for useful applications of the technology.

As we collected these ideas we quickly identified that applications fell into one of three buckets: utility, education and play. Using just hand gestures to accurately control an interface opened up some exciting opportunities but, in our minds, any such use case must still present an improvement over the trusty mouse or touch screen.

It may be the mobile app blood pumping through our veins but this got us thinking about maps and more specifically way-finding in open spaces (think university campuses, shopping centres, theme parks and train stations).

As these types of destination migrate towards a digital signage strategy, how will they allow public interaction with their maps? Giant touch screens? Maybe but the hardware is currently cost prohibitive and requires users to be up close and personal with the screen, which in turn makes them at perfect vandal height and hard to make weather proof.

Enter Leap Motion, an $80 controller that works at distance from the screen it’s connected to, and claims millimeter level accuracy to make for a compelling user experience . The Kinect device struggles with this type of precision tracking so we were interested to see how Leap Motion would fair when put to the task. The answer, as you can see from the prototype mapping app we created, is well, very well indeed.

Posted by adapptor in Gadgets, Leap Motion, News

Branded Apps vs Brand Advertising. How being useful gets consumers’ attention too.

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Branded apps must be useful

Just like Fleetwood Mac, the Internet wants to be with you everywhere. On the train, in the café, even tucked up in bed on a Sunday morning, nursing a hangover, that little terrier we call the Internet runs in the room, licks your face and begs you to share your condition with friends and strangers alike.

It never used to be so clingy. We would ‘log-on’ and more importantly, ‘log-off’. There was, after all, a time and a place. Not anymore, no sir-e. Thanks to our mobiles the majority of Australians now wake up to the Internet, commute with the Internet, work on the Internet and ‘relax’ with the Internet.

By 2015 Telsyte predicts 87 percent of Australians (over 16 years old) will own a smart phone. So just about every adult will be online for 100 percent of their waking life: reading, playing, sharing and consuming company services via their mobile.

Even now, in 2013, the phone is our Internet device of choice, but ask any of Australia’s best digital marketing planners and they’ll tell you their clients still fail to invest the appropriate time, planning and budget towards ‘mobile’.

We’ve seen this kind of lag between digital opportunity and digital spend before. In Australia at least, we didn’t see an appropriate media investment in Google Adwords until 2008, a full eight years after Google launched the service. Similarly we’re now seeing investment in social media gaining favour, some three years after Facebook became Australia’s number one media destination.

But what’s causing the current lag in mobile app investment; is it an Australian thing, are we just too laid back or do we consciously ignore the data? Possibly, but a more likely cause is a simple lack of ideas, caused in part by a lack of understanding of what’s possible.

To understand what’s possible businesses need to understand the difference between branded apps and brand advertising. The best branded apps do not belong to a campaign, they are not simply another channel through which to communicate the current brand message or product promotion. They are a utility in their own right; something useful that earns the attention of consumers. This type of app should be the obvious starting point for marketing and operations managers, take an existing business process or service and mobilise it through an app, thus delivering an improved customer experience.

But the more exciting opportunity lies in using mobile apps to provide brand new services that only the mobile Internet can deliver. Take a look outside of Australia and it’s not hard to find examples of disruptive new mobile services. Walgreens, the US based pharmacy chain has developed an app driven service allowing customers to ‘scan and refill’ their own prescriptions, an innovative use of mobile technology that provides a distinct point of differentiation over their competitors.

Australian businesses may have been a little slow out of the mobile blocks but 2013 will see the ideas (and investment) begin to flow. Financial services, health, telecommunications, education and real estate will likely lead the charge. Many of the apps will continue to mobilise existing business services but a few innovative companies will seize the opportunity to do something different.

As with Walgreens, it will be the brave first movers in Australia, who’ll reap the rewards through app differentiation. By considering ‘mobile’ to be an opportunity to deliver useful new services (and not just another channel to market) these disruptive Australian companies will be rewarded with publicity for their innovation, earn referral from their existing customers and increase profitability through more efficient service delivery.


Point 2 Paint – Mess free fingerpainting with Kinect

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Our latest digital installation created with our friends at Hatchd for Brookfield Place Perth uses the power of Microsoft Kinect to make fingerpainting 100% mess free. Kids (and adults alike) can forget the smock, step into the paint booth and move their hands in space to select and apply colours. Their daubs, strokes and splodges are projected onto the canvas in front of them, and when they’re finished become part of a collaborative mess-free masterpiece.

Posted by marc in News

HBF Pocket Health App – Simple, Intuitive and Useful

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Recently Adapptor and Hatchd were engaged to help in an incredibly exciting opportunity for an app that is unique and fulfils a real need.

Have you ever needed to know your blood type, but couldn’t remember it? Or needed to remember the date of that broken arm when you were young? Or what about remembering when your child was vaccinated?

Each time you’ll find yourself rummaging through paperwork in the home office, or digging back through old calendar entries, when really all you needed was a simple mobile app.

Several months ago HBF approached Adapptor and Hatchd with a request to build just this type of app. They asked us to have a look at the market, determine if there was a need, and then design something that would work on a smartphone to help their members.

When we’re engaged in such an opportunity, we like to consider a range of requirements and we spend a a good deal of time ensuring we have these key factors covered.

First and foremost the app needs to be useful. Even a game serves a function — providing a challenge that makes for an enjoyable experience — but most apps aren’t games and must meet some need. Ideally the app serves a need on a regular basis and people return to use the app often.

Secondly, like a game, an app should be enjoyable to use. It’s often not obvious what makes the experience enjoyable, and that can be part of its beauty. An app should flow, like a game and a good deal of attention should be spent on ensuring that the app works well for users. Part of this means it needs to be easy to use.

Fortunately for us, HBF had already considered the first factor (the utility) and we could focus on the app’s flow. Our team spent hours locked in a room working on the key features and trying to understand how the app would work. Our top priorities were making it simple, intuitive, yet also very powerful.

This can often mean reducing the number of features, and consolidating the top level categories. In this case we managed to distill the app down to profiles, events and search. We considered how we could make it simple to use, and yet still be powerful. We ended up recommending that the main event interface be a list, in reverse chronological order; something we’ve become very accustomed to with weblogs, photo streams, and apps like Twitter and Facebook. A long list of individual events that can easily be filtered makes a lot of sense on a small device. The app also needed to explain itself quickly to a user. Adding buttons to the main view provided a quick way to add an array of health events with only a few presses.

We think that, along with HBF, we’ve helped create an incredibly useful app. So if you’re a HBF member be sure to head over to the App Store and grab yourself a copy. (Android version coming soon). Remember, you’ll need your myHBF login details to create your very own Pocket Health account.

Let us know how you go. We’d love to hear what you think.

Posted by Richard in Mobile, News, Projects

Australian Smart Device Saturation Point Is Closer Than We Thought

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Next time you’re in a café, airport departure lounge, or any other place in Australia where phone/tablet usage is acceptably explicit, take the time to do a quick count of those using smart devices compared to those folk texting away on their ‘appless’ mobile.

And the result? Well according to mobile analytics company Flurry, your ‘café survey’ should show almost 8 out of 10 people using a smart device. Flurry’s most recent mobile usage report finds 79% of Australians aged 15-64 years actively use an iOS or Android capable device.  It’s an impressive figure (particularly given its omission of other operating systems such as Windows Phone and Blackberry) and places Australia 4th in the league of smart device penetration, beating technology loving nations such as the US (78%), South Korea (76%) and the UK (74%).

Chart showing Smart Device Penetration by Country

This rate of growth is making a mockery of respected industry forecasts. It wasn’t supposed to happen this fast. According to Flurry, the growth of iOS and Android is happening 3X quicker than our recent uptake of social media and 10X more rapid than the 1980s uptake of personal computing. And very soon the vast majority of these smart devices will be downloading and pushing data at 4G speeds transforming the experience from super convenient alternative to our undisputed Internet of choice.

Make no mistake, this hyper-connected mobile audience presents the greatest opportunity for industry since the creation of the worldwide web. And as per the desktop web, the service industries have been first out of the blocks: Banking, Insurance, Telecommunications, Travel, Government and Health were first to mobile optimise web sites and build self service apps. After all 100% of Australians connected to a mobile Internet means 100% of Australians capable of serving themselves, anytime and anywhere, massively reducing the all important cost-to-serve.

But mobilising pre-existing company services is just the beginning; think of it as the necessary housekeeping before moving onto the important stuff. Creating entirely new mobile services for existing customers and the wider market is where the real opportunity lies. The banks are a case in point, after taking the standard online banking experience to the phone, the banks quickly turned their thoughts to the creation of new services such as mobile-to-mobile payment.  The result has been a race to market between ANZ’s goMoney and CBA’s Kaching, with both banks actively campaigning the new services.

The health insurance industry has also been quick to respond. The first apps in this sector focused on mobilising existing services such as online claiming and account management but quickly progressed to entirely new applications like Bupa’s FoodSwitch app, a food nutrition aid and HBF’s ‘Pocket Health’ app*, a personal health record to help members document their family health. These apps serve not only as a retention tool to existing health insurance members but also provide compelling reasons to recommend the brand to others.

And so as Australia’s big brands move from ‘mobile housekeeping’ to ‘mobile innovation’, so they will be rewarded with unique opportunities to disrupt the market and differentiate through utility. It has already begun, even the slowest moving organisations are restructuring for disruption, creating internal innovation groups charged with harnessing the power of ‘Big Data‘ to provide highly sticky applications that customers simply cannot give-up. So it should come as no surprise, that with 100% smartphone saturation fast approaching, many of these innovation groups are taking a ‘mobile first’ approach.


Editor’s note: (16/10/2012) The title of this article has been changed from ‘Smartphone’ to ‘Smart Device’ to more explicitly show the inclusion of tablets in the referenced research data.

[*Disclosure: HBF is an Adapptor client]

Posted by adapptor in Mobile, News, Observations, Opinion | Tags: , ,

How Much Does It Cost To Make An App?

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In July, 60 Minutes televised a story that explained how anyone in the world can become a multimillionaire by making apps. By the number of enquiries Adapptor now receives, it seems a lot of people watched the show, and are hoping to make that quick buck.

Charles Wooley showed everyone just how simple it was by creating his very own app in a matter of days; The App Revolution. His app wasn’t that amazing, it helped people make decisions by letting them virtually toss a coin. I guess it’s for those people that don’t carry coins around with them anymore.

After the show aired, Adapptor — like probably every other app developer — gets a few phone calls a week from a wannabe “appreneur” with a great app idea. In most cases we disappoint them when we explain just how much that 99 cent app will cost them to make.

So why is there such a disconnect between the 60 Minutes story and reality? It’s what Charles Wooley neglected to mention in the 60 Minutes story that is really telling.

Wooley chatted with “appreneurs” Phil Larson from Halfbrick, Chad Mureta, and also mentioned the success of Angry Birds. All great case studies that surely add weight to Wooley’s claim. However, they’re not overnight sensations.

Halfbrick, a highly successful company with a few mobile app games under their belt, has been developing games since 2001. It’s not an overnight sensation. Nor is Rovio, who’ve been producing games since 2003, almost went bankrupt in 2009, and created 51 games before they created Angry Birds.

Then there is Chad Mureta, a clever guy that’s worked out an interesting business model (based on the 4 Hour Work Week by Tim Ferris). Chad’s claim to fame is that he has created a range of successful apps that have earned him a very tidy profit. It’s a fascinating story, based on some savvy business understanding. Chad monitors the market, finds an app that is not only successful but also very simple, emulates them and improves the concept, hires a cheap overseas developer, builds and tests the app, and then publishes it.

It’s a great idea, but still likely to take a good amount of effort. He also creates very simple apps; not the same type of apps that we get approached to build. They’re almost all gimmicks, and not a long term business model.

Chad now lists himself as an author, speaker, consultant and entrepreneur, and sells his book online. So, I’m not sure that he’s as dedicated to building apps as 60 Minutes implied.

So why isn’t it as simple as Wooley makes out? Well, apps can actually be complex pieces of software. In fact Fruit Ninja and Angry Birds, those simple games that he mentioned, probably took hundreds of hours to develop and likely cost hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce.

Even simple apps like Instagram and Currently Tech News are complex pieces of software.

Kent Nguyen, a developer from Anideo, explains it really well in his article “Dear business people, an iOS app actually takes a lot of work!” It’s a great article that I won’t bother duplicating, but it’s worth a read.

In summary, Nguyen explains that often there are complex systems at work when you use an app, and in many cases these exist on servers on the Internet. These take time and skill to build well, and in essence are the engine rooms of the app. Even the apps themselves take a lot of skill to develop, and without a lot of experience and skill can fail badly.

The long and the short of it is that apps aren’t as simple as they can seem. Not only are they often complex pieces of software, but they also require some clever business understanding.

Coin Toss Charlie’s Choice is actually a great example; it might have ranked number one in the productivity category the day it was launched on national television, but today it’s ranked 295. Highly unlikely to have made Wooley a millionaire.

Posted by Richard in Mobile

Work for Adapptor, make awesome apps.

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Work for Adapptor, make awesome apps

Party at our place. Please bring a selection of the following gifts: Python/Pyramid, Objective C, Android, Ruby/Rails, Unity, XNA, Kinect SDK, node.js, CouchDB, MongoDB, Cassandra, Google App Engine, Javascript and jQuery.

Caffeine, fresh beer & good rates of pay supplied. Dress code: ‘Awkward Penguin’.

RSVP (in confidence) to hello@adapptor.com.au

Posted by adapptor in Careers | Tags: , , , , ,

Barbie’s ‘Dream Closet’ XNA Kinect App

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A sneak peek at our XNA Kinect App we built for Gun Communications and their client Mattel.  This was an early version of the app with a few things left to polish.

The technical solution consisted of a custom-made application using Microsoft’s XNA Game Studio combined with the  Kinect for Windows hardware and software development kit (SDK). The user interacts with the application through a natural gesture and overlay interface, augmented with audio and visual cues. Skeletal tracking is used to determine the position and orientation of the user and various Barbie™ outfits are rescaled and rendered over the user in real time. After selecting an outfit the user is prompted to strike a pose, and after a short countdown the resulting postcard-style photo is uploaded to a Pyramid-powered web server. All approved images (users aged 13+ only with guardian consent) can then displayed in a gallery section of the Barbie® Australian Facebook page.

The app will be launched at a media event in Sydney on April 11, 2012. A series of public events will then be executed at Westfield centres during school holidays, commencing at Westfield Parramatta (NSW April 12 – 15), Westfield Doncaster (VIC June 28 – July 1), and Westfield Chermside (QLD Sept 27 – 30).

Posted by adapptor in News, Projects | Tags: , , , ,