June – #SamsProject2015

From Axwell ^ Ingrosso to fun times in LA at E3 to a trip to Turkey. June was a lot of fun!

This was my third E3 trip since joining Activision. I think this years press conferences were some of the best I have seen. Won’t ever forget watching the crowds reaction to PlayStation showing The Last Guardian, electric atmosphere.

Spot the Raptors?

Who needs apps?

Moving towards a context driven and more user friendly mobile world.

iPhone iOS 9

Siri – Proactive Assistant in iOS 9 organises data for the user

After wearing the Apple Watch for a month, watching both the Google I/O and Apple WWDC conferences I think it is clearer than ever that we are moving away from what could be called a traditional mobile app interface to a newsfeed style one and this is a natural evolution for mobile device UI design.

Paul Adams has written far more eloquently and in depth about this than I, you can read his post on the Intercom blog here. (Seriously good read).

Here is my home screen.

iOS_1

 

Here is the second page on my home screen.

iOS_2

 

It is a bit of a mess. Now granted I know I have more apps than most but this multi app interface is not uncommon and is certainly not as user friendly as it once was. When Apple introduced the iPhone it was a revolution in mobile UI thanks to the touch screen input and app layout, but now it is beginning to feel tired, cumbersome and confusing no matter how pretty the tech companies try and make it. I have myself and witnessed others lose apps within custom folders just like when you put something aside for safe keeping and then can never remember where that was…! Frustrating when you are looking for that one piece of information.

We’ve been trained to download apps, whether free or paid for, and to keep downloading apps even if we already have an app that does the job of the new app. Apps apps apps! What we really want is a certain piece of functionality or data presented to us as soon as we pick up and look at the device. Creating a frictionless tech experience for the user is always on the minds of the engineers as clearly visible at both I/O and WWDC this year. I’d love to be out for a walk, look at my phone and see instantly information about my surroundings and presented with apps that I may want to use in that moment based on what the device knows about me.

The Apple Watch has certainly begun to alter my expectations. I now expect my phone to switch on when I look at it, clicking a button or tapping the screen to unlock it now feels like an unnecessary step. I don’t want to see lots of apps on the screen, just bite sized pieces of relevant information (glances have become more useful than I initially anticipated), and finally I’d love my device to do certain pieces of activity behind the scenes with little to no input from me. The activity tracking in watchOS for the fitness minded is truly fantastic. I am looking forward to playing with Pebble’s new Time UI as I think that could be a real reflection of things to come and I am not surprised to see Apple introduce a similar experience in watchOS 2 with Time Travel.

Now On Tap is able to find relevant data from within natural language

Now On Tap is able to find relevant data from within natural language and understand the context

Both Google Now on Tap and Apple’s Siri Proactive Assistant are definitely drives to this exciting new mobile future. I (sadly) don’t think we’ll see a drastic UI change any time soon, this feed of information similar to the Facebook Newsfeed will likely stay hidden behind a swipe to the notifications stream for I believe at least the next two to three iterations, perhaps we’ll see more use of the lock-screen however.

In the long run I think this could be the big threat to Facebook and explains why they have made so many moves to try and create the elusive Facebook phone. If I can just look at my phone and get presented with information that I want at that moment, including news and updates from friends, then why would I open a social networking app? But then again why will I be looking at my phone when I’ll be embedded in a new VR driven future?

Now I should clarify as I wrap up this post I’m not really talking about removing the downloading of apps (people will always want to and should customise their mobile experience) but more a change to the UI and the idea of using apps in the way that we currently do. There will always be a future for having to open fully fledged applications, think games or enterprise based activities, but the current experience of opening and closing and opening and closing and opening (you get the idea) is one that I believe will go away in the not too distant future.

If you want some further reading try the following:

Wired.com – It’s Official: Everyone Has The Same Plan For Tech’s Future

Quartz – The future of iOS: apps you can enjoy without ever opening them

May – #SamsProject2015

Lots of fun was had in May from the final few games of the incredible Saints season to the fantastic Common People music festival. I was also lucky enough to get along to the FA Cup final, which was nice.

And now I’m 30! So that is a thing that happened. For anyone who maybe getting the pre-thirties jitters I can officially confirm it makes zero difference.

April – #SamsProject2015

So I’m going to blame being so busy at work for not putting up April already…! Yep that’s a good excuse.

After touching down from my trip out to LA on April 1st (the jet lag certainly made me feel like someone was playing tricks on me) I had a fairly sedate month. Flew out to Dublin for the Facebook Level Up gaming summit which was fascinating and great to see those guys again.

Now we’re into May and the last few days of my twenties…! Duhn duhn duuuuuuuuhhn!

 

March – #SamsProject2015

Here we have March, bit late with this blog post I know.

Lots of travelling over the past month with a work trip to Amsterdam and a second for the Call of Duty Championships in LA.

It was great to visit Holland for the first time, even if it was only a quick trip over there. Definitely want to go back and spend some more time in the country. The LA trip was as ever fantastic and it was great to finally get to see the Call of Duty Championships first hand.

Onward to April!

 

I Watched A Goal On Meerkat

It feels like everyone in the tech world right now are talking about Meerkat, the mobile video livestreaming app. SXSW has been good to the 11 man team with them reporting over 30% increase in users when the event kicked off. Add on top some Twitter controversy as they throttle the apps access to their social graph in preparation for their own livestreaming service and you have an app that every early adopter is excited about. “Meerkating” has already become a descriptive term.

Bringing an easy livestreaming service to the masses has an incredible amount of power, as we’ve already witnessed with the likes of Twitch and YouTube. Now that it has gone mobile the digital Wild West has become even busier.

Ryan Cooling from Meerkat giving an impromptu interview to Mashable.

Ryan Cooling from Meerkat giving an impromptu interview to Mashable.

I’ve watched Pete Cashmore tour SXSW which included an ad hock interview with Ryan from Meerkat, a chef preparing Pizza’s in his restaurant, book signings, random puppies (can someone please Meerkat a Meerkat already?!) and more interestingly a goal in the NYC v NYE match which was being livestreamed by Dennis Crowley, the CEO of Foursquare. All of these things show how transformative bringing livestreaming to everyday people could become and adds another rights headache to companies who are already struggling with the likes of Vine.

If Meerkat can cement itself, or even if Twitter’s own Periscope takes off, what is going to stop people from livestreaming from football matches, Comicon panels, award ceremonies and the likes? There is definitely a world of new mobile “livestreamers” coming and I wouldn’t be surprised to see someone like Jermoe Jarre really nail the possibilities of these new live platforms.

During the moment that Meerkat’s Ryan found Pete and his Mashable Meerkat crowd at SXSW he gave a really interesting interview. One moment struck me when mentioned about working on a private service so that people can share more intimate moments with close friends and family. It is this kind of thinking that makes me feel perhaps Meerkat are on to something. If they can nail broadcasting and make it just as easy for me to livestream to a close group of friends then they could well start to be able to move away from relying on the social graph of another platform and begin to build their own.

Do I see a high profile buyout of Meerkat in the future? Perhaps. Although the indie app developer part of me hopes they keep building on their own terms for a while yet.

Oh and by the way, the goal was called offside and sadly I was so into watching I forgot to take a screen grab. So to sign off here is a shot from another interesting Meerkat stream.

Motocross action being filmed by Fox Sports 1 from a Red Bull event.

Motocross action being filmed by Fox Sports 1 from a Red Bull event.

February – #SamsProject2015

2015 is going quickly! We’ve come to the end of February already and March seems to be well on its way.

The past month has been an incredibly busy one for me with a lot going on at work. It’s certainly been pretty exciting to get to learn about the direction the company is going and play my part in pulling together project plans for the year. Doesn’t look like I’m going to stop being busy any time soon!

Aside from work I’ve been trying to fill my time with catching up with the latest TV and films. Although I still have a lot to watch that I missed last year. Fitness has dropped off a cliff so I need to get back into that.

I think this months video has come together much better than the first and I’m definitely into the swing of recording and editing the clips together. I watched the first 59 seconds together last night and am very pleased with how it is looking.

Ok then March, let’s see what you’ve got.

Smart Watch Hype Check

AplWatch-Hero-Tumble-PRINT

I read a couple of posts today that got me excited again about smart watches. They contained one simple idea: mobile apps could disappear.

Think about it for a second…with your phone safely stored in your pocket or bag or purse, notifications on your watch could take on a whole new dimension. At the flick of your finger or a press on a UI button you could instantly take an action within a mobile game, utility, music service, productivity app, location service, social network…the list goes on! No more having to take out your phone, just look at your wrist and take instant action within a notification.

M.G. Siegler puts it better than me:

On the Watch, the push notification will be far more important than with the phone. With the phone, they mainly serve to get you back into the app. Yes, it’s slightly more convenient to use rich actions in the notification, but they’re limited. The app is just a click away. Why not just open it?

With the Watch, getting to the app means pulling out your phone, unlocking it, and waitng for the app to load. Apple Watch allows you a way to seamlessly do this, but it will be so much faster and better not to have to pull out your phone.

So notifications are about to get elevated, big time. And developers will have to be both smart and cautious about how they wield such power. Spam someone’s wrist and your app is as good as deleted.

Or, create a new kind of app that early adopters can’t live without. An app that may actually disappear.

Now that is exciting. However this leads me nicely onto…

The Rude Watch

I really really really want a smart watch.

This feels like the next awesome gadget that I “need” in my life. But there is a very obvious social problem with them which leads off of the points above about notifications; when someone is talking to you looking at your watch is considered extremely rude. Perhaps even ruder than looking at your phone when you are mid conversation. The implication that you want to know what the time is as you have something better to do is a social no no that has existed for a very long time. So when my watch buzzes or pings me a notification from an app, lets say Clash of Clans, and I look at it to see that AngryNeeson52 has attacked me, any friends or family are going to think I am being incredibly rude.

This is a problem and a similar seemingly small issue that Google Glass had which eventually caused serious problems for that device. People outside of the crowd that love a new device think what you are wearing is intrusive and rude. This little issue could well be the thing that forces me to hold off buying a smart watch for a year or two as people iron out these social issues. Developers you really need to make sure you don’t spam people’s wrists with notifications.

Lets not get started on the battery life. £400+ for a blank screen on your wrist after a long journey doesn’t sound like an ideal situation.

However despite these issues I’m still excited to see how quickly they develop after Apple releases their watch.

January – #SamsProject2015

Update – scroll to the end.

Hard to believe that the first month of 2015 has already gone by. Certainly seems like this is going to be a whirl wind year. Having such a busy start to the year hasn’t really allowed me much time to relax but I’ve certainly had some fun. Planning out the rest of the year certainly has me excited for my up coming travels!

So my concerns over the quality of the video continue. Although on my phone there appears that there aren’t many issues with the video recording or overall image quality there definitely seems to be problems once it is uploaded to YouTube. Not doubt you noticed the very strange image warping movements that appeared in a few of the 1 second videos. I can only assume it is due to the way the app Hyperlapse adjusts the 720p image to counter any camera shake. I’m not 100% on how to fix that although I have found the app requires clear daylight and for me to walk more carefully to provide the best results. This stops the strange blur from happening which I think is caused by the original footage going out of focus when I move and the app trying to counter the movement of the camera. I need to try editing and uploading from a PC to see if that makes any difference to the final video quality on YouTube. My other option is to stop the original theme of the video, Walking Forward, and start recording scenes with the camera still. Which I’d rather not do especially as a friend of mine said to me it is like “a walk in your life for a year”, and that just sounds awesome. Thanks Polly!

For those of you who may be wondering what Hyperlapse is and what it does watch the video below from The Verge.

To complete what I am trying to do I may need to investigate some other camera options, so if you see a weirdo wandering around with his phone in a stabilising rig…you’ll know it is me.

For some extra context here are the videos that have worked best so far.

This one is my current favourite due to the colours from the sun setting:

If you’ve got any thoughts let me know, open to all suggestions!

Update: So I had a mild brainwave to see what would happen if I uploaded the video to Vimeo. It appears that the strange warping effect is mostly gone when uploaded here so I think I’ll move my project from YouTube. Let me know if you think.

#SaintsFC Fans – A Call For More Positivity

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It struck me how the central theme to NBC’s documentary on Southampton Football Club was clearly how positive the staff and players think. There is no bitterness towards those who have left with everyone just focusing on the future and rising above any negativity that may surround them in the press. We as the fans should take this onboard.

The summer of 2014 was a rough one but let’s be honest the club has had far more difficult situations to over come and has survived. We lost a manager and some players and before that at the beginning of the year a chairman who played a pivotal role in Saints getting back into the Premier League. But through all of this every message coming out of the club (ignoring some personal expressions by the odd player) felt calm as they looked towards the future. The fact is we will never really know just what happened behind those closed doors beyond piecing together a few interviews from those who left. That summer feels so far away now I think we can start to forgive and forget.

So I’d like to propose some 2015 resolutions for Saints fans:
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