The future of the mobile UI is behind a velvet curtain

August 24, 2010

I have seen concepts from this company before (more about this below) and they always seem to be taking different approaches to the rest of the world.

The Astonishing Tribe (TAT) has yet again showcased a UI they call Velvet – pull out a widget or Google Maps query, and a sheet of your desired result waves with the virtual wind, before stretching out flat for you to more comfortably interact with.

This is what TAT has to say about the Tablet UIs out there and why they are different:

On one hand we have companies that scale phone UIs to tablets. On the other hand we have companies offering the full blown desktop experience scaled down to tablet size. We believe that both of these approaches will result in crippled user experiences. For example, the tablet form factor is perfect for media consumption and this could be manifested in the UI. TAT recognizes tablets as a radically different type of device – personal and mobile yet powerful and creative. We are now on a quest to design fantastic UIs that are optimized for this device space.

Here is the Velvet UI in action

As I said before these guys have some pretty awesome, yet radical ideas – check this augmented reality ID out – TAT augmented ID

I have an Android phone and I have been looking for a decent home screen and I really hope this little beauty will hit the market at some time soon – TAT Home

These guys are definitely someone to look out for in the future – if you want to learn more about them, check out their blog

@maniac13


11 plug-ins and scripts that will change the way you use Twitter. No technical ability required.

February 22, 2009

imageI wrote a few weeks ago about how anyone can easily change the Twitter web interface with Firefox and the GreaseMonkey plug-in (here). The great news is that this process is so easy that there’s little reason not to give this a go – you really are only a few clicks away from what’s shown below. Here’s some power UI enhancements I have chosen – and yes, this list goes to eleven.

Have fun, @Eunmac

Setup:

  1. You’ll need Firefox. (here)
  2. You’ll need to install the GreaseMonkey Addon (here)
  3. Now click the links below to add new features to change your Twitter interface.

1. Nested Replies in Twitter: (install here)
This is by far the most useful script for me. It collates a threaded conversation of replies inside the twitter page. Without this it is very hard to see what conversation took place.

image

2. Add Bio’s to Friend Following/Followers page (install here)

When you’re checking out someone’s ‘following’ page you get no information other than a picture and a name. Useless! Anyway, if you add this script and you’ll see all their details including a bio, follower info and even last tweet. Here’s me checking out who Guy Kawasaki is following:

image

3. Sidebar Replies Panel (install here)
See all other replies sent to another Twitter user.

image

4. Auto shortening of URL (install here)

image

5. Mentions and unread replies: (install here)

image

6. Add Friend Name Helper (install here)
Auto suggests names from your following list.

image

7. Add Retweet Button (install here)

image 

8. Power Twitter. (install here)
This is plug-in for Firefox. It displays videos and images nested inside conversations.

image

9. Expand Short URLs (install here)
Don’t get fooled by those short bit.ly urls anymore, this plugin will reveal the full url inside the web interface.
image

10. Endless Tweets (install here)
This is pretty cool, as you get to the bottom of the page, the page simply gets longer so you never have to move back and forth between pages.

image

11. Add search and Tools to sidebar (install here)
image 

Other useful scripts:
Hide All re-tweets. (install here)
Block tweets with specific words (install here)
Reveal followers. Places icon over those following you (install here)
Shrink tweets with Tweetshrink (install here)

Want to see all the twitter scripts? There are over 300 on userscripts.org (here)

Found any more great tools? Add them to the comments please 🙂


Amazing WPF demo

August 7, 2008

This amazing demo shows off some new features of soon-to-be-released WPF v3. (WPF is big brother to Microsoft SilverLight)

WPF - 3d sphere with per-pixel transparency

3D sphere in transparent window with per-pixel hit testing!

These are some of the features I can remember off the top of my head (that blow off the top of my head!):

  • Transparent windows with per-pixel hit-testing. This means, for example, you can have a 3D model floating on your desktop (with no window), and mouse clicks are so accurate you can click between gaps in the 3D model and grab applications behind (see video @ ~8:00).
  • Supports fully interactive 2D UI elements on 3D surfaces. The demo shows buttons, textboxes, scrollbars, tick boxes… all being used on a 3D cloth simulation (see video @ ~6:00).
  • Full integration with DirectX/3D. This means elements of existing 3D games (think World of Warcraft, Halo or the Sims) and applications can be used seamlessly within a WPF app and vice versa.
  • Programmable pixel shaders for hardware accelerated special effects. Imagine a video playing on a 3D plane, with a real time chroma key / transparency … all without taxing the CPU (see video @ ~10:45). Translation – you will be able to apply any photoshop filter in realtime to your UI elements.
  • Writeable bitmap. Fast access to a traditional bitmap image for custom software rendering. Perfect for creating 2D bitmap games, paint programs etc.

There are a ton of other features but I wont bore you.

Not that these demos show anything that would necessasily be sane to do in real life – the exercise is left to the reader to imagine how these powerful features could be applied to create stunning, compelling, revolutionary, intuitive user experiences.

Who is going to be the first to harness WPF to its true potential? I have yet to see anything close to being a killer WPF application… but these upcoming features really leave imagination as the last remaining obstacle.

When a team with the right combination of creative & tech finally get stuck into WPF the results are going to be spectacular.


Microsoft Introduces New Xbox 360 Dashboard

July 18, 2008

For the games industry, it’s that time of year again. E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is the most significant showcase of upcoming games and games hardware each year. Despite being recently scaled down the event still plays host to important press conferences from the big three, Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

Normally these press conferences are used to lay out roadmaps for each company’s platforms over the ensuing 12 months. Platform refreshes are normally tied to the introduction of new hardware (the announcement of new consoles or the introduction of slim models). For the first time in this ‘next generation’, fundamentally changing the platform experience can be driven by software alone.

Apple are proving this with the iPhone and iPod touch platforms (although poor old iPod touch users have to pay for the firmware upgrades.) Sony has proven this with numerous updates to its initially feature-barren XBM (cross media bar) PLAYSTATION 3 interface and continues to tease the PLAYSTATION Home platform (a fully 3D, Second Life-style world that will hopefully be released in Q4 2008). Even Nintendo’s underpowered but highly popular motion controlled Wii delivers occasional interface updates via the Web. 

A Full Tour Below…

Not prepared to be left behind, in the wake of PLAYSTATION Home’s imminent arrival and Nintendo’s Mii avatar system, Microsoft’s John Schappert took to the stage in LA this week to announce the revamped ‘Xbox Experience’, an all-new Xbox 360 user interface featuring 3D avatars, full Net Flix integration (at least, if you live in the US) and highly visual, streamlined community interaction. Gone are the days of the full-screen Blades and scrolling friend lists. The new Dashboard will be available to download in the coming months.

It’s an interesting challenge, melding function with impactful, highly visual design (all the while taking into consideration the resolutions and aspect ratios that players may be using – 4:3, 16:9, 480i all the way up to 1080p…) Hesitatingly I’d say it looks like Microsoft has pulled it off. Ever-so-subtly, this new UI takes inspiration from Sony’s XBM and allows users to navigate core options via the up and down controls with secondary options controlled via movements to the left and right (this principle is applied in the reverse on Sony’s console). It’s also interesting to note that all in-Dashboard advertising space has been eliminated (praise the Gods!), although certain content has fully themed backgrounds which still allows film studios and/or products on the Xbox Live Marketplace to push their branding straight into your living room.

Microsoft’s Official Spot

For the full minute 22 second promo spot shown at the conference, check out the video above. The revamped Dashboard will be available to download in Q4 this year.

Adam