Thursday, July 24, 2014

Google I/O 2014 Packs a punch with contextual awareness

Mountainview, Calif. Google tends to pack a punch at its annual I/O and this year was no exception. Last month, it announced a raft of innovations for Android, with contextual awareness big on the agenda (you may remember this theme from my blog about the AWE Keynote by Robert Scoble below).

What else is set to come?

In case you missed it, here are some of the bite-size highlights announced for Android 5.0 that are especially relevant for mobile app developers:

  • A new UI Concept, giving more focus to meaningful transitions
  • Expansion of "Android Wear" to include integration with Google Now and enhanced voice note taking. Also, support extended for round and square screens.
  • Enhanced Notifications including the option to respond from the device home screen
  • Set of new APIs to develop apps and track stats using the health sensors
  • Better support for communication, navigation and music through a new Android Auto SDK
  • Enhancements to analytics, testing and distribution

You can find out more and see the keynote videos by clicking through to the official site here.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Layar-ing Blippar - Post-acquisition thoughts on major shake-up in AR browser market

BARCELONA - If you’re into AR and have played around with the many AR-enabled mobile apps published in iTunes and Google Play, you have probably heard by now about Blippar acquiring Layar. This means different things for everyone involved in the AR industry, for consumers, for professionals and for the future of the AR industry as a whole.

I first came into contact with Layar at a startup event in Barcelona in 2009 and was impressed with Layar's vision and ability to market AR's potential for immersive experiences on mobile to both techies and marketeers alike. I also described Layar's use of geo-location in my book on Location Aware Applications.

If you’re not entirely certain what those companies do, the rundown is that they both provide an app which enables consumers to scan printed media or packaged products that have an interactive campaign or digital content attached to them. Typically users know about that content because there is a call to action. Those apps compete with others like Junaio or Wikitude, alternative ‘AR browsers’.

The most prominent advantage of AR browsers is that users need only one app for multiple content. Once installed, it pulls new content on demand from the cloud.The disadvantage when comparing branded apps and browsers is for content creators. Brands and publishers have limited control of the whole experience (as well as the branding) and they share the same space with competitors.

Blippar has been doing a very good job of providing high quality experiences on their browser. Operating like an agency, they take care of the end to end solution but publish on Blippar’s app. Layar is probably the king in terms of volume of experiences inside their platform. But with volume and scale, comes some limitations on the versatility of the experiences as you cannot go one-by-one. It remains to be seen if a new Layar-Blippar browser app will lean more towards volume or towards curated content.

So what lies in store in the future? Beautifully crafted, branded AR-capable apps are more likely to win hearts-and-minds of mobile users.A foreseeable option is that, just as happened with location, AR and image recognition capabilities will increasingly be embedded within a multitude of apps in a seamless fashion. (Credit to D.Marimon for parts of this post).