Say Hi Translate

We live in a wondrous world.  Imagine re-taking your high school foreign language class with the ability to say anything in English and have it said back to you in the language you are learning.  Real-time, on repeat and the rehearsal of this practice helps you remember the correct words in conversational speak and with improved pronunciation and even with the written translation.

A new app released just over five weeks ago puts the power of translation right on your mobile device.  The SayHi translate app allows you to talk into your iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad and hear your words back in a different language.  Many smart customizations are available for the over 33 languages it supports including the ability to slow or speed up the translation or put apply a males voice or a females voice to the translation.  If you want to save a phrase or question that you’ve already translated, it’s as easy as tapping a star on the screen and saving.

Conversations and translations can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, email or text message to share one piece of the translation or the entire conversation.  Users of this app might include: students, travelers, hospitals, social workers, or anyone learning a new language or quickly interacting with someone that speaks a different language.

The translation works really well and the newly released update (2.0) incorporates nice amenities like in-app volume control, enhanced sharing options, voice customization and pop-up actions.  This is on the coolness level of Shaazam and really hits the mark when it’s a mind-blowing something you want when-you-want it kind of app.  I don’t know this song but I wish I did!  I can’t understand what you’re saying but I wish I could!  A language translator for 99 cents?  Wondrous.

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Mobile Coupon Makeover with Safeway’s ‘Just For U’ Service

One practical use of mobile devices would be to use them at the point of sale to either receive a discount or complete a payment transaction right there on the spot. Since Americans seem to be a bit slow to adopt the “phone as payment” model and feel more comfortable with making purchases with credit cards pulled from their wallets, a new mobile offering makes me question if we’re moving just one step closer to that phone payment zone.

Last week, Safeway introduced a new way of taking advantage of their preferred club card member benefits.  The new mobile savings service called ‘Just for U’, touts additional discounts of up to 20 percent more than using just the Safeway club card alone.

The idea is that you can maximize savings with coupons by adding personalized items that you would typically buy anyway and the mobile app helps match those items to discounts and coupons at the time of purchase.  The promotion comes with a free dozen eggs just for signing up!  Other perks include a full listing of the savings received from the ‘Just for U’ program at the bottom of each receipt, the lowest price for the item chosen will be honored, and once the personalized deals and coupons have been added to the club card they will be active on your account within 30 minutes.

Of course the coupons and offers are accessible from your smart phone (it is a mobile app, you see) so you can see and select the items that are of interest to you as well as build a grocery list and ‘load on the go’ if you want to casually browse for deals and build your shopping list throughout the week.  The service works for shopping online and home delivery service so the chance to really see the savings add up seems promising.

Posted in COM 529, MCDM Course Work | 3 Comments

Facebook Mobile Use Surpasses Web Use

I’m starting to pick up on a trend where I see the word ‘mobile’ and I imagine that it’s an experience that is similar to mine.  One that isn’t mobile, per se, but simple down time consumed on my mobile device while I’m at home.  At home, as in not mobile.  I sit on my couch and use my iPad to write and watch movies.  I’ll often sit at my table and check my email and facebook on my phone.  Again, not mobile but more of “device convenience”.  A study released in March of 2012 by MocoSpace found that 96 percent of those surveyed played a mobile gaming from at home at least once a day.  Interestingly, among those, 53 percent said they played them in bed.  A great deal of mobile use is happening just as we get started with our day and is what’s  in our hand as we wind down at night.

This weekend, TechCruch covered that ‘Americans Now Spend More Time on Facebook Mobile Than its Website’.  Not surprising since it’s another one of those “certainly true for me” statements but I was interested in how the experience is different when it comes to the Facebook business model.  Not just is it that the users of Facebook are the product, but specifically how ads are used during the mobile experience.  According to TechCrunch, Facebook usually shows four to seven ads per page on its website, but only a few ads per day in its mobile news feed. This is a big deal as more and more people use their phones to view their Facebook page.  Investors will have to determine if this is a trend that leads to loss or if there are other ways to put the ads in front of the nearly half a billion Facebook users.

A quote from Mark Zuckerberg, explains how ads got onto Facebook in the first place: “When I was in college, I wasn’t actually starting Facebook to be a business, back then. I rented servers for about $80 a month and, I didn’t have that much money – I was just a college student – so I put up ads, and when I had enough money to get another server, I would do that. So, ads, you know, have always been this really important part of what we do because we want to keep Facebook free for everyone.”

Zuckerberg has taken Facebook into a world where there is still a fine line where too much is too much.  Facebook has begun to insert ads in their mobile experience as ‘stories’ that appear in the same stream of friend updates but have an indicator of ‘sponsored’ next to the post.  You’ll likely notice it since instead of the 17 likes you’re used to seeing, this one will have in the area of 12,000 or more!

As we become more mobile—weather or not we’re actually mobile—we will experience the Internet on a small screen and those that want our attention will find ways to attract our eyes.

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Responsive Design for Mobile Web

Fifteen years ago most home computers weren’t even connected to the internet.  We began to browse poorly maintained web sites, memorized urls (fancy term we learned), carefully said, “w.w.w.dot” and in this pre-social media era we were limited to email as the only option for sharing.   Today we carry our web-enabled computers in our pockets and are seamlessly connected to our social networks over multiple channels, self-admittedly addicted to just-in-time information access and fully immersed in a world of entertainment and engagement.

The next wave of innovation for web designers is Responsive Design.  Ethan Marcotte presented this process to describe a movement of tailoring disconnected designs over a number of web devices to enhance a flexible and optimal viewing experience.  That is, optimizing for one web instead of for specific browsers, devices and client platforms.

“Responsive web design term is related to the concept of developing a website design in a manner, that helps the lay out to get changed according to the user’s computer screen resolution. More precisely, the concept allows for an advanced 4 column layout 1292 pixels wide, on a 1025 pixel width screen, that auto-simplifies into 2 columns. Also it suitably fixes on the smartphone and computer tablet screen.” –designmodo, 2011

Responsive design and this sort of adaptive layout in of themselves don’t jump out as game-changers until you fully consider the many configurations of the backend content and the ever-increasing number of devices on the market.  The behavior of responsiveness was neatly summarized by Developer Andy Hume as, “what a website does when it’s loaded into an unknown browser on an unknown device by an unknown individual.”

One golden rule with responsive design: start with the smallest view.  There’s ongoing debate on this approach but regardless, a responsive layout meets mobile first.  Designers are cautioned to start small and work up from there, adding @media into the larger codebase of tablet and desktop browsers. Start with a narrow, single-column layout to handle mobile browsers and then scale up, not down.  A small screen friendly design harnesses the traffic (the incredible amount of traffic!) on mobile devices and provides an optimal experience.  It’s also worth noting that small doesn’t always mean low-res.  The new iPad is perfectly mobile and boasts one of the best retina displays on the market.  Small doesn’t mean crummy.

How do we develop solutions to handle both mobile and native now, as well as the devices of the future?  Responsive web design is often considered to be remarkably different from traditional designing in terms of technical and creative issues.  Of course if the user base, the “traffic”, are using mobile device to consume content, designers need to evaluate and carefully use techniques, strategies and tools to achieve a flexible and optimal viewing experiene.

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QR Codes: Experiment to Create

I’ve always appreciated the conversion rate produced by QR codes but there is also something inherently exciting about using my phone to scan something. Recently I’ve been noticing QR codes everywhere. Honestly, literally turning my head this way and that and spotting codes as if my eyes detected the little brick module and were ready to interact with it. Of course I’ve seen good applications, some interesting uses and others that have left me less than impressed with the attempt to engage without reward or simply not working.  Here are a few recent experiences that perhaps we can all relate to.

How about a QR code on a bunch of bananas? I took a close look at the bananas in my fruit bowl and the QR code sticker led me to ‘Yonanas’ website with recipes for how to use bananas to make soft serve ice cream. A recipe alone won’t do it though, the $50 Yonana maker is the product being advertised and I didn’t have one of those handy so I just ate the banana. Maybe next time?

One experience that I was gleeful about was the popular QR code that was created in conjunction with the popular tulip festival in Mount Vernon, WA. It wasn’t brilliant but an interaction that took a large-format map (unwieldy tri-fold brochure) and allowed me to scan a QR code that then displayed on my phone. Ahh, a familiar site and I could navigate with my thumb on a screen size that told me just enough–not too much like the map that covered the entire region.

After awhile I became intrigued with the how’s and why’s of QR codes and postulated if they were part of the new media advertizing that seems to promote use of real-time engagement and selling opportunities, not merely a blatant opportunity to sell. Unsure of the path ahead, I ventured out to make a QR code of my own and without much reason or process, here’s what I came up with:

Super not useful, right? I did enjoy interacting with www.qrhacker.com to create this little two-dimensional beauty. Two clicks to create and perhaps if I had a reason or purpose, I could approach the interaction design with my own experiences in mind and create an effective use and execution of a QR code.

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‘MagicPlan’ Uses Mobile for Concept-to-Done in Minutes

It doesn’t seem entirely accurate to describe MagicPlan as simply a tool to draw a floor plan —the real joy in MagicPlan comes from experiencing the full process of taking photos, adding measurements and recreating something as a novice that would have taken days and auto-CAD experience —in just a few minutes time.

This app is ideal for a mobile device and from the moment you launch the app you feel in charge of your creation and after a few screen taps your vision is on screen and you’re able to send it to others instantly. Uniquely mobile because it uses a technology called ‘Reality Capture’ for the process of retrieving information about your surrounding environment and creating a digital model.

According to Sensopia Inc., the company behind MagicPlan, ‘Reality Capture extracts information describing any place you may be. You can take this description with you wherever you go; no need to travel back and forth. With today’s smart phones Reality Capture is now possible. The accelerometers, gyroscopes, compass and cameras make your smart phone aware of your environment.’

With this concept of environmental awareness in mind and an iPad in hand, I set off to create a floor plan in a few minutes as if I was a trained engineer and able to talk about 3D models in my sleep. Getting started was easy and the app was visually engaging and intuitive. I watched a minute-long video to prep and then just went for it.

Perhaps the biggest drawback is that once you model out all of your interested areas, you may find yourself firing up the app less frequently. If you’re a real estate agent, architect, home inspector or an interior designer then you’ll likely keep this as your go-to app for estimating and documenting the many spaces you come into contact with. Perhaps there’s a limited shelf life but what a life it has within those limits! To me, this is much like the space observation apps that blow my mind with how easy and accessible the experience is when just a year ago I would have had no access—let alone on my mobile device!

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MagicPlan offers a truly unique experience that showcases the very best aspects of a mobile device (camera, wireless, accelerometer, gyroscope, compass, and internet-capable) to create highly accurate floor models on the fly.

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WeHeartPics

Installing an app is almost easier than making a phone call these days and your phone can gain all new functionality in fewer button clicks than it takes to call and make a dental appointment.  This week’s news of Instagram being purchased by Facebook inspired this post on WeHeartPics.  To the point, it’s not solely about WeHeartPics but all the seeming insatiable appetite to share our lives in pictures with our social networks.

In April 2011, Facebook launched a new feature for photo tagging where anyone can tag an image with a brand, product, company or person including the photos of their friends and other Facebook users.  This was in attempt to make the process of tagging the billions of photos online.  Facebook touts the highest number of photos with over 200 million uploaded per day, or around 6 billion per month.  Instagram’s overnight success was from placing its photo sharing app on the Android market and taking on an incredible 10 million new users this month (TechCruch).  The timing landed perfectly for the Facebook acquisition.  Instead of developing their own Instagram-like app, Facebook now has the product they desired and a huge user base to boot.

The functionality of Instagram is simple:  free photo sharing application that allows user to take photos, apply a filter, and share it out on their networks.  But is Instagram the only service of its type?  Of course not!  Those that did not get the $1 billion dollar buy-out still have suave service and creative features to be explored and appreciated by aspiring photo enthusiasts and their smart phones.

One example of a clever photo-sharing app that is about $1 billion dollars less to-do, is WeHeartPics.  Describing themselves a bit differently as ‘a service that highlights the aspects of your life through collections of photos’. The app organizes your life’s fragmented moments into consistent stories.  Very MCDM of them, right?  Also, the app helps you to create great photos (getting closer to Instagram’s offering). Above all, it allows you to ‘take care of real lives of your reals friends’.

A note from WeHeartPics: ‘We stand against meaningless sharing.  We want to connect you wth the most significant parts of your friends’ lives: the real parts, expressed through photos’. A picture is worth a thousand words, and it’s a lot more fun to see snapshots of your friends’ lives that it is to read about them.

Furthermore…’Your life is a story. People are eager to see what your everyday life is like, no matter how ordinary it may seem.  And what do you really know about your friends?  Do you know what their favorite shirt looks like?  How about their favorite food?  WeHeartPics organizes pictures of the little things in life to tell a bigger story’.

Perhaps you’ve espied this app already?  If not, it’s worth checking out their site and seeing how photos of ordinary things can be eye candy and the organization of our lives can collectively tell a more complete story.  Apps are so easy to install—give it a try!

Posted in MCDM Course Work | 3 Comments