Posts tagged Touch
As the pace of content creation increases, our attention spans seem to be decreasing. This is requiring creators to adapt and consider ways in which people can consume content in a timely manner. The result is a movement towards highly visual content. While you may not have the resources to hire a designer or visual [...]
The post 5 Ways to Turn Existing Content into High Touch Visuals appeared first on Search Engine Journal.
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Business owners that either provide a service and have a brick and mortar presence have been using Google Places for quite some time. Google is revamping Google Places and G+. They just released an app for Google Places that is now available on both the iPhone and the iPod Touch. If you’re looking for it [...]
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Last November, analysts wondered whether anyone would buy the Surface Pro, Microsoft’s $899 Windows 8 tablet priced similarly to a standard ultrabook.
Unfocused Announcements From Microsoft
On Tuesday, Microsoft unveiled its latest incentive: three “special edition” Touch Covers, in red, magenta, and cyan, that Microsoft will sell for $129.99 apiece. Oh, and Microsoft will begin selling the Surface Windows 8 Pro on February 9, 2013.
What in the world is Microsoft doing here?
Unfortunately, the list of announcements Microsoft made on Tuesday are just unrelated scraps: They totally lack focus. There’s a shipping date, the special Touch Covers (woo-hoo!), plus a new $69.95 Surface Wedge Mouse, and the fact that the Surface Windows RT will be sold in 13 new European markets. Microsoft also said that the 64GB version of the Surface RT will be sold without the Touch Cover option, allowing users to select whatever cover they choose.
Who’s Gonna Buy The Surface Pro?
Corporations are expected to be the primary customers for the $899 Surface Pro (that’s $899 for a Surface Pro with Windows 8 and 64GB of flash storage, and $999 for the 128GB version – and that doesn’t count the Touch or Type Covers). Sure, at least a few enthusiasts will want to take advantage of the integrated Core i5 processor as well as the backwards compatibility with previous Windows versions. But the Surface Pro’s target market has already been addressed by the Surface RT and other third-party convertible tablets and traditional clamshell laptops. Look at it this way, and the limited-edition Touch Covers are akin to putting lipstick on a pig. They simply have no place within a business environment, even accounting for the power of the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend that Microsoft has embraced with the Surface and Surface Pro.
Moreover, you could make the case that a Surface mouse – of any kind – undermines the entire premise of a touchscreen tablet. This isn’t exactly true, of course; touch was designed to supplement a mouse and keyboard in many cases. But I suspect that the subtlety will be lost on the potential audience.
Ungainly For A Tablet, But Sleek For An Ultrabook
Like others at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I had a chance to spend a bit of hands-on time with the Surface Pro tablet. Users who have embraced the Apple iPad Mini and Google Nexus 7 will find the Surface Pro large and ungainly. But, docked, the device replaces a traditional clamshell laptop quite nicely. Performance seemed to be on par with a low- to mid-range notebook, well above what the Surface RT seemed to offer.
In a blog post, Panos Panay, the general manager of Microsoft Surface, praised the response that the Surface RT has received, and the “anticipation and excitement” that customers have for the Surface Windows 8 Pro. But I certainly haven’t seen what Panay is talking about.
On Thursday, All Will Be Revealed
This Thursday, Microsoft will announce its results for the fourth calendar quarter, where we’ll get a chance to evaluate at least some of the Surface numbers. We’ll find out if Microsoft is seeing the sales that it hoped for – or if, as Windows executive Tami Reller has begun implying, the Windows 8 launch will extend over multiple selling seasons, and not just one. Unfortunately we’ll have to wait another quarter to discover how well the Surface Pro is doing.
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I just finished setting up my second Windows 8 computer. The first one, a Lenovo Yoga ultrabook/tablet, has a touchscreen. The second one, a Lenovo desktop tower, is hooked up to a standard Dell flat-panel LCD monitor that I bought a few years ago.
While I installing the last piece of software on my new tower, I read Brian Profitt’s ReadWrite post about the current infatuation with touchscreens (see Hey PC Industry: Stop Being So Damn Touchy-Feely).
But my experiences have convinced me that the ride into the new Windows 8 world is not going to be that bad. And more to the point, the touchscreen interface isn’t the biggest issue.
Touch Is Not the Problem
The problem is not that Microsoft is dragging us kicking and screaming into the world of touch interfaces.
The real challenge is more complexity. To a certain extent I see some similar challenges – albeit on a smaller scale – in Apple’s Mac OS X Lion. They both offer too many different ways of accomplishing the same thing.
One of the first things that I do when setting up a Windows computer is to get rid of the free trial subscription to some bloatware security program. Windows Defender is free and has worked well for me. We all know security programs have big enough egos that using two at the same time will cause problems.
Uninstalling a program on Windows requires you to go to the Control Panel. That used to be fairly straight forward on Windows 7 and earlier operating systems. You went to the Start Menu. When I tried setting up my first Windows 8 computer, I had not figured out that you could get to the Control Panel multiple ways. Even once I figured it out, I learned that getting there was context-sensitive – and confusing.
Complexity With Strange Options
If I am on the Windows 8 Start screen with the tiles and I move my mouse or finger to the upper right corner of the screen, the soon-to-be-famous Windows 8 “charms” come out. One is Settings – which you might think would take you directly to the control panel, but it doesn’t. At least not in that context.
When I am using a regular Windows desktop application like Firefox, going to the upper right corner of the screen also reveals the charms. Select Settings here and you will find the Control Panel listed as the number two item on the right of your screen.
Just to make it a little more confusing, if I am running an application like Google’s Chrome in its Windows 8 mode when I do the same thing, the Settings charm that shows up is for Google Chrome – and there is no Control Ppanel anywhere around. However, if I run Google Chrome in desktop mode, the Setting’s charm that shows up does lead to the control panel.
As I was working on my new tower PC, I also discovered that if you go to the lower left corner of your screen and right click with your mouse, you will get a pop-up menu which has the Control Panel.
It would be far easier have one simple, consistent way to get to the control panel. It does not matter to me if I get to it with the mouse or my fingers. That choice I can handle. Among my current choices I will likely remember going to the lower left corner and right clicking. It makes the most sense to me.
When I first started using Mac OS X Mountain Lion, I had some similar concerns. If I want to open and application, I am not exactly sure why I need Launch Pad, the dock on my screen, recent applications under the Apple menu, the Finder sidebar, and the ability to double click on an application icon. However, I have learned to ignore the ways that don’t work for me.
Learning Curve On Windows 8 Not So Bad
That’s slowly happening with Windows 8, as well. When I started working on my first Windows 8 system, I got so frustrated that I finally installed Start8 from Stardock. It gave me back the old Start Menu and let me gradually become accustomed to Windows 8. I did not bother installing Start8 on my second system. I learned enough to not need it. (For more, see Could Restoring The Windows 8 Start Button Fix Everything?)
Having using Windows 8 very successfully with a mouse, I’m not very concerned about being stuck if the touchscreen capability is not there in a system. The Intel Core i5 Windows 8 desktop tower that I bought came with a 1TB hard drive and 8GB of memory and a nice keyboard. The cost before taxes was $499. That is a lot of computer for less than $500. Who cares it if doesn’t have a touchscreen?
All-In-One Computers Are Wasteful
I am more worried about all-in-one computers than touch interfaces. I have seen some reports that LCD screens could last for up to 20 years. We all know that even the best of computers become functionally obsolete in three to five years. If you buy an all-in-one computer, your screen is going to outlast your computer by more than a decade.
Our family has purchased seven iMacs since 1998. All have been retired except my [iLemon] (http://readwrite.com/2012/12/20/my-imac-has-turned-into-an-ilemon-and-it-makes-me-concerned-about-apple) which is just waiting for my new Mac Mini’s arrival to give up the ghost. All the screens were functioning perfectly when we gave up on the computers and recycled them.
When my new MacMini shows up this week it will be hooked up to an Apple 20-inch flat panel Cinema Display that I purchased in December 2004 for close to $1,000. I suspect the old screen will outlast the new MacMini. The iMac I bought in 2010 will be our last all-in-one computer.
Touchscreen Price/Reliability Not A Big Issue
I doubt that touchscreen pricing and reliability are issues that are going to heavily weigh on the success of Windows 8. Touchscreens have proven themselves in some very rugged scenarios and the prices are dropping quickly.
The key point for the Windows 8 user interface isn’t worrying about too much dependence on touch vs. the mouse. It’s about whether the user interface is simple to use and doesn’t confuse us with too much choice.
So far I am not enthusiastic about the latest releases from either Microsoft or Apple in that regard. Maybe I will go have a look at KDE in the Linux world. It is hard to believe that Linux has come so far that I might be looking at it as relief from Mac OS X or Windows 8, but who knows?
Image courtesy of Shutterstock.
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Sure, Windows 8 – Microsoft’s new touchscreen operating system – will run just fine on PCs designed for Windows 7. But you won’t be able to take advantage of the new touch capabilities the OS enables unless you scrap your existing PC and upgrade to a new computer.
Or maybe not.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, a company out of China demonstrated a peripheral that combines a stylus and either a USB or wireless receiver to touch-enable a non-touchscreen LCD monitor or laptop screen.
The technology has made its way to the United States via Shenzhen Yifang Digital Technology Co. Ltd., mercifully shortened to Yifang Digital, whose E Fun brand markets the APEN Touch8 system in the United States. Got that?
Discovering the Touch8 digitizer was a happy coincidence. Wandering though CES’ maze of booths, you never quite know what you’ll find. In the rear of the South Hall, for example, Trojan was handing out thousands of vibrators. So there’s that.
Yifang was showing off several versions of the Touch8, including a USB-powered model and one that used wireless technology. According to Eric Ju, an account development manager with the digital pen business unit within Yifang, the company is attempting to license or has already licensed the technology to accessory vendor Targus, which is marketing a very similar device known as the Touch Pen. The Targus Touch Pen costs $99.99 and will be available during the second quarter; the Touch8 will be available this quarter for $79.99. Targus representatives, who were likely flying home from Las Vegas, could not be reached for comment.
The Touch8 system, and presumably the Touch Pen as well, both use a receiver that mounts to one side of your screen. A combination of ultrasonic and infrared beams detects the stylus’ soft, fuzzy tip, orienting it on the screen. Ju told me that a brief period of “training” the system is required, so the Touch8 learns the boundaries of the available touchscreen real estate. The stylus itself requires power, but it can be used for 500 hours (about 62 days of 8-hour workdays) without replacing the small, watch-sized batteries that power it.
I was able to play around with the Touch8 for several minutes. According to Ju, the system accommodates up to 15.6-inch displays, making the Touch8 suitable for a notebook or a small desktop monitor. The peripheral is magnetically clipped to the side of the notebook, and must be removed and recalibrated every time the notebook is closed. In other words, you’ll have to suffer through some inconveniences to eliminate others.
To its credit, the Touch8 works well at what it does: Enabling “touch.” Swiping works fine, and single-touch gestures seemed to work as advertised. True touch hardware, however, is multitouch, and I’m not even sure if holding two stylii together, chopsticks style, would even work. Right now, the Touch8 works best for drawing, swiping and other single-mode uses.
Should you buy one?
Yes, but only if:
- You’re desperate for Windows 8 and touch interaction
- You’re running a small monitor
- You leave your laptop on your desk
- You don’t mind the absence of multitouch
- You’re willing to spend $100 but not willing to buy a brand new machine
Pictures by Mark Hachman.
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If Intel has its way, touch will be just one of the ways to control Windows 8 ultrabooks. The chipmaker is looking to add voice commands and Kinect-like gestures for what it calls “perceptual computing.”
On Tuesday, Intel announced a partnership with Nuance Communications to put a locally hosted voice recognition app on certain Windows 8 PCs, including devices from Dell. Intel has also partnered with Creative Technology – formerly known as Creative Labs, one of the early designers of PC sound cards – to design a Kinect-like camera that could eventually be integrated into the notebooks just as Webcams are now a standard feature for portable computers.
To kick things off, Intel also announced a software development kit to enable software developers to start creating applications that can take advantage of the new interfaces. Features include 2D/3D object tracking to enable augmented reality applications and even a sort of facial recognition to identify and personalize applications to specific users.
“Your gestures, face, voice – all of those provide a more interactive, immersive experience, said Kirk Skaugen, vice president and general manager of the PC Client Group at Intel, speaking at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco.
Windows 8 PCs will be convertible, detachable and swivel-able. “The industry is going to bring more hardware innovation in the next 12 months than I’ve seen in 20 years at Intel,” Skaugen said.
The move beyond touch is a revival of sorts for voice control and dictation on the PC, which sprang into the market years ago with Nuance, Dragon Systems, and even Microsoft’s built-in voice commands. But the technology essentially fizzled, as users chose to use simpler, faster keyboard shortcuts and simply learned to type faster. Although Skaugen didn’t call them out specifically, the resurgence of voice control in Apple’s Siri and Google Android’s voice commands are clearly helping spark interest in voice control.
Meanwhile, the Interactive Gesture Camera from Creative, a development platform, will track the user’s eyes, nose, and mouth, and be able to detect smiles and other moods. Skaugen said the 720p camera will cost about $149. Eventually, according to Intel’s PC processor chief Dadi Perlmutter, the technology will be integrated into a standard notebook.
The camera, which actually looks a bit ugly squatting on top of a monitor, will track the user’s face, identifying the user and possibly limiting his access. That’s important, Skaugen said, as he described handing over his tablet to his young son. “I hand him the tablet to play Angry Birds to get ten minutes of shuteye, and the next thing I know he’s emailing my CEO.”
The camera will also be able to identify a user’s hands and fingers, sensing the presence of the user from 6 inches to a depth of three feet. That’s ideal, Skaugen said, for kitchen applications where a user doesn’t want to get his touchscreen monitor greasy. The camera will be able to detect gestures and hand positions, such as a thumbs-up gesture. Intel also claimed that its software development kit or SDK will be able to superimpose 3D virtual objects onto a person, such as a pair of glasses or a virtual hat.
“80% of communication is non-verbal, so smiles, blinks, gestures and all these sort of things make communication more immersive,” Skaugen said.
Skaugen showed off two example prototype apps that took advantage of the camera: one, a virtual solar system, “exploded” into view when the user spread his hands. The other, a cute kung fu game, challenged a user to block patty-cake-styled “attacks” from an animated squirrel.
What’s Behind The New Interfaces?
“We’ve had voice and gesture for some time, but it hasn’t really worked,” said Martin Reynolds, a vice president and fellow with Gartner. “Part of the reason is the software and part of the reason is the peripherals, and enough processing power to make it run. What we’re seeing here is Intel attacking on this on all three fronts: developing the software, bumping the performance and working on the peripherals. Now how long that will take to create great results? Not clear. But this is clearly a shift.”
“This is a long-term initiative,” added Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst at Moor Insights. “It brings in two industry buzzwords: the Internet of things, and also natural user interface. But the essence of it is new ways to interact with your PC. So voice and machine vision. What’s going to happen is that the computer will understand context, it will understand everything that’s going on around you and interact with you and with other devices in new ways. That’s really the big picture.”
Perhaps influenced by the consumerization of IT, where iPhones and Gmail are invading the data center, or simply by the realization that you can surf the Web just fine on a three-year-old PC, Intel has ditched the “speeds and feeds” discussions of previous years - a decision that an Intel source said prompted some grumbling among the company’s more traditional, engineering-oriented employees. Granted, the company did announce its fourth-generation of Core microprocessors, code-named “Haswell.” But Intel completely glossed over mentions of core voltages, cache sizes and even clock speeds. Today’s watchword is “capabilities.”
Intel is even working with Sony on the Tap 20 – an all-in-one PC that’s resembles a giant tablet. (Think of it as a desktop PC with batteries.)
Overall, though, Intel continues to focus on ultrabooks – MacBook Air-like thin-and-light notebooks that Intel claims could comprise 40% of all consumer PCs sold this holiday season. By the end of the year, more than 70 different ultrabook designs will be on the market, Intel predicts, many of them equipped with touch capability, and priced starting at about $699. Apparently, Intel sees ultrabooks as a perfect delivery platform for perceptual computing.
Lead image courtesy of Shutterstock. Other images by Mark Hachman.
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Mobile HTML5 developer framework Sencha wants to be more than just a tool to develop hybrid mobile applications. The company’s roadmap for 2012 is to become an end-to-end solution for designing, developing and deploying HTML5 applications and is taking its first steps toward that goal today by releasing Sencha Touch 2 out of beta. Sencha Touch 2 gives developers a better user interface for developing HTML5 that will give consumers a more robust user experience.
Sencha also wants to play nice with the mobile development ecosystem. Touch 2 is the first framework that will allow developers to write Android and iOS apps from either a Windows PC or a Mac. That means that iOS developers are no longer tied to XCode on the Mac for building iOS apps. Presenting that freedom to developers should help Sencha win the hearts of many mobile publishers.
Sencha is focusing on three core areas for the public release of Touch 2: better consumer user experience, better developer support and development experience as well as working to improve the development ecosystem.
“We’ve updated and refreshed the API for Sencha Touch to make it even easier to build applications as well as out of the box we are shipping a set of full fledged built applications that developers can modify or use as their own references for locations. These are apps that use the Facebook API, apps that take advantage of custom themes,” said Aditya Bansod, senior director of product management at Sencha.
The core uses of Sencha HTML5 platform are to prototype, design, develop, package and deploy HTML5 apps. The company wants to make using the platform as painless as possible for developers and was one of the core goals for the team in updating Touch. The framework itself has been updated with a more streamlined UI for developers that Bansod describes as more “visceral.” Sencha worked to create better performance for hybrid HTML5 apps for iOS and Android and has updated many of its native API containers to take advantage of camera, push messaging, device orientation and scrolling.
Sencha spent the most time with Touch 2 working to improve Android performance. It is well known in the mobile ecosystem that the native Android browser lacks well behind iOS and one of Sencha’s primary goals was to improve that performance.
“We have spent endless amount of time working and tuning for Android. Like list performance, for example. It might seem mundane but for user experience it is so important,” Bansod said. “I throw a list and it actually flies as far as I want it to as well as animations feel as well as they should for the platform. So, we spent time with device manufacturers understanding their implementations of WebKit and what we ended up doing is building specific implementations of our core performance APIs for each specific platform. The developer does not see this, thankfully, the developer sees one common API and we use different parts of HTML and CSS to actually do the performance work under the hood on the developers’ behalf.”
One of the key shifts for Sencha in releasing Touch 2 is a focus on the mobile ecosystem. While competitor appMobi is almost always focused on the ecosystem, Sencha has always been about the HTML5 spec and creating better tools.
“The native packaging kit that allows you to build on Mac and Windows is totally novel in the mobile ecosystem,” Bansod said. “We have some new UI controls in the updated APIs and that will help while building your applications as well as building apps that have much more of a look and a feel that look native-like.”
Out of the box, Sencha Touch 2 comes with several applications that can be used as guides for building with the platform. The company sent ReadWriteMobile several test devices to show this off. For iOS that includes an app called “The Watch List” (pictured above) that shares what movies you want to seen or have seen with friends. “TouchStyle” is an app for purchasing home and fashion items. On Android applications include Sencha Radio and Sencha Jog.
It is one thing to give developers a couple sample apps but Sencha takes it a step further with its Kitchen Sink application that shows off exactly what can be done within the framework and gives source code examples. This feature is beneficial to both new programmers looking for ways to create rounded buttons or experienced developers having trouble with HTML5 audio or video integration.
Sencha wants to differentiate itself from other framework and container providers such as appMobi, PhoneGap, Conduit and Brightcove. The ability to write code from any computer available is a good start.
“PhoneGap requires that you develop in XCode on the Mac and if you are a PC developer, that is what you are stuck with. In the other rounds, appMobi has a build service and we have heard from a lot of developers that they do not want to give a third party that they do not know their private keys because that is what it requires, you have to give your sign in keys to the third party to build it for you. We want to give developers that capability locally so they do not have to trust someone else with their keys,” Bansod said.
The entire Sencha HTML5 platform will be released and updated this year. The next step is called Sencha Designer that will be used to help accelerate design aspects of building apps. Deployment will be handled through Sencha.io that will also have an update sometime in 2012. Touch 2 remains a free service as the company plans on monetizing around other aspects of the platform. Touch 2 will be issued on the GPL3 and Sencha Commercial License.
Sencha Touch 2 was released to beta in Sept. 2011 but the company is now ready to release the full version. For those that have been using the beta, much will remain the same with a few developer UI improvements.
“Sencha Touch 2 is the cornerstone behind what we are going to be doing in the next couple months around the Sencha HTML5 platform. Using Sencha Touch and the new capabilities in Touch 2 to form the cornerstone of the developer experience from designing, developing and deploying their HTML5 applications,” Bansod said.
What are your impressions of Sencha Touch 2? How does it compare to other build services like appMobi, Brightcove or Conduit? As a wrapper, does it beat PhoneGap? Let us know in the comments.
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“We’re always looking to get as close to one touch donations as we can,” Romney Campaign’s Digital Director Zac Moffat told the LATimes.
Politico reports that both the Romney and Obama campaigns have started using Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey’s “magical” dongle, Square. Of course, you can’t pay by saying your name as you now can at select merchants – but Square still makes campaign donations much faster and easier. Staff, field organizers and campaign volunteers hook up Square to their mobile phones and accept campaign donations on the spot.
The Obama campaign personnel will be able to use either iPhones or Androids; Politico reports that staff at all levels will have access to Square card readers. The Romney campaign isn’t moving as quickly, rolling out Square in Florida only – just in time for tonight’s primary. The campaign as plans to start using Square nationally at some point in the future.
Barack Obama has been leading the way on social media, giving the most interactive State of the Union address ever on Jan 24. It featured a Twitter hashtag and a streaming of the entire speech on WhiteHouse.gov/SOTU. The White House also hosted a Google+ Hangout on Jan 30, which our own Jon Mitchell attended and blogged about. Sure, it might have been fun to hangout with the prize, but unless you were one of the five Americans who actually hung out with him live, Mitchell reports that the experience felt just like television. Barack first launched as a Google+ brand – not a profile- late last year. Not long ago, Barack joined Instagram.
Yes, it’s pretty awesome that the Obama campaign is using Square, the oh-so-popular mobile photo app Instagram, and the Google+ hangout feature. But we are at a point now where social media tools and mobile payments are hardly a novelty – instead, they are accepted and necessary modes of communication. Will Square help raise more funds for Obama and Romney? Or is it just another payment option for the few?
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