Posts tagged 'product'

Three Ways Anyone Can Make a Smart Phone App

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

A referee signal quiz app made with AppInventor

Designers are tinkerers. We like to be able to nudge, tuck, trim and finally throw away our creations and start from scratch. But what about designing for the explosively-growing field of mobile apps?

Increasingly, free tools are becoming available that allow designers to prototype and test rich applications for mobile devices without developing fully-realized apps. In this post I give an overview of an example for each of the three major platforms.


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No-glue paper creations

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

MakeDo structureFollowing up on my post about no-code iPhone UI prototypes, I thought I should share something for making tangible stuff. This blog isn’t just about software or electronics, it is about discussing and sharing tools that lower the barrier to creative communication, and bring it within the reach of anyone with imagination. With that in mind I present MakeDo, a system for um.. building things.


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Code-free iPhone interaction prototype

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

TouchOSC screenshotHave you ever found yourself wanting to prototype a simple, realtime interaction between an iPhone and another piece of hardware, but don’t have time to learn iPhone programming? TouchOSC provides a simple solution to this challenge. An iPhone app that communicates over wifi using Open Sound Control, TouchOSC allows you to control any kind of application that accepts OSC messages.

TouchOSC also includes a companion layout editor. This free desktop application allows you to define custom screen layouts of UI elements and then upload them to your iPhone. Unfortunately there are only a limited number of UI widgets, and because the software was designed to control realtime sound apps, they naturally tend toward realtime control- knobs, faders and toggles as opposed to forms, dropdowns and checkboxes of more rich interfaces. Still, if all you need is a few buttons and a slider to control an interactive system and you aren’t able to develop a native iPhone app, TouchOSC offers some enticing potential. See below the jump for some examples of unexpected uses.
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Scribbles Ignores the Conventional Wisdom

Friday, January 29th, 2010

Check BoxI just recently downloaded Tweetie, a desktop twitter client, and noticed that the company who makes it also makes a product called Scribbles. Noticing that its homepage proclaims Scribbles is ‘Incredibly easy to use’ and has a ‘Revolutionary User Interface’ I decided to give it a spin.

Scribbles is an ideal addition to any visual designer’s toolkit – it is simple without being simplistic, has features designed to enable creative flow and speed, and generally does a good job at what it claims to do. While I found its control over color a bit frustrating, the layer control and ‘trace’ tool were both features that I can actually see myself using. For a small piece of software like this that relies on demo versions to spur purchases, a handful of features that stick in a user’s mind can mean the difference between an application that is used once out of curiosity and one that is purchased and becomes a valued tool.
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Twist your presentation like a Prezi!

Wednesday, January 13th, 2010

Prezi is a Hungarian startup that has developed a tool to empower people to make stunning visual presentations using text and media. Using their intuitive (yet not fully cross-platform) editing tool, creating gorgeous, dynamic motion-based presentations is surprisingly easy.

As an exhibit designer, I personally found Prezi’s strong emphasis on scaling inspiring. Since exhibition designers use scale as one of their primary mechanisms of information organization, I can even see Prezi as a potential tool for prototyping exhibit content, where the ratio in size between header graphics, sub-headers, body text and captions can be as high as 100:1.

Like most sketching tools written about on this site, Prezi’s success relies as much on its limitations as it does in its features. While the possibilities for creating zooming presentations seems endless, Prezi keeps its users on track by providing only a few design templates, not allowing users to edit transition times between ’slides’ and otherwise keeping the system as simple as possible. A professional motion graphics designer might find this constraining, but a casual user (like me) can create very professional looking results in less than a half hour. See below for an example I created (oh yeah, the final product is easy to share, download and embed in a website.)

Click Read More for more analysis.

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Sketching DNA?

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

feature_enzymesWe never thought we’d be looking at a DNA editing tool as a ‘tool for sketching’, but we don’t like to turn our noses up at something out of our area of expertise. In that spirit we submit for consideration EnzymeX, a tool by Papers creators Mekentosj.

As visual designers and not scientists, we won’t pretend we have any clue how EnzymeX works or how it is used, but given its glowing reviews from MacUpdate to the New York Times, and with features such as the ability to “Directly search and download sequences from the NCBI Entrez nucleotide database.” and “Simply and reliably determine which buffer is most suitable for a double digestion.”, we have no doubt that EnzymeX is allowing an enterprising scientist or two the ability to test theories, perform faster or at the very least settle a few barstool bets as to the effectiveness of various protein sequencing motifs.

So with a cure for the common hangover as yet unfound, I say young scientists of the world, sequence away!

Make an entire wall into a whiteboard with IdeaPaint.

Sunday, December 13th, 2009

Cafe wall covered with whiteboard.

Like any tool, a whiteboard is only as good as the person who uses it. On the other hand, easy access to space to let ideas fly can be valuable, and there is a lot to be said for ‘breaking the frame’.

IdeaPaint lets you paint a whiteboard anywhere you want it.

via FastCompany

Sketchup 6 is out!

Tuesday, February 13th, 2007

Since being purchased by Google, Sketchup has been split into two products: Sketchup Pro and ‘Google Sketchup’, the free version, and many of the features available in Sketchup 6 are available to users of both versions. Google offers an explanation of the difference between the products, which essentially boils down to: Google Sketchup is for use only with Google Maps, while Sketchup Pro is a full-featured 3D visualization tool for professionals.

Now Sketchup 6 is available, with a raft of new features. Users can now superimpose their creations into photos and match perspective using the Photo Match tool. I have been using Sketchup to pre-visualize media installations, and this tool is an invaluable time-saver. All you need is a few photos of a site and you can superimpose your creation into it.
Sketchy Lines in Sketchup 6 will suck up all your time.

The other feature that will take up much of your precious noodling-time is the ‘sketchy lines’ capability. In addition to giving users more control over the way lines look in general, you can now alter the stroke of a line and make your model look like a calligraphic painting, a whiteboard sketch or a ball-point pen drawing. Notably missing is the ability to scale the strokes, or create your own. See these instructions if you want to make your own style (it isn’t a trivial task.) Regardless, combined with the ability to set background color and watermark, it’s clear that the Sketchup team has worked hard to make sure that the world doesn’t get inundated with Sketchup renderings that look exactly the same. Long live style!

See Also:
Google Buys At Last Software

Plug and Play Hardware Prototyping

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006 is a combination hardware and software system that makes prototyping hardware interfaces fast and easy. With it, inexperienced test subjects were able to re-create an ipod interface in a half hour. The fact that subjects without training in electronics or software development can achieve so much with this tool is extraordinary. What stands out most about this system is that it is generalized (you can create any combination of inputs and interface elements) and specific (intended for use in designing electronic product interfaces.) Like many of the tools I’ve written about,’ insistence on not being everything to everybody, while maintaining a broad enough feature set to be a useful tool for rapid ideation is a strength. While interfaces developed using may not be tightly integrated into a development process, I can only imagine that when using it as a system for validating ideas and testing multiple solutions could solve many problems down the road in product development.

Some recent developments in the system are particularly exciting to me: I was exctied to see new support for Arduino, Phidgets and Wiring. The system was also on display at the 2006 Maker Faire in San Francisco, and a new hardware design (left) has been developed, which means that it lives on. was developed at the Stanford HCI Group.

3D Mouse From GE Healthcare – Bringing 3D back to the hand!

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

The 2006 IDEA Industrial Design Excellence Awards were announced recently, and I just finished leafing through all 108-odd winners. The award that stood out for me in terms of its potential to aid in the facilitation of creative activity was GE Healthcare’s 3D Mouse. Designed to enable surgeons to manipulate complex 3D medical images during surgery, the 3D Mouse

…combines control of six distinct, complex user movements (X, Y, Z rotations and X, Y, Z translations) into a single liquid-proof joystick, while providing the functionality of a standard 2D mouse for interaction with GUI functions.

This is obviously a groundbreaking advance in medical technology. With surgeons and medical professionals increasingly having access to a wide array of 3D patient data, the ability to easily accessing and interpret that data during surgery is truly a step forward.

With that said, it should only be a matter of a few years until we see devices with these capabilities crop up on our own desktop for use in non life-or-death situations. The ability to intuitively manipulate and control 3D data along that number of axes with only one hand will make the experience of 3D modelling a step closer to creating objects by hand.