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Henri Bergius

On tablets and productivity

2012-10-02 22:47 UTC  by  Henri Bergius

Tablet usage is growing rapidly. Ars Technica wrote about an interesting study today:

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Henri Bergius

The Dreams of the MeeGo Diaspora

2012-07-07 07:00 UTC  by  Henri Bergius

Much has been written about the emerging Post-PC era, about the new possibilities it brings, and the limitations it imposes on developer creativity.

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Henri Bergius

Kinect Air Cursor: Let your hand be the mouse

2012-06-27 07:00 UTC  by  Henri Bergius

If today's Google I/O keynote where they parachuted to the conference center from a Zeppelin while streaming the whole experience on a Hangout via Project Glass wasn't enough future for you, here is another thing.

As part of the SmarcoS project, we've been working on making the Kinect work as an input device for Qt applications. Basically you move your hand in the air, and are able to grab and drop things on the screen.

We call this the Air Cursor. Here is a quick video of manipulating a simple HTML5 application with it:

Now, this may not be the way you want to control the computer you're working with the whole day. Instead, we see this sort of interface as very useful for large displays in meeting rooms and public spaces.

Instead of a touchscreen that easily gets messy and requires people to stand in front of it, with the air cursor you can use a regular TV or projector, and use your hands to manipulate the information on it. The gestures we use are natural enough that everybody we've had trying the tool has figured them out in matter of seconds.

Our Qt Air Cursor is free software under the LGPL license, and is built on top of the OpenNI library, with OpenCV used for recognizing the grab gestures.

I believe this is a great start for using natural interaction to control information software or multimedia applications. Simple gestures like grab-and-drop and swipes work, but there is still a lot of UX territory left to explore.

If you have ideas where this sort of new input techniques could be used, feel free to get in touch. Or simply to integrate the Qt Air Cursor library into your applications.

The Qt Air Cursor was demoed for the first time in this year's Qt Contributor Summit in Berlin. Our simple "Grab to the Future" example game gathered quite a large audience, with the high score ending up at a respectable 18. You know you're doing something right when the event catering staff also wants to try your input device demo.

Henri Bergius

It is just a toy

2012-06-03 07:00 UTC  by  Henri Bergius

Great post by John Lilly discussing why PC will be the truck:

I’ve been living with just my tablet and phone recently — it feels clearer & clearer that many people will just skip the computer phase altogether.

I think many people believe that means that we’ll have a world of consumers, since tablets and phones so far aren’t great creation tools. But I think that is changing, and quickly. Apps like Paper, from Fifty-three, and Diet Coda, from Panic, not to mention Instagram, are letting people create things on the fly that aren’t just throwaway, but are legitimate creations.

I picked up a phrase some time ago that I think applies: “The next big thing is always beneath contempt.” Implication being that it is, of course, until it isn’t. Until it’s too big to ignore. This has happened over and over again in our society. In the middle ages, people assumed that no serious discussion could happen in anything but Latin — the so-called “vulgar” languages had no merit. And writers assumed that nothing interesting or lasting would come from this new medium of television. And, I think, people assume right now that nothing important will be created from a 10” touch screen without a keyboard (let alone a tiny 3.5” screen).

This is a classic example of disruptive innovation as described in Clayton Christensen's book Innovator's Dilemma: a new technology comes from the low-end, becomes progressively better, and the old dominant technology can only try to escape to the high-end market. When a company focuses on enterprise, you know this is what is happening.

I've seen this in action several times, especially in the Open Source CMS market, where many of the old guard have been replaced by simpler and cheaper newcomers.

The lesson to draw is that when you hear people dismissing an entrant as just a toy, you should really start paying attention. Otherwise it will be too late. And this applies equally to products as to programming tools or technologies. A free software project may never die, but it can still become a lot less exciting as a result of such disruption.

I've written about why this is happening with tablets already earlier.

Update: Critical Path is a great podcast on disruption in the mobile market. Especially the one hour interview with Clayton Christensen is worth listening to.

Henri Bergius

JavaScript in Qt5

2012-06-01 08:54 UTC  by  Henri Bergius
Qt 5 is bringing JS at the same level of support as C++

Quim Gil, Nokia

Great news for mobile developers, as with this you can combine declarative user interfaces with the universal runtime