Every year the Davey Awards recognize the best creative work from small agencies, firms, and companies around the world. This year Zemoga’s piece for Men’s Journal: Milos Raonic and the Website re-launch for XPO were honored.
When I was in 3rd grade I got an assignment from my Earth Science teacher, Mrs. Kendall. She gave every student a cup of dirt and three small seeds. Each student carefully planted their seeds and placed them all neatly on top of a shelf in the back of the room by the window. Each morning, myself and the 20-odd some other students would rush to the back of the room to see how our seedlings were doing.
Zemoga’s submission, Men’s Journal: Milos Raonic and the Future of Tennis, was awarded three Silver Awards. The winning piece was created for Wenner Media. Wenner wanted to create a responsive, experience for a custom interactive feature. Zemoga designed and developed the site to leverage Men’s Journal’s classic style and provide the richness of digital media.
We’ve all been there… You’re in a relationship, you’re in love and then, it ends. You were unprepared and now you don’t know what to do. You spend weeks or months trying to sort through how to let go. Is this getting too real for you? Eventually you let go, hopefully. For some in your head you find yourself trapped and investing time into something that doesn’t exist anymore. It’s true and if you haven’t been there, I applaud/feel bad for you because a lot can be learned from moments like this.
Last night, inspired by the French event, “Code in the Dark,” Bogota hosted the Master Front Hackathon 2015. Zemoga was honored to help elect the first Master Frontend Developer of Colombia.
Let’s first get one thing clear. Native Advertising isn’t going anywhere. It’s growth is only upward and to be honest, I don’t mind it. Ultimately, as a digital design agency, we have to think about how to best interact with humans. The ethics of native advertising are well debated, and I won’t add to that debate. The key for me as a strategist is to find ways to connect with people that feels less disruptive. I know we in the tech world love “disruption”, but most of the world doesn’t, especially when it comes to how they interact with things on a day to day basis.
Artificial. Intelligence: For some, those two words conjure up images of a dystopian future, a “robot apocalypse”, set in the not-too-distant future – in a world where humans have failed and machines have prevailed.
For others, this is an opportunity for mankind to put decades of collective learning to the test, and to find out if humans can create something more intelligent and complex than ourselves.
Either way, there is no denying that this divisive issue consistently lands at the top of the “Hot Topics” list in the tech industry. It has been the topic of TEDx Talks, Hollywood films, and even Vanity Fair articles.
Whether it’s Elon Musk and Stephen Hawkings asserting that hostile AI is going to destroy the world, or Ray Kurzweil speaking of the inevitable singularity…. one thing is certain. This new technology, if approached in the right manner, has the potential to change the way we view the world and the information around us, and will most certainly impact almost every industry imaginable from agriculture and education, to finance, automotive and even medical.
The fact that great minds like these are having an extended dialogue on the topic foreshadows that this is the brave new world that this form of technology is entering into. One thing these thought-leaders can all agree on, is that we humans must tread carefully as we continue to develop and employ these game-changing technologies that could leave us in the dust once they realize that they have the ability to do so. Broadly speaking, AI will solve some major problems – not the least of which could include the eradication of disease and poverty – while causing others, which are have yet to be seen.
So… what does this mean for the general public? Over the next few weeks, Zemoga will be taking a deeper look into this exciting, but mysterious voyage that we’ve begun to embark on, and we’ll offer up different insights on how AI and machine learning can be used for the greater good. We’ll explore IBM’s Watson and similar existing technologies, while looking into our crystal Z-ball to see what’s next. Be on the lookout! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter to keep up…. or we will send our robots after you… they know where you live.
When I started to think about writing a piece on Apple Watch I was certain I would talk about the device from a rather skeptical angle. All the annoying buzz, added to the fact that I’ve not used a wristwatch in more than 15 years, had me very pessimistic about the success of this gadget. However, at some point last week, in the middle of the process of actually writing the article, I finally had the chance to really think it through and realize the potential of new, paradigm-breaking devices like this one.
The iPhone’s sidekick
Many out there are frustrated by the fact that Watch apps are not 100% standalone and depend (at least partially) on an iPhone. This is true because the technical architecture of this first generation of the Apple Watch is very limited in terms of how much load you can put on it. It also has to do with the purpose this kind of device is supposed to serve, from a strategic point of view.
It’s a companion device. It’s a peripheral to the CPU that is the iPhone. Think of it as a sidecar for a motorcycle, as a Robin for a Batman, as a Garfunkel for a Simon. [EDITOR’S NOTE: We have banned JDV from all future analogies]. You can either look at it as a very weak and limited companion or as a companion with special abilities.
Now, the question many are asking is: does the iPhone need a sidekick? Well, iPhones are great and recent versions are capable enough to edit video, stream audio and process 3D graphics at unbelievable speeds. However, they’re sometimes too much when all you need to do is check the time, read that Twitter mention, check the weather, see the score of your team’s game or find out the name of that song Pandora’s playing and maybe save it as a favorite. Reaching out to your pocket to pull out your phone and look at its bright giant screen when you’re with people not only sounds like a lot of effort, but also (and more importantly) it has a social cost —which is becoming more and more true with time. In the future you will want to remain connected, but will definitely prefer to be more discreet, if possible.
Let’s build the f… out of that Watch app now (or maybe not)
Does all this mean that every product should have a Watch companion? No. Like it happened with the inclusion of widgets in the notification center in recent versions of iOS, every other app rushed to conquer that special place of their users’ screen, but not many really had a reason to do it. For a product designer, this decision has to come from the users and what’s important to them. If that shiny feature you pushed into your users’ watches has no value in that context or is simply impossible to operate, those users will punish you by ignoring it, or worse.
Finding the value
We at Zemoga keep talking about user experiences and how these are larger than what happens within the limits of a screen of an app. Think of an experience as a huge flying spaghetti monster, with a bunch of tentacles that belong to the same creature, but extend to reach and connect to other undetermined places. This sounds complex because user experiences are complex.
Say you have a pretty iPhone app on the App Store. It’s never just about the app living as a standalone thing. Just take two minutes to think outside that box and visualize the entire experience around your users’ interaction with that app:
- What makes them download it?
- What motivates them to keep checking it over and over?
- How do they learn about new activity within the app?
- How do they let the world know they’re using it?
- In which contexts do they interact with it?
- What are they thinking/feeling in those moments?
- What else are they doing at the same time?
- What did they do before interacting with your app?
- What will they do afterwards?
Asking yourself questions like these, talking with actual or potential users, mapping the entire experience are all good exercises in order to understand the user in a more holistic way and create an inventory of the many touchpoints where your product can provide value. Those touchpoints give you a better understanding of your users’ needs in different contexts and can be translated into opportunities to expand the functionality of your product to other devices like the Apple Watch.
It’s all about context (a practical example).
Let’s think of an airline and their iPhone app, which probably offers all the functionality you would expect to find in a decent airline’s app: ability to book a flight, deals, information specific to your mileage program, an option to check-in, information about your flight, access to your boarding passes, etc. It looks like a very solid app, including all the basics and more.
Now let’s take a step back for a second and think about the experience of flying, which is full of touchpoints—moments in which the customer is interacting in any way with the airline and the experience of flying with that airline. The moment you get to the terminal and check-in, when you’re going through security, that block of time before you board the flight (maybe you go to the food court, maybe you ask an attendant for an upgrade, maybe you’re running from one terminal to another to catch a connecting flight), the moment you’re finally at the gate, the moment you’re about to board the plane, etc.
All these touchpoints are opportunities for our airline to add value through different devices according to whatever makes most sense: could we say, for example, that right after you’ve gone through security, your phone (the one you used to purchase your tickets) takes a backseat and your watch becomes your go-to device from that moment on?
- Could your watch give you a visual confirmation that your flight is on time and help you find the terminal and gate you have to board the next plane from?
- Could the watch give you a nice alert when your group is ready to board?
- Could its screen stay on to show a QR code they can scan to let you board the plane?
We’re covering pretty much all the same functionalities you already had in this airline’s app, but now some of them are being distributed to the device that is most convenient for you in that context and in that moment. We’re improving your overall experience as a traveler, giving you extra reasons to choose this airline again the next time. We’re creating loyalty through user experience.
There’s a huge opportunity in creating experiences that live in this new device, but not every single idea will succeed. Product designers need to be smart and think of the entire experience their product can provide and, as always, find smart ways to distribute that experience among different devices (desktop, laptop, TV, tablet, phone, and now watch), thinking always about the relation between task, device capabilities and context.
As for the things you want your users doing on a Watch, it just requires a bit of common sense: asking Shazam to find the name of the song that’s playing in that bar? Yes, please! Buying plane tickets and booking hotels for that multi-city trip around Asia? Hmmm, maybe not yet.
It’s an interesting time we live in. A lot of the hilarious things from futuristic movies of the past are legitimately coming to fruition: the VR headsets of Demolition and Lawnmower Man, AI like we’ve seen in movies like Terminator and Short Circuit and the personalized tech of Dick Tracy and Star Trek in Smart Devices. Yes, there even is a flying car now, granted it’s not as cool as something from The Fifth Element, but hey, we’re getting there. It’s all very wild to think about.
The thing that is of current obsession in our culture is of course the Smart Watch. One watch in particular: the Apple Watch. If you don’t think this watch is a big deal, here’s a list of links for every review just from today written about this product:
The Wall Street Journal
The New York Times
That’s just a few. I could probably add 10 more links. So what more can be said? There are literally thousands and thousands of words on this one little device. It’s also a super divisive topic. People either love this thing or hate it. It’s either “the future” or our “demise” as a people. Like any story, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
Bottom line is this: This device is not going to change the world anytime soon.
The reason why: The world around it needs to catch up.
Most massive technological breakthroughs aren’t necessarily because of the “breakthrough” itself, it’s more about the things surrounding it (ecosystem) that allow the breakthrough to be meaningful. Think about it: the idea of a car is cool, but what makes it great and something that can expand? Roads. Microsoft created the tablet years ago, but it never took off. Why? Because a computer was still better and the “portability” of America didn’t exist 10+ years ago.
This is ultimately the Apple Watch’s fate. It’s appears to be quite a unique and valuable product. That value will only increase when everything else around it catches up. My favorite article about this so far is one by M.G. Siegler comparing Apple Watch to Disney’s Magic Band.
The Disney Band is great because it’s such a passive device. It works without you having to really think. Apple Watch needs to convince the world around it that they also need to become more passive. You can see it starting to happen with things like “Smart” locks, lights, hotel room doors. Those are all fun, but it’s not until it’s at a Disney level where I walk in and you know I’m there, I can pick up some items and just walk out and be charged that it becomes helpful.
That’s what this little device potentially means. It’s worth being slightly pragmatic at this point as well, because lets be honest, a lot of those things can be accomplished with our current smartphones, so it’s often redundant to try and claim a watch can solve the problem when we haven’t really been able to solve a problem with our phones, which is actually much smarter than any of these watches.
As a digital agency, this is how we try to think about it as well. A good brand knows that a great website or app isn’t an island unto itself. It has to be able to work well and make sense within a larger digital environment. The watch doesn’t mean we can make better screen experiences for that device. It means we can create better physical environment experiences. The websites and apps we develop can now have their reach extended into the physical world passively, in time. It adds a new level of challenges to creating a great UX, because now it isn’t simply on a screen that you can walk away from.
So love it or hate it, the Apple Watch is here, and it’s not going anywhere. We are planning on ordering quite a few to begin thinking through what it all means not just to digital world, but the physical world around us. Be sure to follow us this month as our team dives into the different aspects of this shiny new toy.
Let us know what you think! Tweet us at @zemoga or follow us on Facebook.
by Camilo Soto
This is part four of a month-long series on VR. Check out parts one, two, and three.
There are tons of virtual reality headsets coming out in the next year. How do they trick your mind into thinking you’re looking at a 3D space? What are the specs you need to make sure you don’t get sick?
Made in milliseconds
3D is produced by showing two different images to each eye to simulate what your eyes would normally see. It tricks your brain into thinking you’re present in a digitally produced environment. It sounds pretty simple, but in order to actually allow a person see what they would naturally see in a different environment, the image that they are looking at needs to be updated between 40 and 60 times per second, keeping track of exactly what they’re looking at.
This means that in a matter of milliseconds, the headset needs to figure out the user’s position and orientation, pass this information to the computer, and the computer in turn needs to produce an image that matches what the world would look like from that specific point in space.
Advances made during the last decade in a number of fields have made it possible to produce a sense of “presence” that would have been impossible before. High resolution, high quality display technologies, and a push forward by the mobile phone market have made it possible to make portable “retina” quality screens that look great even when placed mere inches from your eyes.
Sensor technologies such as accelerometers and gyroscopes, miniaturized and optimized for use in motion controllers and mobile devices, make it possible to track movement and orientation very accurately and very fast. Last, but not least, advances made in CGI for the entertainment industry make it possible to create very realistic real-time renderings of imaginary environments. Put these elements together and you have a portable headset capable of actually making a person feel like they’ve been transported to another world.
In the VR arms race, developers are trying to differentiate their hardware by claiming it has the lowest refresh rate, highest resolution, or lowest latency.
Limitations on interaction
VR has been pushed forward very strongly by the gaming industry, but its application in gaming is still somewhat blurry. The reason for this is that even though you may be capable of creating the illusion of being in a fantasy world, you still need to solve the issue of allowing the player to act upon it.
This is where the controllers come in, but you can’t exactly let the player move around using their full body when they’re blinded to the physical world they’re moving around in. We’ve all seen the youtube videos of where that can lead. Solutions have been implemented using harnesses, rolling floors and dedicated rooms that track the user, but that’s very far from practical and ages away from becoming mainstream enough that making content for this platforms sounds like a good business proposition. There will always be classic controllers which gamers are used to, but can you really expect them to go through a long play session without being able to see the controller they’re using?
That leaves us with a technology that allows people to immerse themselves in an environment, but with very little capability to do much more than spectate. That sounds an awful lot like another huge branch of entertainment, where you look but don’t touch: cinema. Therefore, some of the first popular experiences in VR are bound to be experiences where you’re just an audience, immersed in a world in which things are happening, but unable to act on them.
Initially, VR’s strength will be experiences that allow users to navigate environments that would otherwise be unreachable, allowing them to effect changes that would be impossible in real life. You could for instance allow people to navigate their new home before it’s built, changing the furniture, the paint or the time of day. The big question right now is whether there’s going to be a wide adoption of the technology for household use, or if it’s going to be the type of thing that you run into at the mall as a curiosity.
The bottom line is VR is just a platform, a new display technology, and the most defining factor in it’s success and meaningfulness will be the content and experiences available in it.
Have thoughts on VR? Have thoughts on our thoughts? Tweet at us @zemoga! Also check us out on Instagram and Facebook!