Mobile world congress 2013 - Barcelona

MWC2013

FIREFOX BLAZES WHILE WORLD KEEPS TURNING, TRENDS FROM MWC'13

Partnership. That's the word which best describes this new edition of Mobile World Congress, celebrated in Barcelona on 25th-28th February 2013. Precisely first year that no one of the grown-ups of the mobile industry (iOS and Android) showed up, some strategic moves brought newcomers to the fore to even question that duopoly. There are lots of interests behind the release of Firefox OS and Tizen OS: carriers that don't want to miss the boat, manufacturers that claim for some autonomy and developers that struggle to successfully port HTML5 standards to mobile platforms. Different interests that convergence on the same point: breaching a gap into the mobile market by engaging the next 1 billion people. Probably due to its open nature, Canonical's Ubuntu Touch has been left out of those partnerships, despite being the most stable outsider.

Some other trends reveal that the industry is rapidly entering a new phase: focus on monetization, glocal partnerships, easy app builders to extend app development tools to a new audience and innovative technology, like cloud computing, that empowers the whole industry. Mobile World Congress isn't anymore about many doing a lot of little things but a few doing big deals. This is a summing-up of what we've heard, watched and felt at #MWC13.

Monetization and innovation on mobile advertising

MWC13

"Mobile has moved to a second phase: from maximize users to maximize revenues. Jesse Hurwitz, Global Strategy at AdMob, described this way the current state of the mobile market at the #MWC13. Actually, there's a shared feeling of leaving behind the taking-off years to enter a new phase in which markets are staring at the mobile industry and asking a clear and loud show me the money. Monetization has been a central issue throughout the #MWC13. Renowned mobile-related companies have shared their experiences to make any mobile project a profitable business.

First point is understanding the consumer. Evan Gerber, from Fidelity, stated that the keystone of a successful monetization model relies first on a deep knowledge of the consumer behaviour. The main difference with non-mobile business is precisely that there's lot of data available. Mobile devices are the perfect data tracker: a gadget which is all day long interacting with our target is gathering big data that leads to smarter algorithms. Multi-screen and cloud sync (the so-called mobile ecosystem) just enhance this process providing a constant flow of information about the consumer.

Second step is reaching the users. According to Naveen Tewari, CEO of Inmobi, traditional advertising strategies were focused on those consumer times (TV time, reading time, sleeping time...). However, he adds, there's not a mobile time. Actually, statistics reflect commuting activities while using mobile devices: 62% of users engage in mobile media while watching TV, 40% of adults sleep with their phones. Thus, when talking mobile, campaigns cannot be based on undifferentiated strategies anymore. Brian Wong, CEO of Kiip, encourages marketers to find those achievement moments in which users are more receptive. Current technology helps to identify them: GPS, time of the day or even screen position can help detect the user frame of mind. Today, more than ever before there are tools and enough data to provide a personalized engagement.

Consequently, Victor Malachard, CEO of Adfonic, pleads not to fixate just on premium. Making the most of the data and technology available are the musts to innovate on mobile advertising and retail therapy.

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Trends: Cloud computing, gestures and augmented reality

MWC13

When referring to technology, we are living in the very short-term. However, as Malcolm Nicolas, CTO of Telecommunications IBM, stated at #MWC13, the most important trends nowadays are mobility and cloud computing. There's no chance to have one without the other. Cloud computing is the needed infrastructure for mobility, the best way to have full access to our data on-the-go. The explosion of connected devices is boosting the development of the cloud industry. The #MWC13 has been a reflection of this pushing market trend.

Some reference cloud companies like Dropbox, Sugarsync and Starhub were in Barcelona keynoting about the current market challenges and opportunities. On the B2B side, Malcolm Nicolas, added that mobile cloud is impacting business competitiveness and 82% of companies are underprepared. Partnership with carriers, manufacturers and developers seems to be a shared B2B solution for cloud industry leaders. Drew Houston CEO of Dropbox, said he believes that Dropbox is just scratching the surface of the potential that would be released in partnership with others. On the end-consumer side, the priority is to guarantee the access to their cloud services from a household ecosystem (TV, desktop, smartphone, tablet...) and to provide a better service by means of larger storage, stronger security and enhanced social features.

Cloud is the big trend, not the only one though. According to what's been seen in the #MWC13, Augmented Reality and Gestures are both voguish technologies. PointGrab is the biggest company using standard 2D cameras to offer hand gesture recognition solutions for the whole mobile ecosystem (smartphones, tablets, TVs,...). Millions of devices are already equipped with such technology that allows users to control devices with gestures. PointGrab presented CamMe and PlungaShot at the #MWC13, two apps making the most of this technology. CamME enables users to take pictures without the need to hold device, just by raising their hand at a distance. PlungaShot, is a gesture-based game that simulates bow and arrow actions in a real 3D space. However, PointGrab isn't the only company innovating in this issue. uMoove presented in the #MWC13 their eye-head gesture recognition technology that soon will be integrated in high-end devices. These are just two examples of the path this innovative technology is taking.

Augmented Reality is also arousing lot of interest lately, specially due to the anticipated release of Project Glass by Google. Some partnerships between AR tech developers and manufacturers were unveiled at the #MWC13. Metaio and ST-Ericsson have signed an agreement to integrate Metaio's AR first chipset (AREngine) into the next generation of ST-Ericsson mobile platforms. These alliances are leaps that release the potential of this innovative technology that will be running on our devices pretty soon. That's good news for both developers and users.

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App builders: there's an app for everyone

MWC13

If there's one thing that has been present all around this year's congress, it is companies focused on presenting AppBuilders, that is, resources and tools for developers or companies to build their applications in a much easier way.

What are these tools really about? Companies such as Wireless Media App Builder, AppMachine and ApMato introduce relatively easy-to-use websites or software that allow users to create their own apps by just following a few steps. Instead of having to search for and contact professional developers, now they're able to do whatever they want and build the app they need, just as they pictured it.

AppMachine, for example, works with Blocks which give all the features that you might need, from URLs, to News, FAQS, Points of Interest, Products, Contact, Mail... Also, you can try and build as many apps for free, just paying when you're ready to publish it; the website provides three different pricing options, you can choose whichever it's best for you. With Wireless Media App Builder, on the other hand, you don't need any programming knowledge either, it's template-based and it's supported for all major mobile platforms. Lastly, with ApMato you can build native, multi-platform apps by using a built-in content management system, all three services offering a highly usable interface.

Besides this growth in app builder systems, we don't really think this will be the main scenario in the immediate future, as these services don't provide as much flexibility as real developers and not all app types are covered.

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Work locale, but get global funding

MWC13

In mobile app industry, global cake may not be divided up at all yet, but there are only a few portions left and some companies are already very well positioned. In MWC we chatted with developers from all around the world as we like to do so much, and we detected some interesting patterns worthy to be shared. We'd say that the trend in force is to focus locally, and if you have to reach the media to get local acknowledgement, do so. Your app or game may be the best app ever, but you have invested so much time and money developing it that it'd be a shame if it got lost within an ocean of a million apps. That's the case of Korean and Japanese apps, which are technically outstanding and get hundreds of thousand downloads playing home, but get lost when are released away. France and Spain are also a great source of young and promising developers, but they are out of breath when freed to international markets. In the end, even when it isn't as romantic as the tale of the indie developer who dethroned Rovio, it seems pretty obvious that developers aren't marketing-savvy, and mouth-to-ear techniques only work in a too local basis. Therefore, if you as a developer have dedicated the last months to create an app and fix your local boundaries, don't be shy and look for a global partner.

We are telling you this because we are used to receive emails from starting developers looking for advice, and we made the most of MWC talking tête-à-tête to big publishers about this and other topics. You have to know that major players aren't into perverting anyone else's work because they don't need so. When they receive a promising indie app, they just homogenize it and launch it as-is, with the essential addition of their marketing and social channels, which are the key to success nowadays. Have the example of Clay Jam, a nearly unfeasible project which came into light when partnered with Zynga. What would have been of so much effort and illusion if they had stuck to the romantic ideal of it's my app and nobody can touch it but me? It would be left in that endless drawer of very, very good apps with only a few thousand downloads.

It must be said that becoming a developer isn't a story of soluble and instant success as the coffee you have every morning. The same myths about mobile developing were applied time ago to videogaming industry, so take care and plan your roadmap to become a successful local developer first, and a successful global developer then, even if that means to make a contract with the devil, because devils don't want your soul anymore, just make good partners and friends.

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  • INTERVIEW: KYOCERA
    Kyocera

    Unique features that meet the real needs of real people

    Judah ReynoldsCorporate Communications at KYOCERA Corporation

    Judah was very kind to us and received us in Kyocera's stand, which was large and full of their latest products. We were lucky enough to get a private demo and know some curiosities beyond usual corporate speech. By the way, if you were wondering whether a Kyocera Torque can be safely smashed into a wall, be sunk and still receive calls, the answer is definitely yes.

    ¿Kyocera? Where does it come from?

    Kyocera was originally founded in Kyoto City, Japan in 1959 with the name Kyoto Ceramics Co, Ltd. Back in the early years we mainly manufactured fine ceramics (also known as advanced ceramics) components for electronics and industrial applications, but as the company expanded its core technology and diversified its business, we later decided to change the company name to KYOCERA Corporation — an abbreviation of KYOto CERAmics.

    Kyocera is an old and big Japanese corporation, then.

    Well, the Kyocera Group is quite large with over 70,000 employees and 235 group companies worldwide. And while we do have a history of over 50 years, we have not been around as long as some of the large Japanese conglomerates, which can trace their histories back pre-WWII. However we still try to maintain a nimble and entrepreneurial spirit in the company in order to continue innovating and responding to market needs. Now, as we currently do not sell mobile phones in Europe, the Kyocera brand is probably associated more with our printers & office equipment or with our ceramic kitchen knives to most Europeans.

    How did you jump into mobile industry?

    Using our core fine ceramics technology, Kyocera has long been one of the leading providers of electronic components and semiconductor packages used in a variety of consumer electronics, including mobile phones. In fact, if you opened up just about any mobile phone today, it may very well contain tens if not hundreds of our tiny components helping to make the phone perform better and contributing to further miniaturization of the end product. Expanding our own core technology and through M&As we have diversified our business over the years. In 2000 we purchased the mobile phone business of Qualcomm and started to begin manufacturing our own handsets. Since then we have focused on developing CDMA-based handsets sold in the U.S. and in Japan.

    Interestingly, those same core fine ceramics technologies also branched out in other ways and eventually lead us to develop and market solar panels, LCDs, high-speed inkjet printheads, kitchen knives and even jewelry, among many other products.

    What's that screen-vibration tech?

    We call the new technology Smart Sonic Receiver, and it uses a small Kyocera-developed piezoelectric ceramic actuator to turn sounds into vibrations. The actuator is connected to the phone's screen unit, thus turning the display area into the sound source and eliminating the need for a conventional speaker. It uses twin paths to get sounds to the user, creating sound waves in the air like a traditional speaker, while also creating vibrations that are carried by body tissue. Therefore, by placing the phone in contact with the general area of the ear, those vibrations transmit clear sound directly to the inner ear, even in very noisy environments like cafes, sporting events, concerts, work zones and more. Additionally, removing the phone's traditional speaker eliminates the need for a speaker cavity in the phone's display panel, providing a smoother look, larger screen area, and enhanced waterproofing capabilities.

    Kyocera smartphones usually are considered saver phones...

    In the U.S. we have been concentrating on developing affordable, entry-level smartphones with unique features that meet the real needs of real people; such as with the waterproof Hydro, the full QWERTY Rise, and the new ultra-ruggedized, MilSpec-grade Torque. In the Japanese market, we are generally considered to be higher-end and market smartphones under the HONEY BEE and DIGNO brands. These phones also provide unique designs and features, some including extended battery life, rapid battery charging, or our proprietary Smart Sonic Receiver audio technology.

    Furthermore, we continue to provide feature phones and niche products for different types of consumers: including our Mamorino line of mobile phones for young children which incorporate various safety and GPS features for the parents sake; and our Simple Mobile Phone line for older consumers who prefer ease-of-use and special audio clarity features. In the U.S., we also have our Dura Series of ruggedized push-to-talk mobile phones which are very popular with enterprise users.

    Wow

    Kyocera has a long history of innovation and a wide-range of technologies which we are able to pull from to create new features and improved functionality in our phones. Combined with that, we strive to design products that meet the needs of everyday life of actual people. We will continue to create a wide range of products to provide users with more options in the mobile phone market.

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  • INTERVIEW: QI WIRELESS
    QI WIRELESS

    Qi sets the standard for wireless powe

    Camille Tang President ConveneinetPower Group,
    Vice Chair WPC & Chair WPC Promotion Work Group

    Often, revolutions don't start with fanfares and omens in the sky, but in a silent and relentless way. QI staff was waiting us in their booth, even when they represent such a big consortium. Although in a corporate tone, they kindly answered all our questions, even the most obvious ones.

    First at all, what's QI?

    Qi (pronounced chee, meaning vital energy) is the global standard for wireless power. It is an open, flexible platform for innovation to step up consumer lifestyle to new simplicity and convenience through being able to power, to charge – anywhere, everywhere, without connectors, without cords, without wires.

    Just as Bluetooth® set the standard for exchanging data over short distances and Wi-Fi® set the standard for wireless networking, Qi sets the standard for wireless power and charging.

    Qi allows devices to be charged just by placing them on any Qi charging surface without connecting cords or wires. By ensuring wireless charging interoperability (compatibility) between any Qi-enabled device and any Qi charger, regardless of manufacturer or brand, Qi makes charging simple and convenient.

    Qi is supported by a quickly expanding list of over 130 industry-leading companies and is increasingly integrated into mobile phones, accessories, and public spaces in the US, Japan, China, and Europe. Pls refer to Appendices for details.

    A fully open and flexible platform, the Qi standard evolves to offer companies a wide range of products with compelling features and price points. The Wireless Power Consortium's more than 130 member companies which architect the Qi standard, regularly approves new transmitter designs proposed by its members. These designs incorporate inductive and resonance technologies.

    The consumer wins with a broad product ecosystem that's all seamlessly compatible. Delivering a new level of simplicity and convenience in lifestyle.

    Wireless charging stations which can be built into furniture, tabletops, cars, or found in charging pads, typically use magnetic induction or magnetic resonance transmitters to send power to the portable devices they're charging. Having the flexibility to choose from multiple Qi transmitter designs allows companies to offer a wide range of Qi product types in consumer electronics, home appliances, furniture, automotive and other markets. These products can then be further differentiated by innovative design, components, materials, functionality, and value. Any Qi-enabled charger works with any Qi-enabled device, no matter what transmitter type.

    21 new transmitter designs are approved in the specification, including those offering increasing freedom in device placement, magnetic and non-magnetic device alignment, single and multi-device charging, and differing power options, such as USB. Many other designs are under review, with plans for additional spatial freedom and distances, increased power levels (to cover tablets, laptops, PCs, kitchen appliances, power tools and more) and more options to charge multiple devices at one time.

    Qi has seen rapid adoption and momentum with deep industry support, significant new product launches, and global supply chain growth:

    • Qi is integrated or inside 39 mobile phones including recently launched flagship phones as Nokia Lumia 920, 820, 720, Google LG Nexus 4, HTC Droid DNA, LG Spectrum 2, HTX 8X
    • In addition to mobile phones, batteries and chargers, Qi's more than 15 million units installed base has moved
      • Into new consumer electronics categories such as Pentax WG-3 GPS camera, TDK Life on Record Wireless Charging Speaker Q35, Nokia Luna Bluetooth Headset, Panasonic DIGA Blu-Ray Disc Recorder, Oregon Scientific Time & Wireless Charging Station+, JBL PowerUp Wireless Charging Speaker, and the Nokia Wireless Charging Pillow by Fatboy.
      • Beyond consumer electronics into the automotive sector with Toyota and Ssangyong, and into furniture with Okamura.
      • Into public charging locations in US (Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf), Japan (more than 13,000 locations), Europe (McDonalds), and in Virgin Atlantic lounges.
    • Qi certified products have increased to 174 within just 2.5 years of the Qi standard's release.

    How do wireless chargers look like?

    Qi chargers come in the form of pads, docking stations such as music speakers, Blu-Ray disc recorders, alarm clocks, car consoles and dashboards, furniture such as tables. Refer Appendix B below. Product images are also available on the web.

    What about Apple devices? Are they included, too?

    Apple iPhones (3/3GS, 4/4S) can be Qi-enabled though Qi charging sleeves which then allows them to be wirelessly powered and charged on any Qi charging surface.

    How much do wireless chargers cost? Can I have one on home? Where can I buy one?

    Qi wireless chargers range approximately US$ 25 up to US$ 100 depending on the design, materials and the number of Qi devices being charged at the same time.

    You can buy one for the home, car, or office. The vision of the Qi ecosystem rollout is that Qi is first adopted in private infrastructure – your home, car, the office. Qi then rolls out in public infrastructure – coffee chains, restaurants, hotels, airline lounges and airports, movie theatres, health or sports centres.

    Qi products can be found at major wireless carriers – Verizon, ATT, TMobile, Vodafone, Orange, China Mobile, NTT Docomo, France Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica etc; Amazon, Google Play, Best Buy and other consumer electronics online and retail outlets.

    Can we daydream for a while? What will this new tech be able to do in the future?

    Qi's open, flexible, innovative platform has evolved a wide range of applications, products, materials in wireless power at a speed previously unanticipated.

    Wireless power has broad applications, aside from consumer electronics, across many industries -.medical and health devices, toys, remote controllers, personal care, clothes, footwear, kitchen appliances, power tools, infrastructure such as cars, furniture.

    Where there is rising frustration and it is hard to power and charge because of

    • need for connectors (object being charged is very small, bulky or awkward in size such as hearing aid, clothes, shoes)
    • the need to charge frequently,
    • many different cords or wires for different devices to be charged,
    • need for waterproof and dust-proof charging in environments which are diverse ….

    these applications are targets for wireless power.

    Wireless power charging trials on electric cars are already being conducted.

    Editor's note: harsh numbers were added afterwards.

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  • INTERVIEW: APP MACHINE
    APP machine

    Thanks to AppMachine latent ideas from regular users can now come up as apps

    Henk de HoogeCMO at AppMachine

    Henk de Hooge is Chief Marketing Officer at AppMachine, a dutch entrepreneur who has also founded Redbanana.nl and Dutchcowboys.nl. He's a tech blogger specialized in social media an online marketing.

    What's exactly AppMachine?

    AppMachine is a service that makes app development possible for everyone. It is a web service that provide users with easy tools to build their own Android and iOS app with no coding, with no developer skills. Thanks to an user-friendly interface and an innovative building concept (blocks/bricks) any user can build an app just by adding those elements they want to make it up.

    I'm not sure I'm getting it. What are those bricks?

    Let's think of app building as a Lego game. In Lego, all the players get the same pieces but the outcome is always different, depending on the players' blueprint. Well, thanks to AppMachine, app building works similar but instead of pieces users get bricks or blocks that are pre-built code packages. There's no need to have coding skills. For example, if you want to add RSS to your app, just select the RSS brick from our visual dashboard and choose the source. If you want a photo gallery, select photos brick from the dashboard and drop it on your under construction app. This way, users shape their app at their whim. Obviously, any of these bricks are highly customizable. No two apps will be alike.

    How many bricks can be used? Is there any premium restriction?

    First version will be released with 24 building blocks (Twitter, Facebook, Weather, Location,...). More will be gradually added. Beta testers and developers are doing a great job reporting feedback to enrich the app. We want it to perfectly fits the need of the end-users, so we are working on a platform that will allow users to design their own blocks and share them with the community

    About restrictions I have to say, no. There aren't bricks restrictions. All the users have full access to all the blocks available. It would kill usability applying restrictions on the basic structure of the app. However, some extra buildings can be added (pay-per-block).

    But I've seen you have three (pricing) flavors...

    Yes, those are Gorgeous (€399), Designer (€699) and Developer (€1499). Gorgeous is the basic pack. It allows users to make use of all blocks plus basic designer and developer options. This pack is enough to build a fully-functional and good-looking app. In our site www.appmachine.com you can see several examples of Gorgeous apps. ‘Designer' unlocks visual edition tools: layouts, icons, colors, backgrounds and advanced Photoshop tools. Finally, ‘Developer pack' unlocks advanced users features like tables and webservices (internal datatables, data from Excel, XML or JSON feeds). But again, any users can build a fully-functional Gorgeous app.

    There's an app simulator that allows users, during all the building process, to see the outcome in both, their mobile device and the website. That helps them to decide the blocks distribution and the design of their app.

    Do users have to pay to have access to your service? How does the payment work?

    Users only pay when publishing their app. Obviously they have to choose the pricing model from the web dashboard in order to unlock the advanced features while building the app but, again the user only pay for the services used when the app is published in one or both appstores (iOS and Android). After publishing it, users can modify and upgrade their app their way. Once they are done re-editing it, they can publish the update by a single €99 payment or get an updating subscription (€20/month) if they expect to update it frequently.

    Who do you expect to use AppMachine?

    This is an app builder with a visual interface that makes possible create apps with no coding skills. Thus, we expect end-users, start-ups and agencies to be our major audience. However, we have added advanced features for developers too. Actually, we expect from developers an active participation in our platform in order to help us improve a tool that democratizes app building. Thanks to AppMachine latent ideas from regular users can now come up as apps.

    Ok, let's guess I have already built my app and published it on both Google Play and iTunes. End-users aren't used to publish apps. Do you offer any service to guide them through all that process?

    Actually yes, we do. AppMachine understands app building on a holistic way, that's it, from the idea to the its life end. Thus, users can make the structure of the app, design it, add advanced development features, publish it and monitor it once it's published. We offer full-fledged analytics that feature most important data usage of users' app. Thus, users can track app downloads in both platforms, shares, popular blocks, time spent in the app, visits and some other indicators. This data will help them to improve the services they offer to their potential users.

    In addition, AppMachine provides their users with a free app site which is a platform to promote their app. They can add screenshots, QR codes, links to the appstores and a description of the app.

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  • INTERVIEW: KINECT FOR DEVELOPERS
    kinect for developers

    It is not unreasonable to think of a mobile device that will integrate motion sensing in the near future

    Marçal MontserratCo-Founder Kinect for Developers
    Alejandro MurilloCo-Founder Kinect for Developers

    We met quite a handful of local developers there at MWC, but we wanted to find someone ground-breaking, no matter if he or she was successful yet at all. Marçal (pronounced mahr-sahl) and Alejandro represented somehow a generation of upcoming developers that big companies would do well to have in mind. Barcelona may be the World Mobile capital, but local developers are nearly unknown beyond the Pyrenees. It's nice to see how their face changes when they're let the chance to say their own.

    You are a development team specialized in creating utilities for motion sensing input devices, as Microsoft's Kinect. Anyway, motion sensing is everywhere, and taking on more and more uses every time. What is motion sensing current usage?

    At present, motion-sensing utilities are very common; they are part of our daily life. For example, they are used in security systems, in video games and in the field of medicine. So far, the Kinect device has primarily been used as a game controller, probably due to the amounts of money this sector is generating. At Kinect for Developers, we are applying Kinect to combine video games with medicine, using elements of gamification.

    In addition, we can't ignore the fact that all smartphones are equipped with a gyroscope, which is an element that can be used as a motion sensor in a particular context. In this case, app developers are using it to offer a better experience for users. distance. All these data can then be collected, so that developers can program applications that interact with the user through motion.

    Thanks to Kinect, the communication channel between the user and the machine is not a physical device or hardware anymore. This opens a broad range of possibilities. Within this range, we are supporting the software development of medicine and therapy applications like Kinect SKILL GAMES.

    Is that something you are currently working on?

    Of course it is! We'll tell you about our first project, Kinect SKILL GAMES that we are currently updating. It is a project for neuro rehabilitation processes, where Kinect is used in neuronal rehabilitation training for children. Kinect SKILL GAMES derives from a previous study conducted in a neuro rehabilitation center in collaboration with the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya.

    At present, we are mostly developing software for this medicine sector. We are glad to work in this field, but at the same time we are being offered the chance to work for other sectors where we are convinced that Kinect technology can be of great value, too.

    In addition, we are currently working on features like augmented reality and the combination of Kinect with smartphones, specifically with the OS Windows Mobile 8. We hope to integrate these elements to Kinect SKILL GAMES in the short term.

    You've named smartphones? Will there be motion sensing for them, too?

    Most probably. The world of smartphones is developing so fast that it is not unreasonable to think of a device that will integrate motion sensing in the near future. We believe that smartphones with OS Windows will eventually integrate a similar element to Kinect.

    Kinect comprises a RGB camera, an infrared sender and receiver, and a microphone array system. Smartphones are already equipped with a camera and a microphone array system, so a motion-sensing app would only require an infrared sender and receiver.

    Due to their current performance, it is also plausible to imagine that smartphones can eventually process and interpret data from skeletal and body parts tracking, as well as their positioning on a map.

    It seems fetched from sci-fi movies. Who would have expected it a few years ago. What we can dream of?

    This is the time for entrepreneurs to innovate and surprise the world. Technology is advancing very fast and we must go hand in hand with it. We can't predict the future, but one thing is sure: we have to be creative. Technology is the tool that enables us to transform creativity in reality. In recent years, we've had the impression that new technologies are advancing faster, with greater milestones every time. There is urge for innovation and entrepreneurship everywhere, anything can be possible in the not so distant future.

    May we say that we have better technology than ideas?

    We don´t think so. Many people with great ideas are waiting for an opportunity to implement them. Inventiveness brings us to places where technology hasn't arrived yet. But it is also true that we need more resources to make technology advance. Unfortunately, there are many financing obstacles that impede a smooth development of new items. With a solid financial support, things can be done faster.

    Lastly, how is to be a developer in Spain?

    From our experience in the areas of innovation and entrepreneurship, we can say that Spain is a country with many qualified people and human capital. However, the country's structures are hindering the implementation of projects in those areas. Indeed, the lack of financing and support from the institutions, plus the huge red tape and bureaucracy that start-ups face constitutes a huge obstacle that can make you give up given half a chance.

    Nevertheless, we are placing our hopes in our start-up project Kinect for Developers and the ideas that we are working on. In our case, we have been very fortunate: from the onset, we had the support from university lecturers at the Castelldefels campus (EETAC). Without them, this project would have been much more difficult. It's up to us now to see how it ends all up.

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  • INTERVIEW: POINTGRAB
    Pointgrab

    Devices get smarter and smarter, but somehow instead of teach them how to better understand us humans, we try to create mediators

    Assaf GadVP Marketing & Product PointGrab

    Control devices without touching them. That's the premise behind PointGrab a Tel Aviv-based company focused on hand gesture recognition using 2D standard cameras founded in 2008 that has introduced its tech in the lives of 10 million users around the world through their TV and PCs and has deals with big manufacturers like Samsung Acer, and Fujitsu. But according to the company's VP of Marketing and Product, Assaf Gad, the challenge is now on mobile space. Therefore, PointGrab has developed a new gesture SDK to empower developers with gesture experience, the first two implementations of the SDK are, a photo app called CamMe (available for free in iOS) and a shooting game named PlungaShot (coming soon for iPad) that show a sneak peek of what is ahead for mobile app developers.

    All this hand gesture business sounds like magic, can you explain a bit what PointGrab is been up to from the beginning?

    Up until now our main focus was on TV and PC. All the Samsung Smart TV interaction is done with our technology. We worked with Acer and Fujitsu for the PC version of our tech that also comes integrated in those devices. The idea here is to make the interaction with the devices very easy, natural and intuitive. You don't need any mediators, any controllers; just to use your hands to do the basic stuff you do all the time. Adjust the volume on your TV, play music on your computer... So now we realise that we can take this tech, bring it to the mobile space too. But the challenge in the mobile space is a little bit different. Unlike the TV, that is away from me, mobile is very close; I'm holding it in my hands all the time. And also the interface on mobile and tablets is great; the touch is great.

    What will happen with touch control then?

    We are not here to replace touch, but we want to extend touch. So anything you can do with a touchscreen, you can do it from a distance on a device without touch it. CamMe as a gesture camera application is a great scenario. You just have to place the device somewhere and take a picture of yourself without even touching the device. This is one example but there are many others. Think about people driving in a car. When they have an incoming call or they want to interact with the navigator, they don't need to be distracted from the road. They can keep their eyes on the road, and just wave their hand to answer a call, reject it, or mute the device. Other scenario is when your hands are dirty or you are wearing gloves and you can't touch the screen. So you can use hand gesture to control and interact with the device. Think about when you use the device and put it in a dock to play music. Usually you get your remote control to do everything, but why do you need it? You can just wave your hand. These are little things that can make your life easier and the interaction with the device is more natural, intuitive and fun. This is the future. We started with all the devices that already have a simple standard camera. The next step is taking this further; from consumer electronics to everything you have in the house. You can control the air conditioning, the lights, the windows, anything that you want to control from a distance, just by using your hands.

    So, how this tech will affect the way we interact with mobile devices?

    We believe that we can change the way people play games on these devices. We developed a game, PlungaShot, that will be available on iPad by the end of March. This is a simple 2D camera but it allows you a tridimensional gaming experience. I don't need any accessory to do this, just a software that I have to install. And that's really the beauty of it. Think about the range of games you can make with something like PlungaShot where we shoot arrows and kill bad guys just by a hand gesture. This new gesture based gaming extend the experience beyond the actual screen leveraging the real space as screen space.

    Where does this leave external accessories for gesture recognition?

    External accessories cost more money. Here it is either free, integrated already or the cost is very, very small because it is software only. You don't need to buy anything other than your device. Then it is something that you don't have to carry with you and also you don't need to buy a specific device, like the Kinect for example. Its much more easy. We are targeting the mass market. We want everyone to use this. There are no barriers. This is one of the things we envision. Devices get smarter and smarter, they can see, they can hear, they can process a lot of things. But somehow instead of teaching them how to better understand us humans, we try to make mediators. Many kinds of accessories that make things difficult sometimes. To get my mother to use this device I need to teach her how to do that. With natural user interface, there is almost no learning curve.

    How was the developers' response to the software?

    Since we announced it, we have had tons of developers that want to use gesture SDK as part of their apps. Think about reading magazines, mapping apps, to zoom in, zoom out... But the next stage will be combining the touch interface altogether with the gesture. So coming back to PlungaShot, we can start from touching the screen, stretch the bow and then release in the air. A natural movement like this, would be like in real life. Its like you are stretching something from the device out and releasing.

    There are other companies that are already working in this same field, what are PointGrab's assets?

    PointGrab's tech is very unique. There are a lot of other companies that try to do things like this but we are the only ones that actually use standard cameras and we have almost 10 million users that already have gesture control powered by PointGrab installed on TVs and PCs. We believe that we will increase these numbers on the mobile space dramatically. We have more than 90% of the market share for this kind of solutions for consumer electronics which is a lot and so we believe that the mobile space will open up even more. The advantage of this technology is its flexibility. We have machine-learning capabilities so it doesn't matter what it is the shape, or the motion that I do, you can come up with a new idea. For example: maybe instead of hand, you want to control thing using just a finger. When our customers come to us they can ask for new gestures, so in a matter of days we can support the new ones.

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