Experiences: Presentations Reborn

IntuiLab makes IntuiFace, the leading platform for creating and deploying interactive, expressive and connected digital experiences without writing one line of code. IntuiFace is used by hundreds of clients in 50+ countries to build experiences driven by mobile devices, multi-touch displays, Microsoft Kinect, the Leap Motion Controller, RFID/NFC readers and much more. Used by companies for everything from sales presentations to trade shows, curated art exhibits to retail kiosks, digital signage installations to the classroom. See more at: www.intuilab.com

9 Apr 14

Beta Software Risk and Reward

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We’ve just announced the availability of IntuiFace Version 4.5, introducing timeline-based animation, native email support and automated experience publishing & sharing using any DropBox, Amazon S3 or - soon - Box account. Anyone with an IntuiFace account can download the software today and many will because all three features are top vote getters for longtime enhancement requests. Feature details are spelled out here.

But there’s a catch. It’s beta software.

What does this mean exactly? I suppose you could replace the word ‘beta’ with ‘risky’ as, otherwise, we would just have an official General Availability release and be done with it. That’s not the case. Not yet.

Don’t get me wrong. We’ve tested the hell out of this thing. Everyone within the company has been using Version 4.5 for a couple of weeks now. If you download and install our beta software then you are installing something that has already been verified to work in just about all nominal conditions. Every “typical” scenario has been tested.

The problem, as shared in other blog posts, is that with software like IntuiFace there are an infinite number of paths a user can take, making it literally untestable if the goal is total path coverage. As a result, testing “typical” scenarios is insufficient because even atypical scenarios might reach a high level of frequency as our install base grows and grows. Which brings us to releasing beta software

By making our software available early

  • Early adopters get to indulge their desire to mess with the latest and greatest, while
  • IntuiLab receives the time and effort of tens to hundreds of free testers banging away at the product.

Everybody wins, including those who don’t participate in the beta as this process significantly increases the likelihood that when Version 4.5 officially ships, it will have rock solid stability. Beta participants just need to be cautious and resist the urge to do mission critical work as we cannot promise stability or prompt bug fixes.

The notion of beta software is as old as software itself but this is our first real foray with IntuiFace Composer. It’s hard to believe our interactive experience creation tool is getting even cooler but it is and our beta testers have a front row seat.

Have an IntuiFace account and want to try it out yourself? Visit this page.

26 Mar 14

A Proposal for the Modern Creative Agency

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With a few exceptions - bless ‘em - creative agencies are in business to make money. As anyone who leaves their home has seen, there are ever increasing needs for interactive experiences at the trade show, in the store, in their workplace, on the street - you get the idea. So it follows that agencies need to develop an interactive experience creation competency.

IntuiFace is an automatic competency builder, enabling teams to create those interactive experiences using nothing but existing skills.

But what is the best way to make money with IntuiFace? 

The existing model argues for a white label approach. Create an interactive experience and protect the “code”. IntuiFace goes unmentioned just as the use of Flash, HTML5, Photoshop and more. Clients are only given IntuiFace Player and every change made to the experience is a billed job. Agencies can increase the competitiveness of their original proposal by shaving off cost due to the efficiencies brought by use of IntuiFace. Competitors messing around with code can’t compete with the timeline or the person-hour commitment IntuiFace users can make.

This works. But it’s not the only model. In fact, because of the democratization of technology - the ability for more and more people to achieve what once required deep technical skill - there is a new model and it may be the future for creative agencies.

Rather than white labeling an experience, offer the “code” along with design and training/implementation services. Customers can make changes themselves whenever they wish while holding the agency on retainer for advanced work and training.

It’s like IntuiLab’s relationship with its Web agency. They give us full access to the CMS so we can make a variety of content and design changes. We love this flexibility and it makes us feel much better about paying the agency for those things we can’t do with the CMS.

Promote your use of IntuiFace as means of helping the client learn how to fish. Enable them to use IntuiFace and sell them your design services – since knowing IntuiFace means nothing about good design – and you set up a good long term relationship. And of course, if your client could care less about fishing, provide them a full service.

Relinquishing some control is radical and a bit risky as it’s predicated on creating an annuity business rather than on infrequent, large payments. However, to differentiate in a climate making more and more technology accessible to the masses, give it some thought.

It’ll certainly make you stand out in the crowd.

19 Mar 14
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Quick interview of IntuiLab’s Technical Marketing lead, Sebastien Meunier, on the floor of SXSW. He nicely summarizes the magic of IntuiFace. Thanks to UbiFrance for their support at the show and the production of this video

We’ve always told Seb to stand on a box when interviewed. :-)

11 Mar 14

Secondhand SXSW Impressions of the Interactive Conference

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The Austin-based South by Southwest (SXSW) festival is comprised of three conferences in parallel: Music, Film, Interactive. The latter is probably more appropriately labeled “Technology”.

IntuiLab is in Booth 1231 of the Interactive exhibit hall and I am not there. Happily for you, this won’t stop me from sharing a few impressions about the Interactive conference. The very tight bond I share with my colleague on the show floor has given me insight by proxy. It is a shame that my colleague has no awareness of this bond but everything I share below is based on his good word so who’s to say the bond is fictional?

  • The talks can be quite good. Presenters are energized by the entrepreneurial atmosphere and creative juices pouring through the streets of Austin. Surrounded by folks just waiting for an excuse to tweet/blog/instagram snark and criticism, presenters must make an effort to entertain and inform. The results favor the audience
  • The exhibitor list will surprise you. Feel free to look for big names but you won’t find many. Start-ups are digging deep to show off their creative ideas, hoping for that one magic booth visitor who can turn their dream into equity. Even the big players in attendance appear to be crying poor as IBM, Adobe, Philips and others have modest booths.
  • Country pride reigns. I don’t know the history but throughout the exhibition hall you will find country-sponsored installations showing off the best and brightest start-ups from within their borders. IntuiLab is in the French booth, for example. Germany is the savviest, giving away free beer with their start-up pitch. There is no US booth so I guess no one came from there.
  • The variety of technology options is boggling. It’s hard to find a theme. The good news is if you’re in the market for a mechanical exoskeleton, SXSW is the place. These start-ups represent every walk of technological life and illustrate how creativity is alive and well. One shudders to think of how many will be with us one year from now but let’s hope it’s the majority.
  • Attendees are as varied as the technologies. No surprise, without a clear technology theme, the show attracts attendees of all makes and models. As we say in the US, many are tire kickers - no intent to buy, just want to see cool stuff - but quite a few are either established or ambitious bloggers and journalists.
  • Book early. Driving around and parking is hell.

Are we going back next year? I’m inclined to favor angling for a speaking slot rather than having a booth but I don’t want to get ahead of myself - the show isn’t over and the post mortem hasn’t been run. Certainly, the show generates hype but it’s not yet clear how much of that hype rubs off on its exhibitors.

In Austin? Come on by. We’re using IntuiFace to manipulate the Philips Hue lightbulb using both Microsoft Kinect and a touchscreen. It’s happens to be very cool.

Not in Austin? Live vicariously through me!

20 Feb 14

Best Practice Advice for Interactive Experiences at Trade Shows

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IntuiLab has been selected to participate at South by Southwest this year - come on by Booth 1231 from March 9 thru 12 - so we are in the throes of arranging every detail. I thought this might be a good time to share some of the best practices we’ve learned over the years. Here I’ll focus on the production and display of interactive experiences as generic trade show advice can be found everywhere.

  • Favor vertically-mounted displays over tables: Tables are great for collaboration but their screens can’t be seen from a distance. To generate interest amongst the foot traffic passing your booth, vertically-mounted displays are easily more effective.
  • Assume self-directed use of your experiences: Wouldn’t it be awesome if you were too busy to handle all of the traffic in your booth? Of course, so make sure the experiences you build are sufficiently intuitive that they don’t require a host. Keep the overflow engaged and busy.
  • Use attract loops: Even the most amazing interactive experience will be a total failure at a show if it just lies there when no one is using it. Make sure your experiences are actively doing something - typically, that would mean looping through a video - that encourages approach. This is particularly important if you’re busy and no one is available to rope in new visitors.
  • Reconsider use of gesture-driven experiences: Kinect is extremely cool but on a crowded show floor it can be easily distracted. If you must use Kinect, be sure to physically protect an area within your booth to ensure no one accidentally distracts the camera.
  • Consider use of a remote control: I’m sorry if your solution doesn’t have a remote control but IntuiFace does - the IntuiPad. This thing is great because it lets you wander the booth while controlling your display. Not only is it great eye candy but it lets you be more creative in how you handle the crowds.
  • Max out the PC: Don’t skimp on the PC just to save a few dollars. Maximize performance so you won’t have to apologize - or pretend not to notice - sluggish response times. The best investment? A solid state drive.
  • Don’t worry too much about audio: Sure, you could incorporate audio in your experiences, but where would you put the speakers? Anyway, show floors tend to be loud so folks may not hear your musical accompaniment anyway - unless it’s loud enough to be annoying.
  • Bring multiple lint-free cloths: Expect crazy amounts of finger prints and who knows what else on your displays. Under trade show lights this isn’t going to look very good so keep the displays clean.
  • Bathe in hand sanitizer: Have you seen some of those people who have been smearing the same screens you’ve been touching?!?
  • License software before the show: Ok, this isn’t interactivity-specific but it’s relevant for IntuiFace which, for me, makes it count. You have to assume lousy Internet access on the trade show floor so don’t wait to license software before going onsite.

Have any others you’d like to add? Let me know! And don’t be shy - drop on by Austin for SXSW!

13 Feb 14

The Increasing Pervasiveness of Touch Screens

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There is still a way to go for the global penetration of touch-enabled displays. And I don’t mean phones or tablets because that battle has already been won. But what about PCs, digital signs, kiosks and other larger form-factor displays?

Looks like the tide has turned. In an article titled Why Your Next Laptop Should Have a Touchscreen, DealNews reports that touch-enabled PCs have come down so far in price that - can you believe it - they are now CHEAPER than PCs with equivalent specs and a non-interactive display. I can only presume this is based on current and anticipated sales volumes but it’s still very surprising. That said, I’m guessing you’re like me and wouldn’t be surprised that within the next three to five years, it will be hard to find Windows-based PCs that are not interactive.

(Macs are another story. Steve Jobs was notorious for saying touch screens were “ergonomically” terrible and “don’t want to be vertical.” Time will tell if his Apple successors embrace the same attitude.)

Larger form factor displays exist to engage a user; they are meant to be noticed. One of the problems with digital signs is that their effectiveness is very hard to measure. Make those signs interactive and all of a sudden you have not only a more measurable medium but one that is inherently more engaging. There will always be a place for non-interactive signs - not just traditional signage but even location-aware and environment-aware - but touch and gesture-enabled displays now have a seat at the table.

There is one final factor to consider - the ease with which the creative community can build interactive experiences. Certainly, if there is a barrier to entry either because of complex technology or cost hurdles, which are often interrelated, adoption is slowed. Say what you will about IntuiFace but the interactive experience creation market in general is lowering the bar, making touch, gesture and device-driven experiences more accessible. If they’re easier to create, and more groups want to create them, then the demand for interactive experiences will drive the demand for displays and other hardware that can run them.

Will children one day marvel at the idea that displays were ever non-interactive? Stranger things have happened.

4 Feb 14
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IntuiFace-based Catalog and Point-of-Sale Kiosk

Built for Rue du Commerce and currently deployed in 12 locations across Paris and Toulouse, including multiple Relay stores and a shopping mall. Objective is to bring this leading French eCommerce retailer into high traffic brick-and-mortar locations. Experience is entirely IntuiFace-based and has no custom coding outside of integration work between the experience, peripherals and ERP systems.

3 Feb 14

French e-Commerce leader uses IntuiFace to explore brick-and-mortar

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I have an IntuiFace success story to share and it nicely captures a growing theme amongst retailers - the convergence of the Web, mobile devices and brick-and-mortar stores.

Rue de Commerce - a subsidiary of Altarea Cogedim - is a leading e-Commerce specialist in France. Through their online presence they cater to more than 7 million monthly visitors by offering 3+ million products for sale across a variety of categories. This extensive reach encouraged the investigation of innovative means for making their endless aisle available outside the home.

The result, named Boutique Express, is an IntuiFace-based experience that has just been deployed on 12 interactive kiosks located in a Toulouse, France shopping mall and in six Relay stores situated within major Parisian train stations. Strategically placed in high traffic locations, these kiosks will be used to run holiday and location-specific sales and offers. Visitors can browse connected interactive catalogs, make purchases with a credit card and specify delivery locations. Following a successful pilot phase would be deployment to a larger percentage of Relay’s 1000+ locations, plus additional locations in shopping malls, railway stations and other high traffic areas.

In collaboration with Keyrus - an SAP Hybris system integrator - and Apocope - a digital agency - IntuiLab used IntuiFace to create and deploy Boutique Express just three months after initial conception. Iterations are rapid and live mock-ups are easily shared with Rue de Commerce to ensure their requirements are met. The result is much more time spent on ideation and design rather than on implementation, making more elaborate designs and workflows possible. The implementation phase no longer acts as a bottleneck.

Additionally, with IntuiFace, Rue de Commerce was freed of template constraints. The Boutique Express user interface was fully customized down to the last pixel, using only the content, layout and story the client wanted to tell. It is a fully bespoke experience, avoiding a pre-packaged aura that might encourage passers-by to ignore what is in fact an excellent value add for brick-and-mortar shopping.

Folks typically lack a context when first coming across IntuiFace because the world of interactive experience creation is quite new. As a result, their inclination is to think of IntuiFace as an advanced presentation tool, something in the same family as slideware apps. As we are proud to point out - thanks to projects like our work with Rue de Commerce - IntuiFace is much much more than that. With it you can create advanced user experiences that (as we say on our website) are deeply interactive, expressive and connected.

27 Jan 14

Accessing the Outside World with IntuiFace

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The world of interactive experience creation is so new that the only context many folks have is that of presentation creation. The result is interpretation of IntuiFace as an evolution of PowerPoint, Prezi, PowToon and other slideware alternatives. This is fine to some extent since yes, you can create super cool presentations with IntuiFace. However, it also constrains ambition, blinding users from IntuiFace’s real potential.

This is especially true about graphic content and data. Traditional slideware tools are optimized to tell a predefined story. The script and content is organized possibly weeks in advance (though tweaked until the last minute!) and then presented in a rehearsed fashion. Sometimes the presentation is posted publicly, enabling an audience to step through predefined paths that are - again - established far in advance. There is nothing dynamic about the story which this is why PowerPoint alternatives focus on trying to make storytelling dynamic instead.

As shared here in other blog entries, IntuiFace can tell a dynamic story. One of our secrets? An “interface asset" concept enabling the integration of cloud-based data and server-based business logic with the user interface. With it you can connect to any Web API, any .NET dll, any database, even spreadsheets. With this access:

  • Don’t just create a sales pitch, launch an interactive catalog.
  • Don’t just run a digital sign, create an interactive information kiosk.
  • Don’t just post your website on an in-store display, add an interactive point of sale installation with mag strip reader and printer integration.
  • Don’t just walk through slides at a conference, manipulate lights and other accessible devices (thanks, Internet of Things!) as you present.
  • Don’t just show static datasheets on your iPad, let your prospect walk through an interactive sales tool.

Don’t quote me but in a sense, IntuiFace isn’t just interactive presentation creation without coding, it’s interactive application creation without coding. And the beauty is that nothing is predefined in IntuiFace. Want to run a search function? Build your own instead of worrying about how well something we built does the job. It’s total freedom to do what you wish. Plus, inside Composer, you never know that behind the scenes is some complicated database or API. You just see and can manipulate the same kind of properties, triggers and actions you find for out-of-the-box assets like images and videos.

The ability to work with external data and business logic is one of the key reasons to purchase the Enterprise Edition of Composer. In our experience, once folks really grasp the potential of IntuiFace - the ability to break free from static content and embrace dynamic content - the list of potential IntuiFace uses explodes. Now you have uses for it in the lobby, at the tradeshow, in the store, at the gallery opening and much more without ever worrying about using out-of-date information and content.

If IntuiFace is on your PC, you can create a lot more than just bullet points.