IntuiLab makes IntuiFace, the leading platform for creating, sharing and deploying deeply interactive, expressive and connected digital experiences without writing one line of code. IntuiFace is used by hundreds of companies in 55+ countries to build experiences driven by mobile devices, multi-touch displays, Microsoft Kinect, the Leap Motion Controller, RFID/NFC readers and much more. For any industry – including retail, hospitality, real estate, tourism, education – and for any intent – from digital signs, trade shows and exhibits to self-service kiosks and assisted selling. See more at www.intuilab.com
We’ve talked in the past about the ever narrowing line separating digital signage from interactive kiosks. (If I can interact with a sign, is it still a sign?) Here I’d like to move past the distinction and talk about key requirements for, let’s call it, interactive digital signage. It’s 2014, the traditional signage industry is well commoditized, looking to interactivity as a new and verdant frontier. What are the must-haves for modern, effective interactive digital signage?
Ok, this is a no-brainer. Interactive signage needs to be interactive. But I’m not just talking single touch displays. Today’s consumer uses multi-touch tablets and gesture-driven game systems on a daily basis. Their savvy and expectation is quite high. Interactive signage must support massive multi-touch (10 concurrent touch point, 32 touch points, 64 …), gesture controls, mobile devices, connected objects (like Ninja Blocks) and wireless tag technologies like RFID, NFC and Beacon. Ambitious? Sure, but that’s what cutting edge means.
Back to that savvy tablet user. What else do they expect? Highly personalized experiences. For true engagement and stickiness, an interactive digital sign must be personally relevant. If the content is generic, your cool looking and acting signs will lose their luster. Successful interactive signage must be able to both dynamically identify the user and respond with information tailored for his/her profile. What we’re describing is a “connected” deployment in which each sign communicates with both devices (see the Interactive section above) and back office systems and/or public services to access information and business logic. It’s the only way to ensure relevance.
Imagine a highly interactive digital sign with deeply personal customization. This sign unavoidably has a large number of possible paths contingent on selections made by your user. What burden does this place on design? Not only must you capture attention but, once captured, that attention must be guided intuitively and (here we are again) engagingly. The signage must be both efficient and rewarding to make it worth the user’s time. Flat, single touch buttons with simple layouts and a narrow list of media formats will either lose the user in mediocrity or lose them in a confusing jumble of undifferentiated content. Designers of these signs must be freed to be highly expressive.
Modern, effective interactive digital signage needs a platform enabling a wide range of interactive options, a deep level of connectedness to dynamic systems and a broad range of expressive capability to put any design concept within reach.
It’s a tall order for traditional signage vendors.
It’s also why IntuiFace throwing is its hat into the digital signage ring. IntuiFace fulfills all of the above requirements - and you don’t even have to write code.
It’s not clear to me if a feature packed release is psychologically encouraging or intimidating to users. I hope it’s the former because IntuiFace 4.6 is a heck of a lot more than tweaks around the edges. To keep it simple we’ve identified three themes to group all that is new.
More Design Power: This is where we’ve given you more capability for creating cutting edge experiences. Even savvy developers have to tip their hat when they see what you can put together.
Team Collaboration: We’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how to better accommodate the needs of large teams and - for design agencies - a large number of clients. The result is a long list of new capabilities as you’ll see here. NOTE: All of these features are available only to those with at least one Composer Enterprise license.
Player for iPad Updates: Our general rule is that every new feature we deliver must be supported in both Player for Windows and Player for iPad. So the good news is that everything above is - where relevant - application to Player for iPad as well. The good news is that we are also closing the gap on features previously missing from the iPad Player.
No surprise, we’re often asked by prospects for PC recommendations. This is not an easy question to answer.
Of course, we have our minimum recommended technical specifications but the operative word is “minimum”. With minimum resources, our interactive experiences don’t necessarily flourish, they just survive. This is also quite dependent on the content of an experience. A few images, a few buttons, a few spaces? Probably fine. 10 simultaneously running videos on a 3x3 display wall? Forget about it.
General guidelines exist but they’re not unique to IntuiFace; any graphic-intensive software-based solution would have the same recommendations. Use a solid state drive. Find a fast CPU. Use an independent GPU. Increase RAM to reduce/eliminate paging.
Really though, and I say this with all seriousness, get the best PC you can afford. We all have budgets and skies are rarely the limit but don’t skimp on the body or the brain won’t be able to flex its mental muscle. Audiences don’t forgive poor performance, they reject it.
Meanwhile, you can be sure we think about performance as well. The goal is both resource sensitivity and algorithmic optimization.
A good example of the former is a capability we introduced a few months ago where IntuiFace dynamically downsizes images in memory when their display size is smaller than their actual size. A 1920x1080 Full HD image requires 4x1920x1080 bytes of memory. If the experience design only uses this image at a dimension of 192x108, IntuiFace is smart enough to only use 4x192x108 bytes of storage for it. As you resize the image in Play Mode, IntuIFace loads more data into memory.
As for algorithmic optimization, just think of this as our endless attempt to make the magic we do under the covers take less and less time. We always have an eye to performance bottlenecks and never believe all slack is out of the system.
A final point: even your design should account for performance. In this case it’s about the intuitiveness of your design and the time-to-satisfaction. Even a super speedy experience will fail if your user is lost or tired of waiting for whatever it is they’re waiting for.
Demand good performance of every contributor to your project.
IntuiFace Version 4.5.3 introduces our first out-of-the-box support for a connected object – i.e. for any device other than a traditional PC that can be accessed, queried and/or controlled over the Internet. Interactive experience designers can now use IntuiFace on both a Windows PC and the iPad to control the Philips hue light, changing colors, brightness and display modes such as blinking and color transition. We achieved this through the use of our existing interface asset concept – in this case, via our REST support – so consider our Philips hue support to be a reference implementation, something you can learn from to create your own support for any connected object in the marketplace for the Internet of Things (IoT). Watch this video to see it in action:
Many of you reading this may be asking, why would IntuiFace bother with connected objects? Read on.
Presentations have traditionally been considered a static medium. Text, images and charts are preselected and organization is kept simple. The goal is to inform. A lively presenter can add energy but on their own presentations struggle to avoid becoming an emotionless and boring medium that struggles for attention. Ever see lots of folks gathered around a self-service slide show, fighting for a good view? It’s the unicorn of business.
With the advent of interactive experiences – experiences leveraging “natural user interfaces” like touch and gesture – the ceiling for active engagement was raised. Interactivity demanded engagement and well-designed experiences didn’t just attract eyeballs but actually increased information stickiness. A formerly static medium became dynamic. Presenters could wander in response to audience needs and self-service audiences could make an experience their own. Presentations became performances, choreography rather than bullet points.
And now there is the Internet of Things, the world of connected objects. Imagine if devices could answer questions and carry out requests. Now imagine being able to ask those questions and make those requests from within an interactive experience. What if you could
Could your interactive experiences benefit from the incorporation of IoTs like these for everything from trade show pitches to retail kiosks, A/V show controls, museum exhibits and a connected home?
Now do you see why we are promoting connected object use with IntuiFace? IntuiFace can be your centralized user experience hub for driving connected gadgets distributed across the Internet of Things in tandem with the stories you tell.
How cool is that!?!
Inside IntuiLab we talk about tiering - the distribution of features to differentiate less expensive from more expensive license options. The goal of tiering is to incent upgrades. “Oh, you want Feature X? You need to upgrade!” Tiering has always been a challenge but it has become all the more complicated with the introduction of the freemium pricing model.
With a freemium model. the intro-level product is free for life. You can use it forever and never pay a cent. The catch? The product has very strategic limitations selected to encourage those interested in the software to spend money. By spending money, a user “unlocks” features and becomes even more committed to use of the software.
Lurking within this model is a tension between good enough and too good. Specifically, the free version must be good enough to ensure users can fully embrace the value of the software, envisioning the potential and being able to even use the free edition productively. But it can’t be too good or no one would bother spending money on an upgrade, resulting in the cash-poor death of a business.
IntuiLab offers a free version of IntuiFace and I can’t tell you how hard we’ve thought about that magic balance between good enough and too good. We’ve honed in on limiting convenience, not functionality. For example, Composer Free must be online at all times. (This is typical of a Web-based service with an “offline” offering.) Crippling problem? Not at all; some of our customers find this a mere nit. But for others, it’s inconvenient. Or take our watermark. When using Composer Free, experiences must display the IntuiFace watermark. (Again, typical of Web-based design-oriented offerings.) Some of our users are happy to show the watermark because our feature set is too good to pass up. For others, use of IntuiFace needs to be a well-guarded secret.
There is no right answer. In fact, we’re always reevaluating our tiering decisions. Overall, our goal is to make even the Free Edition so awesome that you are inspired to pursue multiple projects, justifying the expense of an upgrade. Who knows. Users may even be inspired to say thank you by ponying up some licensing fees. Why not?
After months of development and 30 days of beta testing, I present to you IntuiFace Version 4.5. Not content to build just one cool new feature, we built - well - a whole bunch. How do you count a “feature”? Anyway, this is another packed release. And just so you know, all new runtime features - features not specific to editing in Composer - work on both iPad and Windows.
Media Sharing + Email
Plus a ton more. You’ll find the complete list here.
Now go make us proud and build crazy good experiences!
IntuiFace Version 4.5 Beta 2 now available. This recorded webinar will demonstrate all of its big new features - animation, media sharing w/ email support, experience sharing - for your viewing pleasure.
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
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.
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.