Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Interactivity for Celebrating Life - e-Greetings Go Interactive

Everyone celebrates something in their lives. Recently I came across a post about celebrateonline.net, where CEO Mike Robinson shares his vision to have people use interactive celebration cards. Celebrationonline.net is an online service that went live recently, and serves all those who want to celebrate life and its special moments. People get to celebrate events in their lives and the lives of their family and friends, wherever they might be.

Celebrateonline breaks new ground in interactivity by exploring its application to a new niche - greeting cards. An electronic card, as we know, is convenient and easy to share and distribute and environment-friendly. "An interactive greeting card improves it further by allowing to present your personal 'celebration story'", says Robinson, "in an interactive and entertaining style".

The service is designed for average users of the web, who know nothing about programming. First, you select an interactive celebration card style from the menu.: say, a 3D virtual book. Next, you assemble and upload content such as text, pictures, video and sound tracks if any. The site does all the technical work at the back end, and publishes your card. Now you can send a link to the recipients. It is that simple.

Interested? Check out celebrateonline.net and see it for yourself.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The Future of Interactivity - New Trends Emerging

Every once in a while new disruptive technology innovations appear in the market, making the future of interactivity a fascinating topic to discuss. It is particularly so now, with the current year turning out to be the year of the tablet. My earlier post on the future of interactivity appeared on this blog nearly a couple of years back. A lot of that future has already arrived. So I figure now it is time to look into the next couple of years and say what is likely to happen. So here we go.

10. User interfaces will continue to evolve
Devices of the future will employ user interfaces of the future. As an example, look at Kinect - the Xbox companion device from Microsoft that employs the new generation natural user interface (NUI). For those of you interested in the future of user interfaces such as wearable interfaces, heads-up displays, gesture interfaces and so on, there are several excellent online resources. Two such articles are to be found on UX Booth and Cameron Chapman's blog.  They discuss the various new technologies that will change the way people will interface with computers and other devices.

9. Tablets will change everything again
With industry forecasts putting tablet sales in several tens of millions of units in 2011, tablet penetration is set to grow faster than smart phones. Apple, Samsung, Motorola and several others are in the fray. The intuitive touch-screen interface and convenient form factor makes a tablet an ideal device to consume content. At the same time, support for rich apps, wi-fi  and 3G+ connectivity, geo-location sensing, motion sensing, voice input and other features make tablets a rich environment for building interactivity.

8. Advances in graphics software technology will drive better interactivity
Microsoft's PhotoSynth constructs 3D environments by intelligently stitching together regular 2D photographs. Again, Microsoft DeepZoom allows drill-down navigation into gigabit images with minimal performance penalty on low bandwidth. These and other such technologies will continue to drive better interactivity. An impressive application is the Rich Internet Narrative I have blogged about already.

7. Flash or HTML5: Who will take us there?
Both have their advantages. Flash is great for its ubiquity and cross-browser support, audio-video embedding and programming support. HTML5 is an open source technology, taxes the CPU minimally and keeps mobile devices' battery power going longer. I won't write off either. Developers will use both alternatives to build interactivity.

6. Interactivity building tools will get better
For those who are not inclined to write programs, end-user-tools for building interactivity will continue to evolve and get better. A host of licensing options will be available - SaaS (subscription / freemium), perpetual and pay-as-you-go alternatives will emerge. 

5. Applications of interactivity will expand
With better spread of interactivity building tools, the applications of interactivity will expand.  From presentations, web site enhancement and e-learning to interactive advertising, e-books, social media and other market niches, interactivity will continue to find application.

4. Interactive ebooks will change the ebook landscape
Gone will be the days of page-turning ebooks. Video, audio and animation will become integral part of content. Navigation will be non-linear. Children's books will look more interesting.   Formats such as epub and pdf will have to either evolve to support interactive elements. Purpose-built ebook readers such as Kindle, Nook and Sony ebook reader will face competition from tablets.

3. Traditional categories of social media go interactive
Be it blogging or viewing your twitter stream, traditional social media experiences will get better and better with interactivity. Services such as tumblr and flipboard are great examples of this trend.

2. App stores will promote interactive elements
Application exchanges such as the apple app store will make the distribution of applications and widgets easy. Free versions will induce users to try new interactive applications, and create demand for full-featured paid versions.

1. Content creators will become dialog creators

Interactivity is about a dialogue, a bidirectional communication between the content publisher and consumer. Every type of content creator will now have to become a dialog creator. Whether you are preparing a slide deck, designing a web page, crafting an ad copy, writing for an e-book or developing training material, the rule is the same. Think like a dialog creator and the resulting content will be interactive.