Thirty degrees, sun shining, an expanse of green (with power strips) and a rabbit warren-like mansion. Over the Air day one is just about finished. The Ignite sessions are happening as I type, and the hack sessions will no doubt go on until the light touches the horizon, but the conference has already been jam packed with amazing talks from some very inspiring speakers. Here’s a quick run down of the first day of Over the Air:
The ballroom was full for this talk on Pearson’s APIs, that will hopefully open up the data of their vast content library, which includes Penguin, DK and FT. At the moment, the APIs give access to the DK Eyewitness London Travel Guide, FT Press and the Longman dictionary, allowing developers to utilise both written and multimedia content within these publications in a multitude of ways. Steve Ellis, founder of Metia, shared a showcase app they developed that used location data, together with Eyewitness data, to allow a live itinerary planner that worked in mobile web.
It’s interesting to note that the APIs are open, but not free, instead working on a subscription basis, charging in tiers by how many times the API is called. I think this is an interesting way to commercialise APIs for organisations that aren’t quite ready to move into the completely open and free API model. However, I personally feel this is akin to the paywall in media, and will therefore limit takeup and usage.
What’s more interesting is that a relatively traditional organisation like Pearson is opening up their data at all. It shows that this is a trend that is happening across all industries, and hopefully we’ll soon get to a stage where developers can pull in data from just about anywhere, creating some truly exciting and innovative experiences.
Game Technologies – Putting them to good use in AR
Paul’s talk on Windows Phone, desktop and Kinect, and how game technologies can make for some fairly exciting AR experiences with these devices was a fairly indepth view of Paul’s thinking about where AR is going. As I’ve reported on before, I’m not that big a fan of AR (Andrew Spooner did another post on it here). However, the things that Paul were talking about peaked my interest. To begin with, Layar style implementation of AR is just the beginning. In my opinion, this is the equivalent of a ‘Hello World’ program in AR. It can prove that there is such a thing, and mobile devices can be used within it, but it doesn’t really have much value outside that.
Where the interesting stuff comes in is when you think about partnering it up with other technologies to create an experience that makes sense. For example, one of the ideas that Paul shared (and is hoping is hacked together this weekend) is a phone/Kinect hack, that uses gesture recognition, enabling you to flick a document you’re viewing on your device up to a projector screen. It’s a simple idea, but it opens up some rather interesting areas that could mean that minority report style dashboard are a thing of not the near future, but now.
It’ll be interesting to see if anybody manages it. If you’re thinking of taking the challenge, I’d recommend getting in touch with Paul on Twitter, and downloading the SLAR toolkit from Codeplex and the Kinect SDK.
How I learnt to stop worrying and set my mobile sites free
Lyza Danger Gardner from Cloud Four gave a talk on designing for mobile web after lunch, to a not quite full room in the library. Lyza gave an interesting run down on the highs and lows of designing for mobile web, and echoed a lot of the things I’ve been hearing about mobile design at a lot of other conferences in the past six months, but with some great examples and experience to back it all up. She also touched on a few points that I haven’t heard much on, including the downfalls of Responsive Web Design (or media queries specifically) and problems with things like appcaching.
The gist of the talk was that for far too long we approached the web as a series of static screens that we rigidly stuck to as industry standards. We got away with the illusion of control for a while, but it’s now not possible to pretend any more. With the proliferation of devices and screen sizes, designing for one size isn’t possible, which is why things like responsive web design are not only a nice idea, but essential in a designers toolkit.
I caught up with Lyza after her talk and will be posting an interview with her in the near future based on her talk.
Finally, I wanted to make a quick comment about the conference in general. The organising team of Daniel Appelquist, Matthew Cashmore and Margaret Gold have done an amazing job to put together such a vast, engaging and friendly conference. The atmosphere is lovely, and if you have any interest in developing for devices (not just mobile!) then I strongly suggest you head along to Over the Air 2012.