September 6, 2016
Talking about clouds used to mean that you were talking about the weather. These days, though, referencing “the cloud” likely means you are talking about accessing on-demand computing resources through the internet. Rather than using a personal computer or local server to store and manage data, using the cloud means that a business (or individual) is leveraging a network of remote servers to host and process their data. The reasons to choose cloud computing are numerous and we’ll review several of the ways that our business, and that of our clients, has benefited from using the cloud. Read More
August 15, 2016
This month Apple signaled its commitment to advance the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in its products with the acquisition of tech startup Turi, a machine learning platform for developers. The move follows a growing trend by major tech companies such as IBM and Google to create and implement more advanced technology in the growing Chatbot industry.
For those new to the term, a ‘bot’ is simply software that’s been designed to automate tasks. Chatbots (from Chatter + Robot) take this to next level by simulating human conversation, making it seem as though you are talking with a human as you use the bot. While programs that recognize and respond to language have been around for decades, they have become a standard offering in consumer devices in more recent years. These programs use natural language processing, the ability to understand and use human conversational phrases, to interact with humans on simple tasks. Nearly all users of smartphones or messaging apps have experienced this technology, the most well-known being Siri by Apple, Alexa by Amazon, and Cortana by Microsoft. Read More
July 5, 2016
Back in January, we predicted important tech innovations for 2016 would include Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). Several products are leading the VR market, and we’ve had an opportunity to evaluate one of them, the HTC Vive, firsthand. One of our software engineers, Will, recently acquired the Vive and volunteered to write this review. Below is Will’s personal history of gaming and his impression of the Vive. Read More
April 16, 2016
As a leader in mobile app development, we consider it our responsibility to keep current with changing technology. It’s easy to be overwhelmed, though, given the vast number of new products, languages, versions, and technologies that continue to be created in this industry. In our experience, staying on top of your game requires two things: time commitment and an awareness of how you learn best. The team at InspiringApps spans a wide variety of personalities and each of us has a preference for how to keep our tech knowledge fresh. Here’s a summary of our techniques for staying sharp in a sea of constant change. Read More
March 7, 2016
We love our fitness wearables! Between us, InspiringApps employees possess Apple Watches (with fitness apps), the Garmin Forerunner 220, and a handful of FitBits. The swimmers on our team are looking into Moov Swim to track laps, and some sleep-challenged employees think the Jawbone UP3 that tracks both fitness and ZZZs is worthy of consideration.
We’re not alone in our passion for wearables. A recent report from Gartner predicts that sales of wearable electronic devices will increase 18.4% in 2016 from the previous year. While fitness products lead the market in sales, wearable technology in other industries is causing a buzz too. Several caught our attention in the business, health, and pet industries.
February 15, 2016
We started using the iPad Pro last year, shortly after it was released. We wanted to use this new device the moment it was available, but had to wait one (long, agonizing) week until we could get our hands on it, and then another four (longer, more agonizing) weeks until a Pencil found its way to us. Since then, we’ve used the iPad Pro almost daily. Clients and friends ask the same question in one way or another: What is the iPad Pro good for? Or for our English-degreed counterparts: For what is the iPad Pro good?
First and foremost, the iPad Pro is good for looking at things. It’s big. Very big. With a 12.9” (diagonal) screen, the screen real estate feels as endless as the lingering snow after Boulder’s last snowstorm. The graphics are sharp, photos and videos look clean and precise due to the retina display, and gaming apps seem more fun to play on the expanded screen size.
Better movies and gaming might not be enough to compel purchase, but we think the larger screen size offers benefits to two audiences in particular: the creative community and business users. For creatives, the additional real estate provides the opportunity to express ideas more fully on a larger canvas. Read More
January 18, 2016
We enjoyed a relaxing holiday checking out new gadgets and thinking about what new innovations might make an impact in 2016. Our tech-savvy employees are excited about a wide range of things, including some renewed technology from years past. While an incredible number of amazing items were recently showcased at CES in Las Vegas, our list highlights items our team members might utilize personally. In no particular order, we present our list of tech innovations to watch in 2016.
Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). While this technology has been around for awhile, hype is building around new AR and VR products to be released this year. Oculus Rift, running on a high-end PC with a powerful graphics card, will be our first choice for experimentation. HTC Vive offers another highly-rated VR experience, and PlayStation VR, running off a PlayStation 4, is also a noteworthy system in the mix.
Apps for Owner’s Manuals. AR is not only for gaming, and we think some of the business oriented uses are pretty compelling. For example, Hyundai updated its Hyundai Virtual Guide with AR, potentially making owner’s manuals a thing of the past. Just point your phone at your car, and the app uses AR to display information that details what you’re looking at.
The Internet of Things. The IoT is “the network of physical objects or ‘things’ embedded with electronics, software, sensors, and network connectivity, which enables these objects to collect and exchange data.” While IoT also has been around for many years, the use of connected things may rise 30% in 2016. Gartner forecasts that 6.4 billion connected things will be in use worldwide this year, and we anticipate daily life could be greatly enhanced as a result.
A $5 Computer. Since 2012 the Raspberry Pi Foundation has allowed computer hobbyists to create personal projects using its affordable boards. It recently announced its latest programmable board, called the Raspberry Pi Zero, will be available for only $5. The Pi Zero can be used to connect the computer to home devices, to build inexpensive robots, and to create games.
Smarter Smart TVs. Smart TVs have also been around for years, but have lacked a rich ecosystem of apps to run on them. That should change dramatically in the coming year, now that Apple has allowed the large community of iOS developers to build apps for the latest release of the Apple TV. We anticipate considerable advances in living room and board room TV experiences as a result.
Fitbit Blaze. This smartwatch offers a sleek design, color touch screen and interchangeable watch faces. With more features than the standard Fitbit, and an affordable price, it’s bound to make an impact for fitness and tech enthusiasts.
Podcasting. Serial, a podcast that debuted last October, introduced many new listeners to the medium, and fresh shows and subscriptions followed. The evolution of technology, and the ease with which you can listen to a podcast on your device or in your car, predicts that podcasts are here to stay.
Linux. We have a Linux enthusiast on our team who states, “The Linux Desktop has been solid and mature for a long time, but recently the efforts of polish have really started to show.” Additionally, Swift, a programming language created by Apple for iOS, OS X, watchOS and tvOS development, was recently open-sourced and is now available on Linux. We’re excited to see whether or not developers adopt Swift as a server-side programming language on Linux.
We are eager to see these – and more – new technological innovations come to fruition in the coming year.
December 14, 2015
Apple TV, a digital media player that can receive content from multiple sources and stream it to a TV, was first released almost nine years ago. In October of this year, Apple released the fourth generation of the device with its own “tvOS” operating system. Numerous changes occurred to the platform, and one of the most exciting was Apple’s creation of the Apple TV App Store and the unprecedented invitation to outside developers to create apps for it.
We couldn’t wait to experiment with coding on this new device, and two of our app developers jumped right in to test out the experience. Apple hopes to see the new Apple TV impact everything from entertainment to gaming to business, so we explored some simple apps in two of those areas.
Eric Miller, one of our talented software engineers at InspiringApps, has also been busy with an inspiring project outside of the office. He has been working with the Handweavers Guild of Boulder on an activation of the arches framing the entrance to the Dairy Center for the Arts at 26th and Walnut. The arches are woven with various metals and lined with 2280 addressable, programmable, RGB LEDs. Called “Luminescence”, the project is set to launch on the evening of November 19th. Volunteers from the Guild and community have contributed countless hours of labor and expertise so far.
Of his own role, Eric says, “Along with some modeling and design work, I’ve been building a WebGL-based 3D simulator for testing and speccing the project. The code is open source, and the hope is to release it as an authoring environment in which the community can develop their own programs both for this installation and other illuminated art projects.”
Other technical leads on the project are Dan Julio of Dan Julio Designs in Boulder and Mike Bissell from San Francisco. Dan designed the power system, LED drivers, and integrated the core hardware, while Mike has built a lightweight and powerful OpenPixelControl rendering engine in Java.
“Mike’s renderer is running on a networked Raspberry Pi, which is talking to Elizabeth Scott’s awesome little fadecandy boards over the OpenPixelControl protocol. Then Dan’s system carries data and power out to the 38 LED strips. A lot of the hardware has been sourced from our local DIY company SparkFun, which has been contributing as well.”
Meanwhile, Nederland High School teacher Mark Savignano has been working with his students on the the initial interactivity design, which is scheduled for unveiling in early December.
“It’s been a big open-source, community effort,” says Eric. “I’m really happy I could be a part of it.”
You can read more about the project on the Dairy’s announcement page.
Photocredit: Coil Lighting | www.coil-lighting.com
Our team members regularly inspire with the apps we make in the office – but our out-of-office projects can be pretty inspiring, too. Recently, part-time IA software engineer Eric Miller developed and helped produce interactive set pieces at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in DC.
Can you provide some background on you and your work?
Like a lot of people, I’ve always felt torn between technical and creative worlds, never feeling entirely at home in just one. Maybe that’s because at some level it’s all “techne“, if you will, but in our culture it seems hard to find a way to do both—particularly the purely creative side—and make a living.
Lately I’ve been drawn to what seems like an intersection of worlds and I suppose the name for it is “interactive installation”. It can incorporate so many creative, human, and basically architectural concerns by means of technology. And it’s fun: the suprise and delight factor can be really high with these things since you don’t see this stuff happening everywhere yet and the possibilities are so vast. In urban contexts I think this kind of work could really change the experience of a space, a commute, or even a city. I think we’ll be seeing more ambient computing and “activated spaces” and so on in the coming years.
So anyway, I’ve put together or helped with a handful of interactive art installations. As a part-time freelance developer and creative coder, I’d really like to do more of it. The Nike project obviously wasn’t about changing anyone’s life but it was the largest-scale project I’ve done so far.
How about some background on the project? How did you get involved, and what you were hoping to accomplish?
The idea was to take the RFID sensors used to track a runner’s time and trigger personalized, animated messages on great big screens. There were two places this would happen: right after folks picked up their bibs in an “expotique” tent, and towards the end of the race itself, around mile 12. I was approached by a Boulder creative/ad agency called School, which had been hired to produce the experience.
Aside from delivering the app in a robust and non-crashing way, I wanted to improve my chops with a couple of “newer” technologies. That’s newer, of course, only for someone who originally learned C++ and graphics in the late 90s!
Did you use C++? What other technologies did you use?
I built the app with Cinder, which is a lovely framework for working with OpenGL in C++. The RFID sensors output a protocol called ChronoTrack, and we had to talk to them over direct socket TCP. We were running on OSX, so I used some Obj-C networking classes for that, and for fetching the name/bib database over HTTP, which was being updated in real-time as people registered.
And did you learn any “new” tricks?
It turns out that C++ has grown a lot since the old days and I’m still trying to catch up. Ha! I feel old now. And I’ve been dying to become more facile with GLSL—the “shader” language used to program the graphics pipline on modern hardware. I managed to sneak in some nice realtime glow and motion blur effects using GLSL. It was a very basic accomplishment in terms of what’s possible, but I was happy to make it work.
Anything else to add?
I think that historically we’ve often used technology to sever our minds from our bodies, if you will. We seem to habitually seek distraction from our immediate, physical, and feeling situation and we build technology to enable it. In my opinion this is really bad news for everyone. I don’t know if interactive installation can turn this trend around and use technology to instead “re-embody” our urban and personal experiences—maybe for just a few minutes, for a few people—but I’m really interested in asking that question in particular.
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