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
August 1, 2016
Category: Mobile Industry
Apple introduced Swift Playgrounds, an app designed to teach the Swift programming language, at WWDC 2016. We’ve had a chance to experiment with it since then, and can say without reservation that their first foray into teaching kids how to code deserves top marks. They have enabled learning to code to be fun and addictive, even for those who aren’t the “coding type.”
The app feels like a puzzle-solving game, reeling you into the challenge while introducing coding concepts and building skills step-by-step. After completing a challenge and receiving encouraging praise from the app, we found we were motivated and eager to move on to the next one. One tester expected to finish two or three challenges to get a feel for the app, but ended up finishing over fifteen lessons because she was so engaged with it. The pace, lesson structure, and challenges all prove to be well-designed from an instructional standpoint. This app will likely teach many future programmers how to code. Read More
July 18, 2016
Category: App Development
A common question we receive is whether we recommend building both iOS and Android versions of an app at the same time or just one at a time. And if they are built at different times, should iOS or Android app development come first? We touch on this question in Chapter 3 of our book Inspiring Apps: A Business Perspective on Building Mobile Apps, but will provide more insight on this debated topic here.
June 20, 2016
Apple’s developer conference, WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference), kicked off with a keynote address last week that garnered thunderous applause for CEO Tim Cook’s announcements of all things shiny and new from the tech company. The keynote is designed to appeal to the press and general public as much as (if not more than) developers. And if you watch it, you may find yourself cheering along with the audience as new emojis, animated text messages, and fun music features are demonstrated for the first time.
While those announcements are entertaining, we’re more interested in the improvements made behind the scenes that do not make for splashy headlines and cute demos. This year was full of plenty of such changes on the software front – in fact, for the first time in as long as we can remember, the cool, new things were not in the form of hardware. The Apple software improvements are exciting though, because they will allow us to make apps more quickly, that run more reliably, and perform better at a lower cost for our clients. Here are a few highlights from Apple’s announcements: Read More
January 29, 2015
Category: InspiringApps News, IA Team
Ralph was born and raised in northeastern Tennessee in a town called Johnson City as the fifth of six kids. He spent his childhood enjoying comic books and running his paper route. His love of the outdoors started early, when he frequently hiked the Appalachians with his scout master dad. When Ralph was 17, he embarked on his first trip west with the Boy Scouts to Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico. After seeing the vistas for the first time, he instantly fell in love and knew he would eventually head west permanently. After 15 years, the dream became reality.
But first Ralph studied journalism, then spent the next several years working for small newspapers in East Tennessee. He left journalism to study computer science at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville after his sister – who worked in the computer science department there – showed her boss Ralph’s GRE scores and got him a graduate assistantship. Ralph worked at the university for awhile, eventually moving to research administration. When writing technical documentation for the department of network engineering, his boss asked him to make it available via the internet. How? A new thing called “the world wide web.” Within months, Ralph was making websites for the school using this new revolutionary technology.
Using his expertise in building websites, Ralph moved to Atlanta to work for CNN, helping to get cnn.com up and running in 1995. He states that it was really exciting work because “we were making everything up as we went along.” The first really big story on the site was the OJ Simpson verdict in 1995, followed by the Clinton/Gore presidential election in 1996 which killed the servers because of the load. “We couldn’t throw hardware at it fast enough,” Ralph recalled. During his time at CNN, Ralph helped to build the CNN/Sports Illustrated site, the financial site, and the politics site for the brand. He moved on to work for Cox Interactive Media and then as a contractor for IBM interactive where he helped to build sites for the Grammys, the NHL, the NFL, and the Hermitage museum.
Around that time, Ralph planned a vacation to Boulder, CO and then spent the next year looking for a job here. He found one with XOR Network Engineering and moved west in 2000, making that childhood dream come true. The company started to unravel during the first internet bust and Ralph switched to contracting for a few years. He contracted with InspiringApps and soon became employee number three (after Brad and Aaron Gerber)!
Ralph enjoys working for InspiringApps because “the work varies a great deal.” Ralph states that since InspiringApps is small, there is not a lot of hyper-specialization, allowing him to write code, talk to a client, work on a server, and investigate a database…all in the same week. “Our small size keeps us nimble and we have a good culture and environment. The location and view are wonderful and I’m still very much in love with Boulder,” says Ralph. “The scenery, the mountainous beauty that is right there. The bike culture is great. I like the outdoorsy culture.”
In his spare time, Ralph likes to tinker with hobby electronics (“pretty blink-y lights”), do a little soldering, and program Arduinos. He’s built some cool stuff for his trips to Burning Man and gets a lot of inspiration from that event and the amazing engineering and art on display there. Ralph tries to bring that inspiration back and integrate it into his work and non-work life.
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