Monthly Archives: August 2010

Microsoft Research takes a second look at multi-touch mice interaction

Bringing multi-touch technology to the desktop mice might seem trivial but Microsoft Research doesn’t just want to stop at a couple gestures. A group of researchers there have been thinking of new ways to redefine the dated but familiar traditional mice interaction model with new multi-touch-enabled ones.

In their report “Design and Evaluation of Interaction Models for Multi-touch Mice“, they acknowledge that a multi-touch mice has the potential to combine the best of surface computing with the ergonomic benefits of a mice, however existing prototypes and products including the Apple Magic Mouse might not be utilizing the technology to their full potential.

Using the prototype hardware they built, they designed four interaction models around an interesting idea that not only would the cursor be displayed on screen but also multi-touch visualizers that showed the fingers activity on the sensor, including if they were “activated” and how they are positioned. This also allowed the “hand” position of the cursor to be separated from the “finger” interaction controls in a graphical user interface.

Unfortunately their experiments with a dozen participants concluded all of their proposed models were slower than using a multi-touch screen or a three-buttoned mouse, but their findings establishes some groundwork for future research and development in the area.

I’m sure Microsoft Hardware is taking notes.

Windows Phone 7’s MyPhone site teased

During my last day at TechEd Australia 2010, I spotted this interesting image flashed briefly on one of the promotional video loops for Windows Phone 7 at the Microsoft booth. On closer inspection, it appears to be a screenshot of the upcoming MyPhone portal on Windows Live for Windows Phone 7.

Although it’s fairly hard to see exactly what type of features are offered by the site, it’s obvious the top blue bar is the Windows Live website header and you’ll be at least able to organize your contacts and photos, much like you can do today with MyPhone for Windows Mobile 6.5 but presented elegantly in the Metro style rather than a generic tabular format.

For a platform which promotes cloud services so heavily, it’s finally good to see light of its own cloud management service. As elegant and lightweight as the Zune software is, not being tied to a computer to manage their phone will be a huge plus over its competitors.

Microsoft to publish extra code to make third party WP7 apps more consistent

At TechEd Australia this week, Microsoft’s Peter Torr suggested that the Windows Phone team will ship more sample code after the final release of the Windows Phone 7 SDK to close the last few inches between first-party and third-party applications.

Unlike the panoramic and pivot controls which are coming to complete the core SDK, an example of the extra code Microsoft will be publishing is the tilt effect. Today, this effect are exclusive to Microsoft’s own Start tiles and application controls which all have a subtle but delightful distortion when pressed, as if they were floating in 3D space.

Some third parties have since tried to emulate the effect with their own implementation with results that are similar but not quite the same – an issue that would have only caused frustration over time considering the emphasis on consistency in the platform. More recently, Peter has published some code on his blog that third parties can easily utilize to achieve a consistent results (using the official algorithms) in their own applications.

Code samples like the tilt plus others including but not limited to the “swoosh” animation (ex. in the mail app) will be making their way to MSDN to form the official documentation for third party developers to implement, if they wish.

In the same spirit of helping developers, it’s also highly likely Microsoft will be publishing the complete source code for some of their out-of-box applications (ex. Weather, Stocks, Shopping List) so that third parties can understand how applications are “intended” to be built. Very helpful indeed.

Microsoft explores natural user interface ideas with interactive paper prototypes

During August de los Reyes‘ presentation on natural user interfaces at TechEd Australia 2010 today, he showed off a really interesting video produced internally at Microsoft for the purpose of demonstration a natural user interface prototype with nothing but paper sketches and stop-motion animation.

August who references Microsoft Research’s Bill Buxton, the fidelity of prototypes should reflect the stage of refinement, indicates that paper sketches and rough cuts not only reduces the effort required to produce the prototype but also is consistent with how early the idea is.

Of note in the prototypes are some interesting ideas, for example, using a chain of tags to present an list of options that can be expanded and collapsed easily, integrating help and “how to” into the experience instead of a separate view, using a rotary wheel for context-sensitive options and full-hand gestures instead of finger-based gestures.

Microsoft goes Willy Wonka for Windows Phone 7 giveaways at TechEd Australia 2010

At TechEd Australia 2010 this week, Microsoft is handing out 250 blocks of chocolate with Windows Phone 7-branded packaging at various sessions and activities for correctly answering quizzes.

Although they might look like nothing more than ordinary gifts, but for a few lucky people, chocolate is not all you will find inside.

For five lucky people (pretty good odds), inside the wrapper they will also discover a golden ticket which in true Willy Wonka style can be redeemed for a free Windows Mobile 6.5 device today and a Windows Phone 7 device when it comes out. Pretty sweet deal, if you get what I mean.

Local Windows Phone 7 apps showcased at TechEd Australia 2010

At the TechEd Australia 2010 keynote today, Microsoft Australia’s Dave Glover took a minute to highlight a few interesting locally-developed Windows Phone 7 applications specifically for the Australian market.

The first was TelstraOne, an integrated information hub from the local telecommunications carrier, surfacing general and sports news, Australian weather information and quick access to popular Telstra services and content hubs. For a company who usually over-brands their softwares, this app looks refreshingly native.

Next was an indie XNA game developed by Adrian of Micron Game Studios who ported his XBOX360 game “Next Wars: The Quest for Earth”, a Geometry Wars-styled tower defense game, to Window Phone 7. The game actually started out as a Year 12 high school project which has since won a competition and have over 40,000 downloads on XBOX Live.

Deck of Secrets, a company who produces a deck of cards (who would have guessed) with an assortment of local bars and restaurants in a city also had their app demoed. It allowed users to browse their catalog of venues both alphabetically and those close to you. A nice touch of the app was the ability to make a reservation directly within the application with the help of a third party service.

Last but not least Domain, the real estate website, was also committed to an WP7 application to help potential home buyers explore house listings. The app not only inherited the native look and feel but also took advantage of controls like the “scroll wheel” control to allow easy selection of the search criteria.

I have a few photos from the keynote demo below, please excuse the quality.