IKEA’s augmented reality app

It’s no coincidence that the Swedish home furnishing superstore IKEA timed the announcement of their AR app IKEA Place to drop shortly after Apple’s much anticipated announcement of their AR-optimized phones the iPhone 8 & iPhone X.

First announced back in June, the final release of IKEA Place will take advantage of Apple’s ARKit to not only match the proper scale, also apply the texture of the material, proper lighting and shadows.

“I think that augmented reality and virtual reality will be a total game changer for retail in the same way as the internet, only this time much faster” said Michael Valdsgaard, IKEA’s head of digital transformation, who leads a team of 70 that have been working the past nine weeks to load thousands of IKEA products into the app in preparation for release next week in conjunction with Apple’s iOS 11.

Dropping a virtual chair into your living room with true to scale is the perfect broad-scale use case for AR. Browsing furniture and sharing screenshots of them in situ before you make a big purchase is what will spread this new tech to the masses.

iPhone 5 & First World Problems

Saturday Night Live did a pretty good job sending up the Tech Press’ whining over the iPhone 5 problems as out of touch with the world in which we live – especially when compared to the world of those that work in the factories that make these wonder devices.

iPhone UX Anti-Patterns

What follows are notes from a session I attended at the last Web 2.0 Expo. While a few months old, the notes here are still very relevant. As a Nokia employee, some may think it strange for me to blog about how to develop for the iPhone but I think not, the priciples I share here apply to all mobile developers.

10 iPhone User Experience Anti-Patterns

The presentation was given by Toby Boudreaux. Point of clarification before we begin. For those unfamiliar, an anti-pattern is a play on design patterns which are re-usable design components that emerge to become commonly understood elements used in User Interface design. A common user interface anti-pattern is the hover text box that obscures an otherwise important part element of the user experience.

On to the iPhone UX Anti-Patterns from Toby’s talk

Billboards & Splash Screens

While it your logo may look cool in all it’s glory and scrolling credits for everyone on the team including the office dog is also seems like a nice thing to do, your users will tire of it after a few times and will get down right annoyed if they use your app with any frequency. Best to tuck this stuff down as a sub-menu off the About menu. In short, “don’t put branding ahead of users.”

Sleight of Hand

Do not use the same area for different or conflicting functions. Think of muscle memory and make sure that the same gestures are related. Toby illustrated the problem with the iPhone’s slide to unlock and decline functions.

iphone-anti-pattern

A quick and easy way to avoid this anti-pattern is to print out wireframes of your design and overlay each screen on top of each other over a lightbox and to be careful where your exit or quit button is going to be, assuming that your users may add an extra tap by mistake.

App as OS

When the app is running in a mobile environment, it tends to take over the screen giving the user the impression that the application is the OS. Rather than attempt to mediate the entire experience of the device through your app, defer to specialized apps which are designed to handle those functions. Use the YouTube player for videos, the browser for web pages.

Bullhorns

Tone down any loud notifications. You can provide a setting to make them louder but remember, you’re embedded into a mobile device which is going to be carried everywhere. If possible, avoid pop-up error messages and embed your error message into the interface.

The Bouncer

If your app requires a user account, make sure every screen that can be accessed without a login has a link to registration or sign-up. The last thing you want to do is have a potential registered user land on a login screen with no link to a page where they can register.

The High Bar

Allow for progressive degradation of your application. Remember, you’re app is operating in a mobile environment. Assume that connections will be flakey, the phone not running the latest OS. Remember the guy on the bus that’s just gone into a tunnel. What about the one-handed user on the subway? Can he they use your app effectively?

Memory Lapse

Make sure your application is able to persist state. There’s nothing worse than having to step back through to get back to where you were. The illusion of fast task-switching, pausing and unpausing, requires state persistence.

Gesture Hijacking

Take care not to take over and re-define a popular gesture. It’s a balance because you also don’t want to try and be too clever and introduce a new behavior that has too steep a learning curve.

Spin Zone

Don’t rotate the screen for the heck of it. Fancy UI elements to be used in moderation.

Sound Off

Don’t hijack audio that is already playing. This is a common one. How many times have you been listening to music and then start playing a game that requires you jack the volume way up. When you quit out of the game, you blast your ears off as your music player comes back on.

It’s much better to blend the sounds so the user can take care to switch to the background app and shut it down or pause it.

Apple has done a lot of careful thinking about interface design on the iPhone expanding their work on the Human Interface Guidelines to the mobile environment. The iPhone HIG is a good resource for anyone designing for the mobile environment.

Hope these iPhone UX Anti-Patterns were useful. Can you think of any others?

Find My iPhone Fable

Great story of how Kevin Miller tracked down his stolen iPhone using Mobile Me’s Find my iPhone app.

findmyphone

While Kevin’s friend walked the streets of Chicago with a broadband modem-enabled laptop, they homed in on the actual person who had taken their phone and confronted them.

“Have you got it?” I asked as I marched up to the guy, acting far more intimidating than I felt. Our iPhone-pilfering friend apparently works at the sketchy bar, and as he fished around in his bag, he gave a questionable alibi about having found the phone, intending to return it, but being intimidated by “all these scary-looking messages” that kept popping up on the display. “Um, yeah, those were from me,” I replied curtly. He pulled my phone out, totally unharmed, and handed it over. I resisted the urge to giggle.

Kevin acknowledges that this wouldn’t have been possible if the phone’s battery died

I’d been amazed that the phone had enough battery life to make it through the night and still beam its location; the moment its battery was dead, then it would be game over for our little scavenger hunt. I unlocked my phone and saw almost 20 missed calls. And then, at that very moment, the iPhone shut down and displayed the “Connect to power” icon. My phone’s battery literally hung on until the second it was in my hand. I wuv you, iPhone.

Beautiful.

UPDATE: There’s a Nokia version of this product too – a bit more geeky but if you know what you’re doing, quite powerful.

UPDATE: Check out Ewan’s post for a very English version of this same fable. [I Lost My Phone in London Today]

iPhone is internet 1997

One of the things that just seems crazy to me is that the iPhone cannot run applications in the background. The iPhone developer site explains:

If you are running an application such as AOL Instant Messenger on your iPhone, everytime you receive a call or browse away from the application you would be signed out, you would lose any unread messages, and your conversations would end.

Watching Stephen Colbert last night, it hit me. The iPhone is the internet in 1997!

The Colbert ReportMon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c

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