Candy Crush Kathak

User Interaction Design Through Dance

Shravani perfoming Kathak
Shravani perfoming Kathak

 

Her two graceful fingers point towards the sky. The rolling sounds of thunder envelope the lightening-dazzled valleys of Pune. Swaying in her balcony overlooking a verandah with a mango tree, Shravani suddenly widens her eyes, lifts her hands, and her wrists begin to tremble. With two fingers from each hand still pointing to the sky, she traces the path of rains descending on the hills in the distance.

As if on cue, the rain falls heavily on the thousands of thirsty leaves of the mango tree. The young and beautiful Shravani’s dance is expressing her joy at her gaining admission into the prestigious National Institute of Design (NID), a train-journey away in Ahmedabad. The daughter of a dear family friend, Shravani is at the threshold of her new life, sharing for the first time with me her love for design and for Kathak, which is a classical dance-form from India.

When the rain starts to abate her movements slow down, focussing all her energy to the forefinger of each hand tenderly tapping its thumb. Aha! The gentle pitter-patter of a drizzle. In simple, evocative dance moves, she wordlessly expresses the different moods of India’s majestic monsoons. From downpours to light drizzles, lushly lazy to dramatic, thunderous ones.

Her hands and gestures, known as mudras in Kathak, soon melt into evoking the stately poise of a proud peacock, the sudden alertness of a grazing deer, the determined hunt of a ferocious lion, the prowl of a fierce tiger. And finally of course, the dancing form of Shiva, the playfulness of Krishna, the longing of Sita, and the desperate search by a lovelorn Ram.

Hand Mudra Gestures in Kathak
Hand Mudra Gestures in Kathak

Design Is Non-Verbal

Like the first exhilarating chirp of a Koyal, or a nightingale, that bursts into song when the rain finishes, a fresh thought dawns into my mind. Through centuries in India, the essence of stories and myths have been expressed using the non-verbal. Elegantly, they cut across the barriers of different languages and our rich and intricate cultures. Generation-after-generation, the eternal truths encoded in our legends are literally danced through gestures and expressions.

We need to trace our steps back to thousands of years, when ancient tribes in India first discovered the art of storytelling through non-verbal communication. Indeed the word ‘Kathak’ is from Sanskrit that literally means ‘story’ and this art relies solely on the dancer’s expressions, gestures, mudras, stance and especially delicate eye movements to evoke emotions while unfolding the story.

When I then turn my gaze to the years just ahead of us, I see the same game at play. Today, the world is a multicultural, plural society. The internet embraces all, the literate and the non-literate. In the present moment, how do we design apps for smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, smart TV, Internet of Things (IoT) and even more that we have not imagined yet for this rich, diverse and global cauldron that bubbles on this planet.

 

The Womb of Verbs

Design philosophers of the twentieth century from the Bauhaus movement and its minimalism boldly proclaim: ‘Form Follows Function’. Yet I strongly feel that design is not made of just nouns and its associated forms. Design to me is forged from the womb of verbs, actions and interactions. The role of a designer therefore is to design interactions that emotionally touch and delight your customers while fulfilling specific, precise tasks. Exactly like a dance.

To me: ‘Verb Follows Function’ is the new design language of the century. From the flirtatious swipes of the Tinder app, the harmless pokes on Facebook, the pinch and zoom in photos, the flicking of cash in an e-wallet, the exploding and popping of sweets in Candy Crush Saga, all design has become verb follows function. We are transiting from pure user-interface design to user-interaction design.

In Interaction design, there is indeed a form of Kathak at play in your hands. The Natya Shastra, an ancient Indian text on classical arts, has this famous quotation:

“Where the hand is, the eyes follow
Where the eyes go, the mind follows
Where the mind is, there is the feeling
Where there is feeling, there is mood, flavour, sweetness.”

Shravani’s dancing points to a deeper truth: The most fundamental approach today is to design as if the world has turned non-literate.

The objective of design is to use playfulness to enhance usefulness.

Take a look at these stunning and inspiring examples of six second transitions and interactions here for web and smartphones: sixux.com
In the ‘Dive Into Interaction Design’ workshops, I cover a great deal more about every aspect of making the world more meaningful through interactions. Here, for example, are easing functions which choose not just the speed but also the mood of moving elements in a design: http://easings.net/  Each one conveys a mood and emotion in the interaction design. I call this ‘Motion with Emotion’.

Lots more is covered in the workshop, including for instance, finding inspiration from some great film-sequences and opening title sequences in movies. From these we gain insights in interaction design for apps and UI. Am also curating a special board on my Pinterest account, dedicated to great examples and inspirations of interactivity. I may currently be conducting other workshops on Design, so if you do wish me to conduct one on Interaction Design, just write to me, and will inform you of upcoming dates.
Meanwhile, the next time you have to hire a designer or developer, ask them what they understand about dance. Every button, every icon, and every relationship between elements jumps to life with interaction design, because dance is a celebration of life. Need some quick inspiration to dance? Here’s some trippy, groovy music I composed a few months ago for a colleague, ‘Think With Your Feet.’

So go ahead, dance like its raining. It might just help you understand design as definitely being more alive.

Kindle Under Your Nose

Using Design to Surpass My Experience of Reading A Book

Attention to detail. Carved out a notebook handcrafted in India, into an Amazon Kindle book-cover for myself.
Attention to detail. Carved out a notebook handcrafted in India, into an Amazon Kindle book-cover for myself.

You use your nose to read a book.

The faint smell of ink mixed with that sharp note of glue, and of course the woody smell of paper. Your fingers love the assuring texture and of paper as you unfurl your mind and curl up your body with your favourite book. When you finally close your droopy eyelids, you love the book resting on your chest, as if in a gentle embrace, while your imagination expands into your dreams with the fantastic worlds conjured by the living words of the book.

No such magic happens when you read an eBook.

The plasticy feel of the Amazon Kindle clutched in one hand is a barren, stark experience. Geeky perhaps. But shorn of the aesthetic breakthrough Gutenberg achieved with his first printed Bible in hot metal type. Even today, Gutenberg’s Bible is considered a marvel of design, typesetting, and illumination. So what is it that Jeff Bezos lacks with the Amazon Kindle?

Amazonian Jungle of Design

I carefully studied the user-interface design of the Amazon Kindle, now in its 7th incarnation with a touch-screen, 6-inch ink-display. The initial simplicity of design over this Linux-driven device peeks through. Just a screen with text typeset to the font and size of your liking, with margins you can choose, and with a single long-press to look-up the dictionary or a wikipedia-entry. Convenient and intuitive. A gentle tap on either side moves to the previous or the next page. However, with each new feature and extra option added over versions, the patchy, shoe-horned approach to design begins to show its signs. Even after three months of heavy use, I tend to get as lost and bewildered in the rabbit-hole of menus and options, as Alice in a Matrixed-wonderland.

Are You Experienced?

One evening, after the first session of one of my Design workshops, I sat alone, visualizing how I would overhaul the user-interface design of the Kindle for the third decade of the 21st century. Lots more can be achieved by not doing, and by leaving things out, in design. But is it all about the UI bass, no treble? Curious, I called some of my friends who use the Kindle. The response was universal. Each felt disappointed by eBooks and expressed something lacking with reading pixels. That may explain why sales of eBooks have suddenly plateaued across the world and printed books have rebound.

Aha! Here then, is where user-experience is the real bottleneck. I can’t fix the user-interface design of the Kindle as Amazon has locked it all away. But I can certainly fix the user-experience. All I need to do is to focus on the nose.

Hina Khan with the hand-crafted book-cover she made for me.
Hina Khan with the hand-crafted book-cover she made for me.

Notebook by A Student

I got in touch with Hina Khan, one of the students I have been mentoring in design since several years. In the past ten years, Hina has come to me every few years, just to sit and learn over several months, some aspect of design, color, photography, and more recently, typography. Hina is quite a versatile creative-professional, dabbling in many disciplines of art, design, and creativity. So when she ambled in one fine morning for her mentoring session on the complexities of free-culture, I gave her my DRM-ensnared and restrictive Kindle as a side-project.

The brief was simple. Let’s take a beautiful, handmade and organic notebook or diary which is made in India. Carve out the inside pages hollow and glue them, to form a cavity into which the Kindle tucks in. Hold it down with elastic or a thread or something. Embellish the design at will. And here, ladies and gentlemen, is how and what she crafted.

Diary of An Amazonian Madman
Diary of An Amazonian Madman

Hina caught the Delhi Metro to Chandni Chowk to deftly skip back in time by three centuries. She scoured the small by-lanes in search of a handmade notebook or diary of the required size and aesthetics. Surprised at not finding anything worthwhile, she did shop for a variety of exotic hand-made papers and art-supplies for her other various projects. Hina then searched the more artsy Khan Market  where at last she spotted just what she wanted. A notebook with screen-printed inscriptions in Hindi and Urdu, some quite incomprehensible, but nevertheless beautiful in its calligraphic style.

 

Don't judge this book by its cover
Don’t judge this book by its cover

She bought this silky azure ribbon and handed it to a tailor to carefully stitch it around the border.

 

Kindle Book-cover
Kindle Book-cover

From her collection of wood-block prints, Hina stamped a paisley design on front-side of the notebook, and then meticulously painted it in by hand.

 

Illustrated inside-cover of the Kindle book-cover
Illustrated inside-cover of the Kindle book-cover

Why tweet about a book when you can have a birdie in the inside front-cover? Yes! an original illustration by Hina drawn and traced onto that red paper, and then glued to the inside-front of the Kindle cover. The hollowed-out pages of the notebook were glued together and stuck into the inside-back, and then painted orange.

 

Opening an eBook, the organic way
Opening an eBook, the organic way

The final finish of the book-case, with the Kindle embedded.

Niyam Kindle
Niyam Kindle

Hina braided this cord, then punched two holes into the back of the book-cover and tied it in. We noticed the cord holding the Kindle in was a bit bulky as well as loose, causing the device to often fall out of its crevice.

 

Improved design of the Kindle cover
Improved design of the Kindle cover

So Hina promptly replaced it with two elastic bands in white.

 

Magnum opus of design for user-experience
Magnum opus of design for user-experience. Proud of the design and craftmanship of Hina Khan.

 

The New User-Experience of Kindle

Here at last was a Kindle with a spine. That was what was missing in the experience all along. The feel of a real and more importantly, organic, hardbound cover. The flourish of calligraphy with Indic scripts. The touch of silk. The smell of real paint-inks and not just printing inks. And the feel of handmade paper inside.

Now I find offset-printed books too mechanically perfect, machine-made and precisely trimmed. A product of an industrial age that dehumanizes, scales monstrously in the name of economy, and ravages the environment. A machine-made book is not compatible with the new value-systems of the more sensitive 21st century. Why sacrifice a tree for just one, and usually expensive and disposable book, when you can just make one hand-made book-cover, and read thousands of books-as-software inside. All this while enriching and enhancing the ‘real’ experience of reading a ‘real’ book.

 

Free Culture

Speaking of free-culture, should you wish to replicate the design of this ‘Kindle book-cover’, be happy to know it is published under a creative-commons license, specifically the cc0 license. The design of the original handbook may be subject to copyright by its author. What this means is that you may freely replicate this design, modify and adapt it, to make your own Kindle-cover or iPad cover, a book-case or a hide-out case or piggy-bank or anything else you can conjure up. You may choose your own colors and materials, improve upon this, use a different handbook or even a hardbound or paperback book, and kickstart a cottage industry around this. A few are already doing this around the world.

I’d be happy to see your designs. Please share them by posting them on my FaceBook page on design here: fb.com/niyamdive 

So get yourself a Kindle or any other eBook reader, and make this Earth into a lotus-paradise.

 

I’m Hiring. Do You Understand Design?

I’m looking for a graphic-designer willing to work with me full-time.
You should be young, hard-working, and you wish to work and grow because you love design. You are going to work with me at the cuttin’-edge of design, as we move away from the creative restrictions of the 20th century, into the brave new-world of design and creativity as it unfolds before our eyes in the 21st century. You therefore have to be willing to study and work on your own, learn and grasp new concepts and paradigms, and follow design-trends and analysis.

Graphic Designer ( 1 or 2 openings)

You’re going to work with me on my projects in:
  • Graphic-Design
  • Logo and Branding design
  • Web-design
  • User-Interface design (UX)
  • Illustrations, info-graphics, and imagery.

Your Location:
Delhi.

Your Qualifications:
Minimum: a certificate, diploma, or a degree in design, web-design, graphic-design, or fine-arts. Those with a diploma or a certificate must also be a graduate with a degree in any discipline.

What’s Your Experience:
None? One year? Two? Even more? Okay, I’ll let that pass if you have a real kick-ass portfolio.

Your Skills:
Have a fundamental understanding of the four pillars of design, Yes, you will be quizzed, and your portfolio evaluated on these:

  • Color
  • Typography
  • Illustration
  • Photography

In addition, you must have:

  • A good command over spoken English. Your pronunciation and fluency over English should reflect your refined cultural-background and the polish of your education.
  • Your written English should be devoid of SMS-spellings, free of grammatical mistakes, and easily comprehensible.
  • You should be able to handle cursory sub-edits.
  • Those with a flair for creative-writing will be preferred.

Your Software Skills:

  • GIMP: for photo-editing and pixel-imagery.
  • Inkscape: for arm-twisting those beziers.
  • HTML, CSS.
  • [Just in case you want to know: rigid, legacy, and proprietary bloatware like Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, are so last century. Move on.
  • Note: It’s okay if your existing skills and portfolio are based around Adobe and/or Corel software. However, I do want to see work you’ve authored that shows you’ve dabbled around, and kicked-some-tyres in Inkscape and GIMP, and optionally the software mentioned below.

Your Optional Skills That’ll Get You Noticed:

  • Understanding and use of UI-widgets as a designer, like JQuery-UI among others.
  • WordPress theme-customization.
  • Ability to learn how to customize the look-and-feel of any CMS.
  • Having taken Bluefish-editor or Kompozer out for a spin
  • Basic video-editing.
  • Basics of 3D modeling and animation. Familiarity with Blender3D software preferred.

Your Gear:

  • Digital Camera: point-and-shoot would do, but a dSLR camera even if an entry-level model, preferred.
  • Your own Laptop. Any mainstream brand: Dell, Lenovo, HP, Toshiba, Acer, Sony…, whatever catches your fancy. The model should not be more than two-years-old. Must support a resolution of 1440 pixels or higher. Candidates with an Apple laptop will have a definite advantage, you’re a designer, right?
  • If you have an Apple laptop, your Mac OS should be an updated Leopard, Snow-Leopard, or Lion.
  • If you use Windows, your OS should be authorised, updated, and secured.
  • If you use GNU/Linux, I’ll buy you the first round of coffee. In Linux, any variation or flavour of Ubuntu or Debian preferred. The release should not be more than a year old.
  • If you don’t have Linux installed on your laptop, you must have it installed before you commence work with me.
  • Roaming internet datacard. Those with a broadband connection preferred.
  • Wrist-watch that shows the accurate time. Your internal time-clock should be calibrated to Delhi’s traffic so you stay punctual. Surprising how many ‘five-minute-distances’ in Delhi have slowed down to take 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Would be good if you have your own vehicle.
  • Mobile-phone. Ideally, it should be smart enough to do a little more than just voice-calls and SMS.
  • You should have an interest in gadgets that are impacted by graphic-design. Over time you may have to dabble with iPads, iPhone apps, Android-tablets, eBook readers, higher-end smartphones, and whatever else blends with culture and technology.

My Hiring Process

  • Send me only a PDF-file of your C.V. Please note if you have your C.V. authored as a *.doc file, then you must convert it to PDF before sending it to me. A filter in my mailbox will delete your *.doc file and your application will be automatically rejected.
  • In your mail and your PDF, please share links to your online portfolio. Please don’t send me your portfolio via attachments or even on a disc. If you don’t yet have your portfolio online, this job is naturally not for you.
  • I’ll just glance at your qualifications, experience, and references, but go with a toothcomb through your portfolio. Tutorials and exercises are okay, but for artworks and design authored by you, will check your work for plagiarism. Yes, when I say I want sincere and genuine people who have a love for design, I mean it.
  • Am looking for a portfolio that shows a high-level of creativity and innovation, shows your ability to solve design problems, and resonates with your sense of aesthetics and design.
  • If you do get shortlisted, I’ll call you over for an interview, and if you look promising, you’ll have to sit for a short 30-minute test of your skills. So bring your gear.
  • If you qualify, I’ll sign you up for an initial probation-period which should lead you up to an initial 6-month contract.

So Why Is My Website Looking So Tattered?

Get hired. There are dozens of projects to complete.
This one is just one of them.

Bird’s Eye-view: To Bee or Not to Bee Saving Tigers.

Mobile-Towers May Be Endangering Species of Birds Across India and Threatening Bees.

How do you poach customers in a battle for survival and marketshare? An Indian mobile-telephony company, Aircel, may have hit upon a new idea for big-game hunting. Aircel has partnered with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) India, in a strategic campaign to save the declining population of tigers in India. Why save half a paisa on talk-time, when you can go save a tiger? You may join the initiative here: www.saveourtigers.com

In one leap, the company has earned good karma points by creating a growing social-buzz around its campaign in new-media such as facebook, twitter, and online blogs, and most importantly, by generating market-conversations around its brand. City-wide hoardings, and ads in traditional media are further fueling their buzz. Suddenly, people are emotionally-charged and galvanized, and funds and support are pouring in to save the tiger. This is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) at its best. I wish every corporate in India feels inspired to devote a huge chunk of their marketing funds and warfare at similar causes that matter to us.

Save Our Birds and Bees

But who will save species of birds and even bees endangered by the harmful radiation emitted by mobile cell-towers? According to several media reports, the ElectroMagnetic Radiation (EMR) from cell-towers can damage eggs and embryos of birds, and may have caused the rapidly-declining numbers in the bird-population across regions. “It’s almost like being microwaved”, says a researcher involved with the study on the impact of EMR from these towers.

Here’s a report from the Times of India from 3 October 2008, on various researchers that seem to concur on their findings: http://bit.ly/CellTwrBirds

Another report, carried by AFP and published at PhysOrg, mentions the deadly impact of EMR on the population of bees in India: http://bit.ly/CellTwrBees

We must save tigers. But we must also save these birds and bees. Even if it means the cell-tower as we know it has to become extinct. Smarter Corporate Social Responsibility, not just from Aircel, but any other corporate, should urgently address this issue. As an individual, you can generate enough buzz around this issue to galvanize the powers-that-be to take positive and affirmative action. You can buzz about bees on blogs, chirp about birds on twitter, and use the power of the social-web to make all mobile-telephony companies wake up to the call of our winged living beings.

The first mobile-telephony company to take on this urgent cause will unleash a brilliant marketing strategy that will not only save these precious species, but also improve the current technologies used in mobile telephony to make them safer. Oh! And along the way, poach millions of customers away from its rivals. Now that is predator-thinking.

[ends]

How You May Fight Unwanted and Spam SMS-Text Messages

Are you fed up of receiving unwanted sms-text messages on your mobile-phone? Have you received any within the last 24 hours? If your answer is yes, your problem is far deeper than you’d like to acknowledge.

Harassment

For instance, do you realize with each passing day, the menace of unwanted SMSes bombarding your mobile-phone is only set to grow? Soon, the growth may turn exponential? Unlike spam-messages in email, that can be seen cluttering your inbox only when you log into your mailbox, a spam-sms pesters you directly, at any odd hour of the day or night, demanding your immediate attention. You may soon find yourself persistently interrupted through your day and life. This is harassment, apparently non-physical and non-verbal, but in reality, it is physical, mental, and even social. So stop being mute about it.

Private and Confidential

It may seem obvious that you need not give your mobile number away to random people and organizations. However, this step alone is not sufficient. I have an Airtel mobile number since 1999, and so far I have never published my number anywhere. In these ten years, I’ve made it a point to never publish my number on any of my business cards. When I do give my number to someone, I immediately impress upon them, whether verbally or in writing, not to share my number with anyone else without my prior consent.

Do Not Answer

My second rule is even stricter. I tend not to answer calls from numbers I do not recognize, or do not expect. So, if you want me to answer your call, you have to first sms me, letting me know who’s calling and why, and request me to consider answering my phone.
The nature of my work, as well as my life, is such that I tend to keep my phone in a switched-off or its silent-mode for hours at a stretch. This is actually a good habit to inculcate. Once people know you are not a reliable mule always available at the other end of their mobile-phone, they’ll use their discretion in calling you, and switch to alternatives, such as e-mail, or even an urgent sms. I make it a point of being prompt in my responses to valid emails. This works as a positive assertion, as people soon learnt to email rather than just call me.

No Escape From SMS-Spam

Even then, the best laid plans of mice and men-with-mobiles oft go awry. Each time I’ve had to book an airline ticket for myself, I’ve been asked to provide my mobile number so the airline may inform me of delays and schedules. Yeah! Right. Within minutes of them punching my number into their systems, I’ve consistently received sms-es promising me hotel rooms, properties to buy, and even vacations. Similarly, when I fill up forms for making investments, or at banks, where providing my mobile number is mandatory (why?) I am subsequently besieged by spam-smses. Even certain government-forms demand I share my mobile-number.

Do Not Disturb

By now, you may wonder how come I do not mention Unwanted Commercial Calls (UCC). Oh! I solved that problem long ago. You see, desperate to unplug myself from this vortex, I immediately registered myself with the National Do Not Disturb (N-DND Registry). You may do so too, by following the directions here: http://ndncregistry.gov.in/ndncregistry/index.jsp

Black-list Callers

Within 45 days of registering, all unwanted commercial calls actually ceased. Once in a rare while, say once in three to four months, I may receive the one stray call. I promptly fire off a written complaint via email to 121@airtelindia.com. They formally acknowledge the email, provide me with a number, and respond within a few days on the action they may have taken to resolve the call. I’ve also subscribed to Airtel’s ‘Call Management’ service. This is available from their website for a small fee per month: I pay Rs 15 per month. I have created a ‘black-list’ of telephone and mobile-numbers, and that pretty much keeps UCC at bay.

SMS is a pesky problem. For each junk-sms I receive, I promptly fire up my email software, and write a complaint to 121@airtelindia.com. Their customer-service then has to respond to such a written complaint, and they follow it up with a voice-call as well. This is where the rub lies. Since the past several months, I’ve pointedly asked Airtel the following questions, which they either duck or evade:

01. Exactly what steps have they taken to stop that sms-sender from sending messages? I don’t need assurance, I need proof.

02. For the harassment caused and for the trouble I take to sit down and file a written complaint, and to respond to their follow-up calls, what compensation will be offered to me?

03. Given that I have clearly and unequivocally indicated that I do not wished to be disturbed by unwanted smses, and registered with the TRAI for this, why is it that Airtel first waits for me to file a complaint, and then responds by stating that a warning has been issued to the spammer? Is that all? Why can’t Airtel prevent spam-smses, by using clever software-filters that catch spam and chuck them out?

04. Does Airtel stand to gain money from having such smses sent on their networks? Or, does Airtel stand to gain money in receiving compensations from spammers for their offenses? The TRAI directive may offer a clue:
“To discourage the telemarketers who make calls to the numbers registered in Do Not Call List, a provision has been made whereby Rs.500/ – shall be payable by the telemarketer to the service provider for every first unsolicited commercial communication (UCC) and Rs.1000/- shall be payable for subsequent UCC. There is a provision for disconnection of the telemarketer telephone number / telecom resource if the UCC is sent even after levy of Rs.500/- & Rs.1000/- tariff. In case of non-compliance to the Telecom Unsolicited Commercial Communications Regulations, 2007, the Service Provider is also liable to pay an amount by way of financial disincentive, not exceeding Rs.5000/- for first non-compliance of the regulation and in case of second or subsequent such non-compliance, an amount not exceeding Rs.20,000/- for each such non-compliance.”
Source: http://ndncregistry.gov.in/ndncregistry/index.jsp on date: 28 July 2009.

As you can see, the TRAI directive is lopsided. The end-user suffers, while the Service-Provider may stand to profit from penalizing spammers when a complaint is lodged by the end-user. It’s obvious the end-user must be compensated for each offense. This compensation may be automatically offered, whether or not the end-user lodges a complaint.

In the meantime, I feel getting Airtel to respond to me for every spam-sms against which I file a complaint, will eventually yield results. I would therefore strongly encourage fellow-users to file written complaints at 121@airtelindia.com.

Throughout, I mention my experiences with Airtel. You may find similar services with your service provider. So please check with them, as I would not know.

Finally, we’ve all forgotten the small little detail of spamming. The real person or organization behind the spamming tend to share their own mobile or landline numbers as well. Yummy! Starting this week, I am going to publish all these numbers on a special blog-post, and trust automated internet-spiders will harvest these numbers and contact-details. The rest, I leave to your imagination.

In the meantime, if you’ve got tips and suggestions to share, please do so here.

[ends]

Video-Screaming! Live From My Mobile.

Live Video-Mobile Streaming from Anywhere to Everyone. Are you screaming yet with qik.com?

I just headed over to qik.com, and installed a free and clever little software in my Nokia E61i mobilephone. This ‘qik’ software, allows me to stream live video from my mobile-phone, from anywhere on planet Earth, directly to the world wide web. Yes, you read it right. It transforms my mobilephone into a video-streaming device that transmits live video to the internet. Think of it as a web-camera you can carry in your pocket wherever you go. More conveniently, a web-camera without a computer or a tethered internet connection.

You may check out my video-streams on my free account, at www.qik.com/niyam and engage in a live chat or share comments for each video. I started by testing it over wi-fi, but am quite impressed it works with GPRS-over-EDGE as well. So I can stream live-video from any location on Earth, as long as I get a signal on my mobile. That’s incredibly neat.

What’s not so neat, is that the website and the software is still rather buggy. The site also seems to be rather slow on the take, but hey! we’ve all got spoilt by YouTube. I can choose to publish videos that are marked for the general public, or for private friends and family.

Streaming with Ideas

I can capture and share any experience as it happens. Could be as ordinary as a beautiful stroll at a beach; a mountain-sunrise; lunging down a wild roller-coaster; or even unusual traffic snarls. Anywhere life takes me, can now be streamed with frightening simplicity. Playing my own paparazzi  is the ultimate in 21st century decadence, but I suppose for the moment we call it, livin’ it up.

So what do you think I’ll use it for most often? The first video should offer you a hint. Let friends and clients know am still in the bathroom getting ready, for instance! If I’m going to lose my privacy, I’d rather do it with style.

I’ve only got one life to video-stream.

🙂

[ends]

Seeking Intelligence and Meaning on the Web

Let’s Start with Toys through alaTest.com. Hopefully We’ll Get to Truth Later.

What is the world wide web? A collective outpouring of almost a billion minds chattering together to create a cacophony of frenzied thoughts that overwhelm and deluge you. If you could imagine a single giant megaphone connected to the web, and a text-to-speech engine, that converted every blog, chat, email, and every fragment of text on the web into sounds, mixed it with all the podcasts and music, as well as the audio from all videos published on the web, what would you get? Crank up the volume for good measure.

The web is man’s search for meaning. A thirst for intelligence embedded within information.
Google is a funnel, but leaves it to you to extract meaning and intelligence from its results.

A small step in the right direction is alaTest. It addresses a rather frivolous purpose: intelligently rate
any electronic gadget you may wish to purchase. alaTest achieves its goal using a complex and brilliant algorithm, that automatically searches the web for all expert reviews on a single product, then compares it with users’ comments and reviews, to arrive at its alaScore. The engine is much more complex than that, but what would take me several hours or even days through several sites and reviews, is now achievable with almost a single click, in a few seconds.

Whew!

The site is still a work-in-progress, and expect a few anomalies as the engine refines itself. However, it is a commendable project. For all those who often love to pick my brains on helping them choose their often pre-determined gadgets (hehe!), please consider using the evaluation here instead.
On a more philosophical note, it mirrors our path. As children we start with grasping toys as we try to decode the world around us. Gadgets are nothing more than toys, more often for boys. Hopefully, some day, we may just find the essential algorithms developed through alaTest and other similar engines, to find more meaningful insights on the web, than just what to buy. Until then, let’s enjoy alaTest.

[ends]

JavaFX: Like Flash with Freedom

The Distant Thunder of Freedom Shall Liberate You From Flash

Do you watch videos on the web and stream them to your mobilephone? Are you addicted to YouTube, and love playing Flash-games on your mobilephone? Or like me, are you fascinated and work in the bleeding-edge discipline of Graphic User Interface (GUI) design of web-applications, or any other user-interface?

Time for you to taste the thunder. Discover JavaFX, the new and highly-sophisticated Flash-killer from Sun Microsystems. This will change the look-and-feel of everything on desktops, the web, and the mobile, ushering in a hopefully beautiful, rich, internet experience. This is going to be the future of New Media.

Check out the galleries of what it may do, here:
javafx.com/samples/index.html

So far, their kits are available for Mac and Win, though a Linux version may just come in anytime soon. I did manage to view the samples above in my firefox running Ubuntu Linux. Will write more about this soon. Stay tuned.

[ends]

Kiss Your TV Goodbye.

GISS.tv will transform India’s tv broadcasting and media. Forever.

Sarai is the perfect place for a kiss. Behind all the non-stop chatter and noise of television stations, I experienced a quiet revolution on a lazy, saturday afternoon in an almost-empty seminar room in Delhi’s leafy north campus. A revolution, that will eventually impact more than 500 million TV viewers in India, and reach out to the global population of the world far-ahead of conventional twentieth-century television. A revolution that will kiss your TV goodbye. Click on the photos below to discover more from the captions.

[flickr album=72157608313338533 num=5 size=Thumbnail]

The Hidden Dragon

The soft-spoken and unassuming Yves Degoyon, dressed in an old tee-shirt, bleary-eyed from his travels in India, commanded the stage. He walked the dozen participants in the room through his impressive giss.tv project. For ordinary mortals, giss.tv allows anyone, anywhere, armed with nothing more than a commodity laptop, to broadcast live video on their own internet-tv channel, and reach a global audience instantly. All for free, as in both free-of-cost, and more importantly, with freedom. Similarly, giss.tv also allows anyone anywhere to launch their own audio broadcasts instantly for the world.

The live broadcast is streamed into the web-browser of any viewer who tunes in, and does not require any proprietary plug-in like Adobe’s Flash, to run. The underlying technology is Java, which means it can run on any browser, on any device, smartphones, and who knows, you may soon have special devices that could tune-in as well.

This changes everything. In the spirit of freedom, all the software required to author, produce, capture live video and audio, and broadcast are also free and with-freedom, i.e. muft and mukt. Indeed, the impressive suite of software mimics everything that you may expect from professional tv production suites.

You can ticker-tape text at the bottom or anywhere on the screen, at any angle and direction. You can also record your final broadcasts concurrently to hard-disk for archives and for re-purposing. It can mix live video-broadcasts with pre-recorded segments. This is ideal for, say, a live TV news program that has to show video-footage on-cue. It can take multiple video-streams, fade and mix from one to the other, quite suitable for stringing in stories from correspondents or live-video from any geographical location. Yves does recommend it is easier to use a hardware video-mixer to spare current laptops and software the burden of processing, but still, it is a proof-of-concept that will soon become mainstream.

The Bliss of GISS
There are a few things that giss.tv can do, which I have not yet seen on any platform. For instance, unlike youtube or other video-sites, it works with live video, and uses absolutely no proprietary software or plug-in. That means, as stated earlier, everything is muft and mukt. GISS.tv also gives you, the author, complete copyright and ownership of your video, and encourages you to publish and broadcast using a copyleft or a creativecommons license. The server-space and all services are provided free. You can also design your own tv station and channel on the web-browser, and let viewers log-in and subscribe to your video-broadcasts. Unlike TV, giss.tv is also more interactive. Viewers can comment, blog, discuss, and interact, as they watch the video.You can also track viewers, and as each viewer tunes-in, you can lookup his or her location on a map, and the software and platform details of their machines.

Static Noise

What GISS.tv lacks currently, is a slick user-interface design and a bling-bling website. Indeed, it suffers from the looks of a typical, grown-at-home geeky project. Yves works almost effortlessly with his tools, but even the best nerds would quail at the sight of those intimidating software and tools that fill the screen. What the project needs acutely at this moment, is a complete re-do of their user-interface design, and a much more streamlined learning curve.

Nevertheless, I am so impressed with this project, that I have just authored an article in my FreedomYug column for the November 2008 of LinuxForYou magazine. Will publish a hyperlink to it once it gets published. [Update]: Here is the link: My TV Station.

Whether giss.tv eventually becomes successful, or whether it paves the way for a grander and significant paradigm-shift remains to be seen. No one can deny the time has come for twentieth-century broadcast-television, and especially the low-standards of news and tv-journalism we’re currently dished out, to be revamped. On this count, Yves hits the nail on the head. Read his raison d’etre for launching this project, his motivations for giss.tv.

To say it more simply: I am too sexy for TV.

So don’t talk, just giss….