Not quite what you expected – Condition ONE

It’s extremely surprising how in this industry we find innovation almost daily. Anyone that tries to stay updated with everything that happens will tell you how hard it is to do it. But in the end there are a lot of solutions that are based in an idea that on its implementation it’s not quite what the concept was aiming for.

Most of ideas will begin in something like “wouldn’t it be cool if we do this” and then from it derivate to something more specific and possible, something like “wouldn’t it be cool if do this for this line of users on this age range, with this particular need and this certain times of the day”. And yes, they seem well structured, and the evaluation for the technology needed seems to be a good fit. But in the interactive world particularly the evaluation or development of the technology needed or the content itself fails often and products are rushed to the market as good ideas but poor execution.

Recently I was checking on the Condition ONE app on the App Store. It’s an app that basically immerses you in different scenes where different things happen, mostly documentaries about certain events, reports, etc. The way this works is that the app plays a video that is interactive in a way that you can move the device anywhere and basically change the perspective of the camera. Having the 360 degree power to look at the surroundings of the happenings, trying to emulate the feeling of being there.

Take a look at the video below and you will get a good representation on how the offering works:

Condition ONE Demo from Danfung Dennis on Vimeo.

Awesome right?, not quite. I was thrilled to try it but I was already expecting some hiccups on the road. The thing is most of this type of application rely on accelerometers or gyroscopes (or both) that checks constantly for the position of the device. Most of portable products nowadays use it perfectly for detecting screen orientation and it works alright. Some even use compass features and sometimes the sensors are that reliable that you can some pretty precise work. Also we have seen it countless times on pedometer apps and games.

Now if you want to use this for something like controlling a perspective it might not be perfect. To begin with you need a reference or a point to be the horizon, and then form there on move the perspective. Some Wii games, for example, will suggest you to point to the center of the screen before interacting with the camera or simple tell you to point to the center and recalibrate the camera with a button. This app does that with a button called center. I know what it does, but not any common user that used the app.

After that it gets really annoying is not well made for the experience.  You don’t have control over focus or depths so some scenes are way too close to look properly at something interesting and you end up missing the whole point. Also it was filmed with shaking hands and that creates a lot of disorientation if your device is not moving at all or doesn’t feel like is responding properly. This is very important if the Condition ONE team attempts to create immersion because this particulars problems make the user seems like it doesn’t have the control over its actions.

But this is not an entirely a bad thing because from mistakes there’s learning and from learning there’s success. This errors can be fixed to adapt to the technology present on the iPad easily with a fixed design and a 1.5 release of this app that could be usable and not just something to toy with a couple of minutes and then not ever launch it again. The calibrating issue is workable by teaching the user how to use the app, and the video issue could be tweaked to be more stable and well thought. Some more controlled documentaries could help to experiment a little better with this before going to the field. Also, make it really worthwhile to see the whole spectrum of the scene, and when you focus on something give cues to the user so it redirects its attention there.

Condition ONE team, you’ve got something pretty cool here, don’t drop it, polish it and make it shine!. Also, this would be so cool in a CAVE like environment!.

Stuff that I’ve been doing

It has being some time since I did a post, well that’s because I’m in a bit of a crunch time right now which mostly concentrates on my Thesis work and my actual work.  I’ve got 3 as an Instructor for an introductory class in Computers and IT. I have to say its being a really nice experience, and next semester would probably be my last doing it.

My thesis has to do with the study of Immersion and Presence in Videogames. Right now I won’t go too much in detail on it, just let me say that I’ve being working with UDK to setup my experiment. I have learned a lot of 3D games design these couple of months and a lot on how Videogame 3D engine works as a whole. Although there’s a learning curve, engines help you a ton, and definitely, if engines like this didn’t exist my thesis would be impossible. After I finish my work here I would like to go even go further and work in a fully fledged game using this tool.

Personal projects are also rolling a bit slowly this past month. We got a big bummer when National STEM Video Game Challenge finally revealed their rules for the 2012 competition. In few words, they don’t accept international students. Oh well, we were working on this really awesome concept and an innovative technology for the game (kudos to Eugenio for that), but the project got canned because of this. In any case we will move on to another competition with a different proposal. I’ll post more on that later.

Other than that I have been elected as President of the International Student Association in UTPA. Think are going smoothly and we had two fund raisers already. So far the entire organization have being helping a lot, so I think this next semester we will be able to do some trips and events.

Got a lot of ideas for some post, hopefully I will be able to write them and share it with you soon enough!.