I Want More Features

One of the common problems I found when dealing with people who wants to make something, whether it’s app/website/others is that one sentence put on as the title of this post: “I Want More Features”. Said loud and proud, as if having more features equals to having a better product. Maybe it’s the direct artefact of living in an age where quantity matters? I don’t know.

In the age where everybody seems to make new app every now and then, it would be extremely hard for your digital product to shine and turn few heads to your direction. That is, unless, you design in with specific feature in mind, something that you believe would be meaningful to your product’s user. That’s why we keep on hearing the term UX design, or user-centric design, because that could be the key for your product to strive in the market. Basically you’ll want to answer 2 key questions: “What’s one central issue that you’re trying to address?” “And how can your product central feature answer it?”

And let me be honest, that’s probably the easiest part of the picture.

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Processing and Coding Literacy

Few months ago, I had the chance to gave workshop on making data visualization using Processing. The course were designed for someone who didn’t come from a technical background, who wished to hit the ground running making something using programming or specifically, Processing. On that day I had several people coming who are designers and architects.

For several hours, I sat there, talking, explaining, running some examples and gave short exercises for them, guiding them to the magical world of creative coding, and they did grasp it. The best thing about working with these creative people is that I could plan seed in their mind and I would instantly watch as they bend codes into their will. One guy has made his own brand identity using Processing code at that workshop. Another one, I know, is still exploring and happily tells me new things he learns.

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It’s A Good Time to Develop VR Content

Ever since the head of my department bought two Oculus Rift HMDs and lent one of them to me, I started to dabble a lot into this field. Some months before it, I managed to get a Google Cardboard, which was a good introduction to VR, but I didn’t really able to develop further interest, partially because I had quite a massive simulation sickness for playing with it in a short time (though, this is probably mistake in my side, since I have an acute vertigo to begin with).

Now, Oculus Rift DK2 is actually a very good piece of hardware. I can use it comfortably for 20 minutes using my 2012 non-retina MBP. It also comes with a rapidly developed software suites for developers, meaning it’s actually pretty fast and easy if you want to start making contents for it. The ecosystem is lively, plus there’s a lot of options to pick from should you want to start your adventure here.

Indeed, generally speaking, it’s a good time to develop for VR. As I looked around for games and apps demos for the Rift, I founded out that there’s not much released by big studios/companies, but there are plenty to download or buy from small indie developers. This is another proof that developers who bought it, aren’t afraid of showing whatever they had, even if it’s just a single level wandering around demo type of thing. And this is very important.

This new wave of VR devices still has plenty to crack to make it ready for public use. Several issues, including the haunting simulation sickness are still there. I haven’t come across any research paper that tried to answer it, but each people who made contents for VR has different approach to reduce it. This is why, the more demos available, the more solutions appear.

Also, think about the UI of the content. For starter, this isn’t a flat screen 2D monitor, it’s a full blown 3D experience right from the beginning. Sticking widgets and buttons in the top corner just won’t cut it. How would you answer it? Of course by showing your solution via a demo app.

Those are just two of many issues that I found interetsing in VR contents. Obviously many technical issues will spring out, such as efficient use of polygon to reduce judder (which will also reduce simulation sickness) or how to make the contents less resource intensive, so people don’t have to own a high end gaming PC such as one suggested by Oculus recently, etc.

Those are issues that will be there in a long time. Meanwhile, you can choose your own path in development. Hardware wise, Oculus isn’t the only player in town. For PC-based VR, we will have:

  1. Open Source VR with hardware made by Razer (coming soon July ’15)
  2. Valve and HTC’s Vive, which were claimed by many to be better than Oculus Rift
  3. and the upcoming FOVE which is still running its crowdfunding campaing in Kicksarter.
  4. Last but not least, Oculus Rift Consumer Model, coming soon in Q1 2016

Also, Sony has its own Morpheus which will run exclusively on PS4. This is a good contender, since it can offer a VR experience for millions of existing PS4 players who inclined to get a new PC.

On the other hand, for mobile based VR, there are already a handful of hardware to choose from:

  1. Zeiss VR One
  2. Avegant Glyph
  3. Google Cardboard
  4. Oculus Gear VR
  5. Durovis Dive

With that in mind, you would suspect that software wise, developing contents for them, should provide you with many options as well. You’re right. For developing game, both Unreal Engine and Unity (both are popular game engines) offers support for Oculus Rift and I can’t see why they won’t do the same for others, when available. I tried both to make quick VR prototype and yes, they’re very friendly and provides you with tools to rapidly develop VR contents and polish it along the way.

If web is your thing then afraid not, as both Firefox and Chrome also aims for the VR platform as well. They have the capabilities to deliver the VR content. For programming them, you have the bulletproof Three JS to do it. Also, there’s a work in progress JS API for VR named WebVR, which sounds and looks very promising.

I can sense this VR era would end up quite a lot like the mobile smartphone boom several years ago. The availability of apps really usher the era, partially because of the democratization of developer tools. Every one can make one and every one has the same chance to proof themselves while giving solutions to the platform.

Now I just need to make one myself.

Yakin Mau Go Digital?

Sehari-hari, sebagai seorang pekerja di agency iklan yang mengurusi masalah digital, gw sering kali bertemu dengan klien yang ingin “go digital”. Wajar memang, karena harus diakui, konsumsi media tradisional seperti TV, koran atau majalah, pelan-pelan tergerus oleh kehadiran media digital. Sebuah riset menunjukkan bahwa kini, masyarakat menghabiskan waktu lebih banyak di depan kopmuter atau gadget elektroniknya tanpa mengurangi konsumsi TV atau radio. Yang artinya, lebih banyak kemungkinan iklan dari si brand yang ditayangkan di TV atau radio disalahartikan oleh khalayak. Tambahkan itu dengan fakta bahwa biaya media placement di situ harganya selalu mahal, maka wajarlah kalau brand ingin go digital. Hemat ongkos marketing plus ada pasar yang basah di sana.

Hingga pertanyaannya sekarang adalah “yakin mau go digital?” Ini bukan masalah mau campaign seperti apa, mau menggunakan sosial media yang mana, tapi kembali ke motivasi awalnya. Karena menurut saya, menggunakan media digital ini justru banyak sekali jebakan Batman-nya.

Coba perhatikan betapa banyak brand yang berseliweran promosi di timeline Twitter atau newsfeed Facebook kita, baik yang sekedar promosi halus via buzzer hingga ke yang lebih hard selling seperti promoted tweet atau page. Lalu pikirkan sejauh mana kita akan bereaksi merespon atua setidaknya memperhatikan promosi tersebut. Kalikan lagi dengan berapa banyak brand yang melakukan itu setiap hari. Sekarang pikir, bagaimana brand yang baru mau masuk digital bisa stand out?

Menurut saya pertanyaannya justru bukan itu. Karena promosi dengan cara tersebut, tak ubahnya promosi cara tradisional (hard selling) yang diaplikasikan di media digital. Dan termasuk di cara itu adalah mengadakan activation berupa kontes, apapun bentuknya. It’s good for a temporary set of time, but then what’s next? Justru semestinya, media digital ini dijadikan ajang bagi brand untuk lebih dekat dengan konsumennya, jadi media komunikasi natural seperti layaknya kita nimbrung komen di update status teman atau me-RT dan mention tweet gebetan.

Sekarang, andai brand Anda adalah brand makanan, maka tinggalkan jauh-jauh tweet yang berisi motivasi kosong atau quote-quote hampa padahal brand Anda adalah brand makanan. Apa hubungannya berpikir positif dengan sepiring masakan produk brand Anda? Apa korelasinya? Apa tidak lebih baik brand Anda membicarakan masakan di seluruh dunia? Lalu dari situ ngobrol dengan calon konsumen Anda? Pekerjakan karyawan yang khusus mengelola akun social media Anda, hingga ada transfer value brand yang jelas dari Anda ke calon konsumen Anda.

Effortnya memang berat. Maka dari itu, kembali lagi ke pertanyaan awal “Yakin mau go digital?”

Art is an Escape

I’m so pissed off, so I started to pick up my guitar, threw some notes, played with it, and I felt a lot better.

During the course of my life, i’ve dealt with so many shit, these and those. But strangely though, I always managed to find my perfect escape: art. I remember when i was at junior high, I had some problem adapting at life at boarding school, so I began to draw a lot and learn how to play guitar.

Up to this day, I still find the beauty of creating something is the best way to deal with daily problem of being pushed from every direction. Thank you art for being such a great therapy for me.