SXSW – Day 3

Sorry, these posts are so long winded. I hope they provide at least some useful info!

Started the morning at Gueros for breakfast ( I had the Huevos Motuleños) with my accessibility friends – there are many of them based in Austin! Although, I’m not sure it was wise to schedule an 8:00am meet up on the first day of daylight savings time. However, we did have 12 brave souls attend!

Joe McCann did a great session called One Codebase, Endless Possibilities: Real HTML5 Hacking. You can find his slides at And check out his example web app: from your mobile or web enabled device. He started with a great overview of what is the “Web Stack” and why you should use it for mobile development and then went on to provide a real example. He listed tools and demo’ed PhoneGap, Appcelerator Titanium as well as Node.js. Definitely worth checking out the slides. I didn’t pay attention to whether or not this was recorded by SXSW but since it was in a large room it probably was.

Next I attended Designing iPad InterFaces – New Navigation Schemes. While Lynn Teo was a knowledgeable and good speaker, I really didn’t get all that much out of this presentation. Again, it seemed like another “common sense” type of presentation that, unfortunately seems to becoming more common at SXSW. Lynn started out with a few basics to consider when designing a tablet application:

  • size
  • shape
  • form
  • mechanics

Form must inform function and items must be relatable, discoverable, and learnable. She then went through many apps pointing out the different navigations schemes used and why they were successful. To be honest, it didn’t really hold my attention – maybe it was because of daylight savings time, maybe because I am not a designer. Thus, not too many notes or take aways. This was held in one of the Ballrooms in the Austin Convention center and thus, likely to have been recorded. Probably worth a look by designer types or anyone wanting to understand tablet design better.

I was really captivated by the Non-Visual Augmented Reality and The Evaporation of the Interface talk that was presented by folks from Check out the description and speaker bios at These folks tracked their own locations over time and wanted to look at location apps and issues. The current location apps often require

  • picking the location from a list that is displayed
  • selecting the friends to share location data with OR always sharing with all friends in the system
  • don’t deal with “temporal” friends – for example the client I am visiting at 2:00 may want to be able to see my location and know I am on the way
  • need to deal with “noise” and inaccuraties from cell tower triangulation

The presenters believe that sharing location data should eliminate stress by notifying someone about current individual’s location or the location of the bus I am waiting for. These kinds of messages can eliminate uncertainty – yes, the lunch will be delivered to the meeting on time as the delivery person is two blocks away. There is no traffic ahead, I will be on time for my Dr.’s appointment. They want to be able to combine location notifications with calendar info and perform automatic checkins.

They have taken this a step further and used it to automate their own home. When they are x blocks away from home the system is notified to turn on the lights. When they are x blocks away, the lights and other unnecessary appliances are turned off – no more worries about leaving the stove on when you leave for the day!

You can also set up location based notifications for the future – next time I’m in Walmart/Target/Big Box Store remind me via text message to buy AA batteries. Request directions from my hotel to the convention center automatically sent when you reach the hotel. Automatically text Mom that I have arrived safe and sound when I reach a particular airport. They talked about experimenting with a haptic belt that would vibrate when the wearer was pointing North. What if you downloaded directions to the belt? It could then vibrate when you reached an intersection with the location of the vibration (front, back, left, right) indicating the direction to turn. I immediately thought about this being a helpful device for blind / low vision folks navigating within a new locale. Heck, I’d like it too so I wouldn’t have to stand out on the corner reading my map on my tiny smartphone screen!

The presentation also talked about integrating with IRC – phone could text location to IRC and a channel bot passes on the command to a device. For example turning on the AC in the home when you leave the office. They have an iphone app – Geoloqi that I am going to check out and a set of api’s for accomplishing the location messages. There was a discussion for the need for locations within buildings – such as convention centers, malls, etc. There is no standard for this right now. Seems like a market opportunity for some company to standardize this. Obviously there are security considerations with location data so that needs more investigation and proposed solutions. My write up really doesn’t do this session much justice – it was one of the few that I really found exciting and I plan to look into the geoloqi api in more detail.

The Future of Collective Intelligence: Location, Location, Location! was disappointing. Maybe because it was late in the day in a packed room. It started out interesting with discussions of what data collectors such as foursquare, gowalla, etc can give back to the consumers? Perhaps the long term reward of “checking in” can be future recommendations for products/services/locations based on previous locations? Could we use traffic data to control traffic lights in real time? When the audience was asked who would be willing to give out location data for the opportunity to drive down a street and have the traffic lights be timed to turn green as traffic approached – 2/3 of the room raised their hands. It would also be helpful to have employers be able to track employees when traveling – useful for disasters, accidents, changing plane schedules, etc. Foursquare and American Express are currently working together for automatic discounts. Just by checking into a location and agreeing to pay with your AmEx card you automatically get a discount on the bill. This session also mentioned future checkins but didn’t really go into in much (certainly not in the detail that the geoloqi folks did in their presentation).

Today was the AustinJS party. I knew some folks who were going to be there so I made the 1.0 mile trek to the KungFu Saloon. I was hoping the distance might cut down on the crowds – no such luck! It was packed but I did get to see the #5kilts (check them out on twitter) and score some free beer and tacos. I worked off some of the free food walking back to the convention center and called it a day.

About Becka11y

Web Accessibility Consultant with 30+ years in the software industry and 12+ years of direct accessibility innovation.

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