Posts Tagged: Android Wear

Two days at DroidCon Turin 2015

Posted by Lorenz Cuno Klopfenstein
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New year, new DroidCon: like last time, two heros from our lab (Lorenz e Saverio namely) traveled to Torino in order to attend the yearly italian Android conference. The 2015 edition reached new heights of attendance: last year we had great fun attending the conference, but this time the event had grown even more.

The conference was held in the imposing conference center Lingotto in Turin, nicely bathed in sun and nice weather, with more than 700 participants from over 21 different countries.

Saverio and Lorenz after getting their badges. As you can see, badges = bliss.

Last year’s event was marked by an unmanageable epidemy of Google Glass-wearing speakers. The 2015 edition fortunately marked a switch from Google’s glasses to more discreet Android Wear based watches. A nice advantage, from a stylistic perspective at the least.

Because of that, many sessions were actually focused on Android Wear and Android Auto, the brand new platforms where our favorite green droid is expanding into. Many other talks during the two intense days of DroidCon where instead focused on the intersection between Android and the Internet of Things: for instance interesting stuff about iBeacons and (a bit discouraging) experiments on proximity monitoring by Matteo Gazzurelli.

Apart from software development, one of the most discussed topics was actually user experience (or “UX”): Lydia Selimalhigazi and Roberto Orgiu gave a nice overview on why developers and designers need to stick together and help each other in order to obtain results without (too much) conflict. The same topic was taken on, from a branding perspective, during the stimulating talk by Marie Schweiz on how the specific features of a brand influence the user experience (not only the logo, that is).

Another totally different point of view on “user experience”: Kentaro Takiguchi gave a very nice talk “Improving UX through Performance” with an in-depth overview of those little optimizations that can be applied, both on the app and on the server side, in order to improve an app’s fluidity, reliability and responsiveness. An interesting bag of tricks for scenarios where even shaving off 4 KBs from a remote request can have a great impact.


Benjamin Augustin made clear that in fact software development can, at times, be a hellish affair. However, in order to free developers from pain, a growing number of libraries and tools are being worked on. One of those libraries is in fact RxJava, the Java port of the Reactive extensions originally created for .NET: those extensions offer a nice way to “invert” how your code work, by adopting a “reactive” coding paradigm which is very well suited to manage the interactions between user interface and an unreliable backend (like network access, for instance).

Likewise, Maciej Górski presented several ways, especially using Gradle plug-ins, to reduce the amount of “boilerplate” code developers need to write (for instance getter and setter methods for Java classes). Also very interesting: the “Holy Sync!” session by Eugenio Marletti, about cross-platform synchronization methods, using CouchBase.

“Test, test and test!” was the mantra of several other talks, in particular the one given by the always funny Ali Derbane e Wiebe Elsinga (don’t even try pronouncing his name, you’ll fail) who during their talk “The hitchhiker’s guide to functional testing” gave an overview of most functional testing suites available for Android. Stephan Linzner instead showed the glorious new tools developed at the Google mothership for its mobile developers.

Finally, at 12 o’clock of the first day, pushed by hunger more than anything else, our Lorenz gave his talk “The love child of Android and .NET: using Xamarin for app development” about all our recent experiences using the Xamarin platform for Android development during the last year. Slides can be downloaded as PPTX as well.

Gave us the necessary energy between sessions: the Cola from Turin!

After two very intense days we left Turin exhausted, but encouraged and inspired by many new things to check out, technologies to use in our projects and details to keep in mind while developing on Android (and not only)! Looking forward for next year!

Is There Anything More Wearable Than Your Smartphone?

Posted by Alessandro Bogliolo
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Technology scaling has fueled the myth of wearable computing since long time ago. The many challenges hidden behind the idea of wearable computing have engaged researchers and companies for many years, leading to extraordinary results that have overcome the imagination of sci-fi writers and have brought huge changes in our everyday lives. Representative recent examples include general purpose smart watches (e.g., Samsung Gear Live, Moto 360, LG G Watch), smart glasses (e.g., Google Glass), and many domain-specific wearable devices mainly used in health care and sports (e.g., metabolic holter, activity monitor, vital signals tracker). Many more wearables are expected to be marketed in the next months thanks to the boost provided by Android Wear, just launched by Google.

In spite of the large number of amazing new gadgets with unprecedented ergonomic design, my smartphone is by far the most wearable device I use every day. Technically speaking, I’m not exactly wearing it, in that I need either to keep it in hand, or to put it in a pocket or in a bag. But I feel more comfortable with my all-in-one mobile than with any other wearable device, including my mechanical wrist watch.

So my first question is:

1. Do smartphones belong to the category of wearable devices?

To provide a tentative answer to this question I need to go back to the first time I encountered the myth of wearable computing in my professional life (trying not to consider the time spent watching Star Trek as part of it). At that time (the early 90’s) the Internet was in its infancy, Wi-Fi was still WaveLAN, laptops were hardly portable, and I had no cellular phones. To me, wearable computing was just an enabling technology to achieve the goal of ubiquitous/mobile computing. Wearing a computer has never been a big dream of mine, but I’ve always desired to be able to compute and communicate anywhere and at anytime.

The difference between a portable device and a wearable device is that the former is so cumbersome that I decide to bring it with me if and only if I know for sure that I’m going to need it during the day and that its utility will compensate the discomfort that it will cause to me in my daily routine (laptops belong to this category, although they have become much thinner and lighter than in the early 90’s) the latter is so handy and useful that I know for sure that I’ll need it during the day and that I won’t be limited in all other activities because of it, so that I bring it with me without even considering if it is worth or not (I have no doubt that smartphones belong to this category).

This brings to my second question:

2. Is there any device which is more wearable than a smartphone?

According to the definition provided above, I don’t think so. I wear my smartphone more than any other object, clothes included. There is no piece of clothing that I wear for more than 12 hours every day! Even a sweater looks less wearable than a mobile to me, in that I decide to carry it with me when I go out only if I really think I’m going to put it on, or otherwise it will hinder me in my activities.

Going back to wearable electronic devices, smart watches and Google glasses are very good examples of truly wearable gadgets enabling new applications in many relevant fields like augmented reality, accessibility, health care, and gaming. However, they are still not usable enough as general purpose personal devices in order to replace smartphones, while they are more hindering than a smartphone when not used. At the moment, they look more like companion gadgets than like stand-alone devices, and their marketing and usage models rely on the fact that endusers already have their smartphones with them.