In Black and White: Cyber-Sitting with NeoLAB’s Eddie Lee

In Black and White: Cyber-Sitting with NeoLAB’s Eddie Lee

Jul 8, 2015

We recently had an opportunity to check out the Neo N2 smartpen. Simply put, we loved it; the device brings to bare all the things we love about mobile technology: Kickstarted roots, cross-platform functionality and portability.

We also had a chance to chat with Dr Eddie Lee, NeoLAB Convergence’s co-founder and CTO; we asked about smartpens in general, design cues and transcription technology. Below is our interview… in black and white.

In a tech-crazed world, why did NeoLAB go for the smartpen?

NeoLAB Convergence is passionate about bringing information technology and communications products to different industries. When our CEO and I started the company, we were still exploring which type of device we wanted to create. We knew that we could make something with an intuitive interface, but that was about all we had fleshed out. During the brainstorming process we were doing a lot of sketches on paper and having to scan them so that they wouldn’t get lost; we quickly discovered this part of the process was extremely annoying, and we wanted to eliminate that step. So we decided to create a pen that could capture our ideas or sketches on the fly.
With the Neo smartpen N2, our goals were simple – make it easy for user’s to capture their ideas and inspirationsin a way that simulated an experience they were used to. Pen and paper have been behind most human creations, and we still believe in the wonders that they can do. But we also admire the benefits of the digital era – the ability to share, reproduce and save. By converging both digital and analog we hope to create a synergy that will further enhance future creations.

How was the Kickstarter experience?
Our Kickstarter experience was extremely successful! We ended up raising 20 times our initial funding goal in just 21 days. This supportfueled our desire to get each of our backers their pens quickly, and was part of the reason we were able to get them their pens within six months of the Kickstarter campaign end date! Since then, we have also made our pens available for purchase on our website and Amazon for U.S. customers. We are also planning on celebrating our Kickstarter campaignby hosting an openspecial appreciation event for our Kickstarter supporters to kick off our activities at this year’s CE Week NY. We will have free food from the Kimchi Taco Truck at Kickstarter’s Brooklyn office, 58 Kent St, Brooklyn, NY 11222, on Tuesday, June 23rdstarting at 12:00pm ET.

What type of design decisions go into creating a smartpen?
One of the biggest design decisions we had to makewas to recreate a pen, not a digital product. We wanted to maintain the essentials of a pen and its beauty. For that to happen, the pen had to feel like a pen, not to mention look like a pen. It had to open and close like a pen and write like a pen. You don’t think “I’m going to turn on this pen and sync it to my phone,” when you use a pen. You just start writing, hence the automatic on/off function and the unpaired mode. We even designed the N2 to use standard ink refills, just like any other pen you use.
For the shape and feel of the Neo smartpen N2,we made the thickness of the N2 a mere 11.8mm, with the slim full aluminum body and triangular shape allows the pen to delicately and comfortably fit in a user’s hand.
We also had to develop the user interface for the app. We wanted to create an intuitive platform for users to easily find their designs, plus categorize and find them later. Several application features differentiate the N2, such as the ability to select different colors for your text in the application, retrieving your notes via a calendar view, and being easily able to switch between new and old notebooks (called the NoteBox feature).

What is the one concept that NeoLAB adheres/adhered to when creating a smart device?
We wanted to create a smart device converge digital and analog in a way that will help people truly express themselves in today’s digital world, including students, interior designers, teachers, sketch artists, and journalists. For the Neo smartpen N2, we did so by adhering to the design and functions of a real pen, so that the transition would be easy for all users.

With regards to mobile connectivity, what do you see in the near future for smartpens?
We believe smart pens will and need to become more like conventional pens. The future will bring smart pens that you can use on any type of paper, at a more affordable price. At the same time, its use will become more hybrid, such as working as a stylus as well.

Transcription: how will you look to continually improve?

NeoNote’s transcribe function is powered by Myscript. We plan to continue a steady partnership with them and discuss ways the handwriting recognition technology can be improved. We envision not only more languages, but also going across the boundary of letters to the area of mathematical equations and music scores.

What can we look forward to seeing from NeoLAB down the line?
We’re looking forward to attracting many more consumers and continuing the worldwide expansion of the N2. We are also working to provide different versions of our pen and app that are specialized for specific industries or user categories. For example, we are working with our partner XMS Penvision to develop business form solutions. We are also developing an app customized for cartoonists. And we have partners in Japan and Korea we are collaborating with to develop education platforms that use smart pens. We welcome potential business partners and look forward to expanding our work into many other industries and countries.For updates on the pen and tips for cool things you can do with it, follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

For our review of the N2 Smartpen, ckick here:

NeoLAB Company Logo

Developer Perspective: A Conversation with PGi’s David Guthrie

Developer Perspective: A Conversation with PGi’s David Guthrie

Nov 12, 2014

Developers are awesome.

In this business, picking the brains of developers is such a privilege. Finding out how, why and when can be really fascinating.

We had the opportunity to do a quick Q&A with David Guthrie, Chief Technology Officer for PGi, the development house behind calendar super-app Agenday Smart Calendar, which we had the pleasure of reviewing recently.

AR: Why Agenday? What inspired its development?

DG: PGi is focused on frictionless collaboration. We wanted a tool that could be a powerful stepping off point for busy professionals to take control of their day. Agenday was designed and developed by our Innovation Lab to help people collaborate on the go without the hassles of long dial-in numbers or passcodes, URLs or downloads and too many apps doing one thing – instead of one app that empowers users to do it all. On the enterprise business side, Agenday saves companies significant dollars by dialing the lowest cost route for any conference call—huge for companies with remote teams, regional offices and global customers.

AR: Making a “regular” calendar app is hard enough; how did the development team settle on Agenday’s extra features?

DG: The extra features, such as turn-by-turn directions and weather forecasts, were things that we at the PGi Innovation Lab team wanted in our own lives to add efficiencies to our hectic days. Everything you need to start your day, stay up-to-date on personal and work activities, and grow as a professional are all inside the app. Agenday’s product integrations are designed to ultimately help people in businesses of all sizes, industries and locations be more productive, work smarter and get more done with less hassle. For example, many of our collaboration software power users are executive leaders and salespeople, so the LinkedIn and Salesforce.com integrations were tailored to help them learn more about who they were meeting, as well as log those sales activities in a frictionless way.

AR: How has Android development differed from iOS development? Pros? Cons?

DG: The biggest difference with Agenday for Android is our ability to empower Android users with the productivity widget they need – something that wasn’t available on Android devices before. Android’s greater flexibility and openness allows developers to create powerful apps and serve users right at the moment. A big pro for Android development is the way the app gets permissions versus iOS. Those permissions are critical to getting the productivity gains from the app. Some iOS users are wearing of this, and so don’t get all they can from Agenday. Also, the lock screen widget and ongoing notifications in Android add great usability to our App.

AR: How do you see the app developing down the line?

DG: We have unlimited ideas for our roadmap for Agenday. Our customers will be very happy with the additional productivity items we are already building to remove frictions in their day.

Agenday Smart Calendar is available on the Play Store.

MIRAGE 2.0: unrecorded essence of offline communication

MIRAGE 2.0: unrecorded essence of offline communication

Oct 27, 2014

mobli Media has announced MIRAGE2.0, an updated version of its ephemeral instant messaging app. We got the chance to speak with CEO Moshe Hogeg. “Ephemeral messaging imitates the feeling of a natural, real-life, unrecorded conversation.”

MIRAGE was launched by mobli in July 2014. The stand-alone app is an instant messaging platform that enables users to send and receive messages that disappear after a few seconds. The app’s interface is based on a one-tap principle. As soon as the user opens the app, all of their contacts are immediately available. Even if a contact does not have the app installed, they can receive the message from a link via SMS.

mirage-1

MIRAGE is focused around ephemeral messages: messages that disappear just seconds after the receiver opens them. CEO of mobli Media, Moshe Hogeg, thinks that these kinds of messages are important, because of the way that people communicate in real life. When we say something, the message will disappear as soon as the receiver heard it and there is no non-technical way to retrieve them.

This form of communication is very different when compared to digital communication, where the reader or viewer can always look back at what he or someone else said. “The first generation of communication apps focused mainly on providing us with ways to communicate that were not possible without technology. However, we are now seeing a break away from these forms of now ‘traditional’ communication technologies”, says Hogeg.

“Ephemeral messaging imitates the feeling of a natural, real-life, unrecorded conversation. People are seeking out messaging apps that enable a sense of light, easy and free conversation. We don’t need to examine every word, or make sure that every picture is exactly right. It frees us to have a normal conversation, digitally.” Also, Hogeg would like to point out that nothing is recorded or stored. “It’s making our digital communications real.”

mirage-2

MIRAGE is an app where people can send text, voice, photo and video messages within one application. However, Hogeg doesn’t think that there are ‘too many’ options, compared to apps specifically designed to do one thing. “The user interface is incredibly simple and easy to navigate. Everything can be done with one simple tap.”

“In fact, I think that because we have created an app where users can very simply switch between voice recordings, photo messages, video messages and text messages, whether sending these to an individual or a group, we are making the experience for our users much easier because they can come to MIRAGE, and do all of these things within the one app simply by tapping and swiping the screen. It’s that simple.”

And what it gives them in return is one single app that they can enter to have their online communications that comes with an “incredibly fun and empowering feeling of spontaneity and privacy that emulates their offline interactions”. The MIRAGE app, designed to take the dynamic, spontaneous and unrecorded essence of offline communications into the digital world, is now available in the Google Play Store.

Doodle Jump Creator Igor Pusenjak of Lima Sky the Past, Present, and Future of Doodle Jump, and the Upcoming Doodle Jump Race

Doodle Jump Creator Igor Pusenjak of Lima Sky the Past, Present, and Future of Doodle Jump, and the Upcoming Doodle Jump Race

Apr 25, 2014

Igor Pusenjak is the founder of Lima Sky, known for creating Doodle Jump, one of the most famous games of the iOS and Android era of mobile gaming. Out for five years now, the game is still going strong and has an online multiplayer spinoff, Doodle Jump Race, out now on iOS and coming soon to Android. Pusenjak took some time to speak with me about the past, present, and future of Doodle Jump.

Android Rundown:Is Doodle Jump still doing pretty well for Lima Sky?

Igor Pusenjak:

Yeah, it’s still doing really well for us. It’s been basically a top-50 game on iOS for the last 5 years. In a way, the big thing about Doodle Jump has been the timing to the market, and just of the fact that it’s such a perfectly-tailored app for a mobile device where you just pick it up and play for short bursts of time.

We basically call these apps digital snacks. You’re waiting for a bus, you need something for 30 seconds, boom, you can play it. Even waiting for a subway, same thing. So I think that’s been a big reason and over time it’s basically become one of those classic apps, kind of a must-have, for a mobile device.

Doodle Jump

It’s a similar thing that we’ve see with Flappy Bird and that whole craze, and I guess it gets back to what you were saying with the whole digital snack idea, that we’re kind of seeing developers get back to this point where they’re not making these big and bloated games, there’s a lot more developers that are putting out smaller games, that are snack-sized games, and it’s definitely something that Doodle Jump was there five years before the whole craze got out there.

Right, I think it was actually fantastic to see such a simple game did so well at this specific moment in time because a couple of months ago, it really seemed that in order to launch a game, you really needed to have 3 million levels, and 5000 items in the shop, and all the challenges and all that. And you know, while it’s great, it’s way more content than anyone can consume immediately. So you kind of get lost in that.

I think a platform like mobile is really more open and more captive of a process of a model where you add content over time. It’s sort of like a TV show where you have episodes and you start slowly introducing people to your game, to your plot, and you sort of grow the game along with your audience. Now the trick there obviously is not everyone gets in at episode one, at the very beginning. So you want to add more content. But you don’t want to overwhelm someone starting after a game has been out after two or three years with all the additional content that has gone into it. I think that’s been a big challenge for us.

And I think we’ve done quite well with the original Doodle Jump game where you can go in and press play and it’s not automatically visible that there are so many different worlds to play, so you’re not overwhelmed initially. And then as you start discovering more and wanting more content, it is still there.

Mobile has expanded so much but the game still has this kind of recognition even beyond people that might not have had an iPhone or an Android device, five years ago, three years ago. The game’s just kind of become this kind of mobile gaming cultural icon. How exactly do you cultivate and promote that?

We just continuously support the game. What we’ve been doing is trying to continuously add fresh content to the game, and more recently, we just came out with Doodle Jump Race, which is a similar idea, a digital snack, a really quick game, obviously very different gameplay, but featuring the same characters so thats one thing. The other thing we’ve been doing lately is trying to create some really high-quality consumer products, like merchandising toys and such that we’re planning on launching around this summer. So, just focusing on the quality of what we deliver and continuing to do so over time.

With Doodle Jump Race, it’s out on iOS already, and you said it’s coming to Android soon, correct?

Yeah, we’re working on an Android version. As I’m sure you’re very familiar with, the issues we’ve been having with Android is just there’s so many devices that we need to support. It’s been taking us a little longer to actually be able to create a version that supports all of them, especially because, we’re really trying to make sure it works great on pretty much everything that people have. On Android, it’s a variety of resolutions and processors, especially if you start to go outside the US, where the newest devices are not necessarily the most powerful one, but we’re getting there. Supporting the broad range of Android devices for is an ongoing challenge for us with no perfect solution but fortunately we’ve had partners like Intel, who provide support for independent developers like us. It’s important for us to optimize for new devices, not just quickly port them.

Doodle Jump Race

With Doodle Jump Race, why go with an online multiplayer game for this title?

We’ve been wanting to create a multiplayer title for a while, actually. The first iteration of that was the multiplayer ability that we had in the original Doodle Jump, which unfortunately hasn’t made its way over to Android just yet. It’s available on iOS. That was basically a two-person race, and that’s part of the idea, it would be really interesting to create something like Doodle Jump Arena where you compete in games with more people, in sort of a short burst dynamic environment.

It’s been taking us a while to kind of come up with what the basic premise would be, how it should work, and of course, you start complicating things and creating all these game designs that involve so many different things. And at some point in the process we decided, let’s scale these back as far as we can to the point where there’s absolutely nothing that we can take out of the game before we put it out. And that’s what we did with [Doodle Jump Race]. And it’s been very much going back to the roots of how the original Doodle Jump was created and how it was a very simple but captivating game that we continued to develop over time. And that’s the same premise behind this.

Thanks to Igor Pusenjak for his time.

New Shadowgun: Deadzone Details Revealed from Madfinger Games

New Shadowgun: Deadzone Details Revealed from Madfinger Games

Feb 7, 2012

Madfinger Games are hard at work on expanding the Shadowgun game experience from a singleplayer one to a multiplayer one, with the upcoming Shadowgun: Deadzone. I recently chatted with Madfinger’s Marek Rabas about the game, and got some new details about the upcoming shooter.

First off, Android owners will be glad to know that despite previous reports, the game will not be exclusive to Tegra 3 devices, although they will get to play in an exclusive open beta prior to the game’s official release. The game will be coming to Android first, though, with an iOS release later on.

The game will be to free-to-play. One of the main reasons for doing this was to ensure a bigger user base than if they just released it as an update to the main Shadowgun game. As well, this allows them to do testing on just the multiplayer portion of the game, and to manage the size of the two apps separately.

The exact details of what in-app purchases in Shadowgun: Deadzone will entail is not set in stone yet. The idea is that there will be items for defense, attack, and powerups, but Madfinger wants to keep the game from becoming one where players can just buy their way into being the most powerful player; some items will require players to be of a certain rank in order to unlock before buying. These items will also hopefully help players accentuate the play style of their choice.

As far as gameplay modes are concerned, there will be three main modes at launch: standard free for all and team deathmatch modes, along with an objective-based mode that involves controlling certain points on a map, like the Conquest mode of Battlefield, or Call of Duty’s Domination mode. Marek Rabas commented that the mode will be similar to something seen in a game he previously worked on for PC: Hidden and Dangerous 2.

The game will be flexible, supporting up to 8 players, but will also feature maps for 2 and 4 player play as well. Cross-platform multiplayer is a goal that Madfinger are trying to achieve with Deadzone, specifically the idea of servers specifically meant for iOS versus Android play. The player characters will be customizable, with 8 base character models, although it will not be extremely extensive customization-wise due to the limited hardware of mobile devices.

The game is still deep in the middle of development with many details not set in stone, but more details should be coming to light in the next few months.