Reimagining UI Design at the Smart Kitchen Summit

***I asked Nick Deeble, our enterprising sales manager, to pass along his thoughts and musings regarding his recent attendance at the Smart Kitchen Summit. Rarely short on words, Nick had the opportunity to talk with a lot of attendees about their challenges with developing UIs for appliances.***

Smart kitchen Crank Storyboard Suite embedded UI development

We recently had the privilege of being a sponsor at the Smart Kitchen Summit, an event that’s a bit of a departure from the shows we regularly attend. SKS is a specialized event, bringing together everything from the latest technologies impacting cooking to robotics to organic farmers and evolving food distribution methods.

Jason Clarke, Crank Software co-founder, participated in a panel discussion “Exploring Voice and AI-Powered Interfaces For The Kitchen.” As an industry veteran in embedded UI development, Jason has years of experience and understanding of user interaction with embedded devices. He’s seen the evolution of technology as many companies try to solve the common problem of visually representing the communication between people and products. Crank’s mission is to simplify bringing that interaction to life. Check out the following interview that Jason did with the great folks at The Spoon:

In addition to the speaking opportunities, we showcased a variety of kitchen appliance demos at the show and had the opportunity to meet with attendees to discuss their challenges with designing and developing products for the embedded market. Included in our demos was an oven control panel provided by GHSP running a UI designed and developed using Crank Storyboard Suite. Feedback on the demo was positive, with attendees being impressed by the aesthetic of the graphics, the fluidity of the animations, and the intuitive nature the User Interfaces Crank demonstrated. We received a lot of compliments about the performance, smoothness, and responsiveness of our UIs. One of our customers, who was showcasing a new appliance with a UI built in Storyboard, popped by our table to thank us for our customer focus and to point out how much better their UI was than the others they were seeing. We will never get tired of that type of feedback.

Challenges in designing for the smart kitchen

A few common themes popped up in our conversations with attendees:

  • Creating a professional and differentiated user experience for embedded devices can be challenging given tight timelines.
  • Because design change is inevitable and there’s a need to continually update UIs to respond to stakeholder feedback and evolving product scope, we had a lot of questions about how we enable iterating and testing UIs using Storyboard to ensure the delivery of a high-quality product throughout the lifecycle.
  • Embedded design and development often requires support for multiple markets, language translation, and custom branding.
  • There’s a shift from home appliances to home experiences. Connecting appliances together, connecting them to the internet, and communicating with them through a mobile device, are all part of the evolving vision of the kitchen

These were just some of the challenges that many appliance manufacturers wanted to chat with us about to hear how we’ve has built these capabilities into the Storyboard Suite GUI development framework. We are going to address this functionality and our thoughts on the future of designing and developing for smart kitchens in a future blog post.

If you want to see multi-market Storyboard Suite demos on your favorite platforms, download one of our easy-to-run demo images.

As always, we provide a full-featured 30-day evaluation for you to test drive Storyboard Suite.

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Tutorial: Defining and Testing UI Communication

One of the most exciting new features from the Storyboard 5.2 release is Storyboard Connector. Storyboard Connector makes it easy for teams to define the events that are passed back and forth between the UI and the backend system processes. Once a team defines their events in Storyboard Connector’s event editor, the UI and system teams are able to develop and iterate faster while working in parallel.

Tutorial: Define and test UI communication

Let’s see it in action! In the video below, Nik will give a quick tutorial on the following capabilities in Storyboard Connector.

  • Define an event
  • Test the event during simulation
  • Export a C/C++ header of the events for the development team

Test drive Storyboard 5.2 for yourself. We provide a full-featured 30-day evaluation for you to try it out first hand.

 

5 capabilities that entrench embedded UI designers in the development process

The following is a post from Fancy Dan, one of our creative and talented in-house designers. Dan uses Storyboard Suite on a daily basis to create awesome user experiences for embedded applications. I asked him to share the top 5 features that make his job easier and his designs awesome.

Storyboard Suite top features

Dan’s top 5 list

  1. Integrate content from Adobe Photoshop » Storyboard brings a .psd file to life
  2. Add and refine motion easily » Easy to use, but do a lot
  3. Layout and position content precisely » Subtle features that go a long way
  4. Enhance user experience with actions » The combination of trigger events, actions, and parameters
  5. Make it real. Touch the design. » From simulator to target

Integrate content from Adobe Photoshop

As a designer, I find working in Storyboard to be a great experience, and a major contributing factor for this is the Photoshop integration. Photoshop has been around for decades, and it plays nicely with Adobe Illustrator, two tools that I use to design and plan a UI. Many of the design-based decisions I make in Photoshop, such as organization, naming, and planning, are brought forward to Storyboard when I import my .psd. When I start working in Storyboard, I’m working on a project that I already have a good handle on because the Application Model in Storyboard is based on the content from my layers view in Photoshop.

With Smart Objects, I’m able to go back into Photoshop and make edits to my Illustrator content or layer effects and bring them back into Storyboard. Because I can import multiple Photoshop files into Storyboard, when I complete one section of the UI design I can bring it into Storyboard and start adding functionality. At the same time, I can continue to work on the UI design for the next section and bring the UI together in Storyboard as each part is ready for import.

What’s extra great?

The Photoshop re-import process. If I change the look and layout of an existing design in Photoshop, I can re-import the artwork into my Storyboard project. The project compares itself to the new Photoshop file and allows me to replace existing content with the new designs and updates the look, size, and positioning from my redesign and retain existing functionality.

Add and refine motion easily

animation_timelineMotion makes a UI come to life, so it’s important to have a workflow that includes working with animations. In Storyboard, working with animations isn’t convoluted. If I want to create, edit, or preview an animation, it’s pretty straightforward. When recording an animation, changes made to the UI are recorded as animation steps and saved. The animation timeline view shows the saved steps. Here I can see the steps in relation to one another and make further edits to the timing, easing rates, and values. Using the animation preview, the animation can be played back, paused, and scrubbed through so that I can see how all of the movements work together.

What’s extra great?

I can quickly create a reversed version of an existing animation, finely tune the ease rate of motion, and apply a single animation to multiple model objects. These capabilities allow me to easily control how things move without having to touch any code.

Layout and position content precisely

When the design is complete, most of the UI layout has been established. Further refinement like adding logic, motion, and additional content is easy with the layout and positioning options in Storyboard.

reference_calculator

Reference point location – The reference point location might appear to be a small detail, but it does a lot for controlling the position and transformation of an object. The reference point location icon is available in the Properties view for dimensions. The top-left reference point shows the x,y location of an object, but selecting another reference point shows and applies transformations based on that relative point. If I want to increase the width of a control by 50 pixels, and have the center point remain the same, I shouldn’t have to move the control 25 pixels to the left and then add 50 pixels to the width. I simply want to add 50 pixels to the width that expands from the middle and let the software figure out the rest.

Property value calculator – An easy way to control the values of a property is to calculate that number in the property field. If I want to move a control 20 pixels left to a third of the way across a screen designed at 720p, I could go to the properties view X: positioning and enter 1280/3-20 (which is the screen width divided by 3, then subtract 20) or enter 1280*.333-20 (which is the screen width multiplied by one-third and then subtract 20) and the X value will automatically calculate 406. If I want a circular progress bar to fill up 43%, I can enter 360*.43 in the Rotation field and the angle will calculate to 154.8º.

Applying some quick math makes it easy to land content in a specific spot. I can apply it to an alpha value, apply it to an offset, or apply it to the timing in an animation. It saves me from going to a separate calculator app, writing it out, or doing it on my phone.

What’s extra great?

Q: Does it use BEDMAS? A: Yes, it does.
Q: What the heck is BEDMAS?

Enhance user experience with actions

It becomes increasingly engaging to work on a UI as it takes on more functionality. Adding actions to the UI improves functionality. There are a lot of combinations and triggers that make actions happen so I’m not limited by what I can do.

Storyboard provides an extensive list of trigger events that goes beyond the basic taps and gestures that are available in most prototyping tools. Many things can trigger an action, such as the completion of an animation, arriving at a particular screen, completed timers, scrolling starts or stops, etc. With a trigger in place, I can select an action. Actions can call an animation, stop an animation, go to a new screen, change some data, start a timer, or, for those who are are scripting savvy, call a Lua event. Depending upon the type, an action’s parameters can vary. An action parameter might cause something to loop, indicate a direction, set a duration, or select an external file. Events can happen any number of ways, to any of the model objects that trigger an event.

What’s extra great?

I can copy an action from one control to other controls. For example, I can copy a screen change action from one button and paste it to other buttons to give them the same functionality.

Make it real. Touch the design.

Working in design, sometimes your work is used only as a representation of the UI. This isn’t limited to UI design. Mock-ups, presenting artboards, and showing prototypes for apps or websites are great, but at the end of the day, seeing the design in the real world and its surrounding context is awesome.

Storyboard keeps the design in the designer’s hands, which enables me to deliver my design vision to the final product. In traditional workflows, this often isn’t the case, and instead, the UI on the embedded device isn’t a reflection of the designer’s work. It’s common for designers to create prototypes that demonstrate how the UI should look and behave, and then provide the development team with the UI assets to create the UI in code. It’s an inefficient workflow to have the development team recreate what the designer has already solved.

Storyboard provides tools that make it easy to quickly export applications directly to hardware for testing. Seeing how an animation runs or how a transition looks on an embedded device gives me insight and confidence that the UI performs as intended. Good design principles value function over form. Using Storyboard, I have everything I need to test how my design will function on an actual target device.

What’s extra great?

I can test my application on an embedded board, make changes to the UI, and then export the app back to the board in under a minute.
*Drops Microphone*

To try Storyboard Suite for yourself (and to feel like a design rockstar), start your free trial now and see how easy it is to create beautiful embedded UIs from concept to production.

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Meet the New Storyboard Suite at Embedded World 2017

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Join us at Embedded World 2017 in Nuremberg, Germany, March 14-16, to experience the latest and greatest in innovative embedded technology. It’s always an exciting show and we will be there again this year with a booth filled with embedded application UI demos built in Storyboard Suite across a number of platforms. Our passionate UI design professionals will be on hand to showcase the latest features and capabilities in Storyboard Suite, our development framework for building beautiful UIs for embedded systems. If you are at the show, stop by Hall 4/4-270 to say hello and check out demo applications we’ve designed. While there, ask us to show you what’s new in Storyboard Suite for 2D and 3D artists and embedded systems developers.

Interact with Storyboard GUI demos on Embedded Hardware

Hardware. We are bringing so much hardware.
We know that embedded teams want to be able to interact with real demos instead of watching edited videos and listening to us boast about features. Our booth will be brimming with multi-market Storyboard demos on a number of platforms, including:

Our UI demos this year cover a wide range of markets, including automotive, home automation, white goods, medical, and kiosk solutions. All demos have been designed and developed in Storyboard Suite, using the latest features from our upcoming 5.0 release.

In addition, you’ll find Storyboard demos in other booths at the show, including NXP (Hall 4A/4A-220), Embedded Artists (Hall 4/4-544), Toradex (Hall 1/1-639), EBV (Hall 3A/Stand 229), TQ-Systems (Hall 1/1-578), and VeriSilicon (Hall 3/3-510).

Follow us on Twitter to see photos and videos from the exhibition floor throughout the week.

Hear us Speak!

We are fortunate to be speaking at Embedded World this year, so reserve some time on March 14th to learn more about our thoughts on and approaches to UI design and development for embedded systems.

Speaker: Thomas Fletcher, VP Research & Development, Crank Software
Time: March 14th, 5:00 – 5:30 PM
Presentation: Keep Designers in the Driver’s Seat and Build Better User Interfaces

Check out Storyboard Suite 5.0

We are getting set to release Storyboard Suite 5.0  and we are excited to show off the features and capabilities we’ve added for embedded UI design teams. Stop by the booth ask to see it in action.

To learn more about what to expect in the Storyboard Suite 5.0 release, check out our recent webinar, now available on-demand.

If you want to get together with us at Embedded World, please contact us to set up a meeting. Alternatively, just drop by our booth and chat with us. We are friendly Canadians and we’d be happy to talk with you about embedded UI design and maybe hockey and cold winters.

As always, we provide a full-featured 30-day evaluation for you to try out Storyboard Suite first hand.

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Driving Excellence in Automotive HMI Design: Storyboard on the NXP i.MX 8 at CES

Whether it’s commuting to and from work, chauffeuring the kids to hockey*, or running errands, we spend countless hours driving on a daily basis. Fortunately for those of us who feel like we live part-time in our cars, technology is evolving at a rapid rate to enhance the driving experience and to allow us to connect with our vehicles more seamlessly and safely.

Storyboard Suite Automotive HMI NXP imx8 CES 2017

If you were at CES last week, you might have noticed a few automotive HMI demos at the show. Every year we see stunning innovation in automotive technology and new features that inspire consumers to hand over their money. (No flying car yet, however.) This year was no exception. CES 2017 showcased the coolest automotive HMI technology from the biggest automakers to small, low-cost suppliers, and everyone in between.

Keeping up with such a fast-growing and ever-changing technology and meeting consumer expectations isn’t an easy feat for automotive HMI design and development teams. Consumer expectations are high. Take a look at your smartphone. Impressive graphics, right? You have a powerful mobile computer that fits in your pocket. It’s a navigation system, audio/video player, and communication device that’s available to you when you need it. We’ve come to expect these same capabilities to be available to us on demand when needed, even in our cars. And we expect them to look great.

So how do teams deliver graphically stunning, connected, responsive, feature-rich automotive HMI experiences? Development teams need a high-performance and reliable processor that can support rich graphics, display to multiple screens, and handle a variety of inputs, such as the NXP i.MX 8. Making high-performance hardware look great and delivering an intuitive user experience is the job of the UI development framework. What consumers see on their car screens is the graphical representation of all of the information and data available to them, from their digital instrument cluster to their in-vehicle infotainment and entertainment displays.

Making Automotive HMIs that meet consumer expectations

It can be challenging for teams to deliver beautiful, user-friendly, and safety-conscious graphical content to a range of automotive displays. They need tools that support the following:

  • Design-centric – Design and user experience are critical to automotive HMIs. To achieve a high-quality design aesthetic and intuitive interaction, it’s critical to keep the designer in control throughout the development process.
  • Collaborative Workflow – Automotive HMIs are often built by teams, not by individuals. The software processes and workflow should support that.
  • Design ChangeIterative design is a reality. From minor tweaks to major updates in artwork, changes can, and should, happen. If it’s painful to iterate the design, it’s more likely that design compromise will occur.
  • Embedded Focus – Hardware for embedded displays has unique capabilities and constraints. The UI development software should have a focus on embedded.

We built Storyboard Suite with these requirements and others in mind. With our vast experience in the embedded marketplace and our focus on making Storyboard Suite feature-rich, yet user-friendly, many companies choose Storyboard for their exciting HMI projects.

Speaking of exciting HMI projects…

NXP showcased a distributed eCockpit and Infotainment at CES 2017 that was built using Storyboard Suite for the i.MX 8.This impressive multi-screen demo was a collaborative effort by NXP and Crank Software and included the following displays:
  • Digital Instrument Cluster
  • Head-up Display
  • In-Vehicle Infotainment
  • Backseat Entertainment

Thanks to the powerful i.MX 8, this demo was able to run four high-resolution screens at frame rates up to 60fps off one processor.

Integrating a mix of 2D and 3D content, the team was able to work collaboratively on the applications using Storyboard’s multi-file support, and seamlessly merge the project files and iterate the design throughout the lifecycle. The 3D models were created with high-fidelity detail to take advantage of the rich GPU capabilities of the i.MX 8.

 

To try Storyboard for your own automotive HMI projects, download a free 30-day trial.

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*So Canadian of me