May 11, 2018

Google I/O 2018 Rocketeer Recap  – Day 3

If you’re reading this, Google I/O is now over. Mountain View may be quiet once more, but the excitement from Google I/O is far from over. Sure, the conference is now said and done, but the learnings continue. Google records nearly every single session for developers as it is near impossible to attend every one that may be of interest. So, our developers will continue to search through the depths of Google’s resources to find the latest and greatest to bring to our clients.

For the final day of Google I/O, we wanted to take a moment and share a few favorite updates and pieces of technology that our developers saw during their final day of Google I/O.

Google Maps APIs for Gaming

Pokémon Go was an interesting case in human behavior. It spread like wildfire and quickly resulted in countless news stories of individuals getting hit by cars, falling off motorcycles, climbing into active construction zones and more (example 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6… you get the idea). Now, Google has a solution for that too. Android Engineer, Chris Koeberle, stumbled across this limited-release project Google has been working on. To avoid another craze like Pokemon Go, Google is working to create “safe-zones” where events can occur in GPS-based games, like public parks and malls. They’re also working to cut down development time by making it easier to skin Google Maps using Unity. Again, this is not available to everyone, but we don’t expect it to stay that way forever.

Firebase at Work

With so many platforms, app integrations, and more appearing these days, it’s hard to know which ones are truly reliable. Whether they lose support in months or are rife with bugs, many are extremely skeptical about these services. However, Senior Technical Architect, Jonathan Campos, wanted to be sure this isn’t applied to every service out there. “One of the worst rumors plaguing companies is that Firebase isn’t a ‘real’ platform. Rumblings of scalability and security that ‘true’ developers desire isn’t available with Firebase – but none of this has any credible backing. It may have been true when it released, but it shouldn’t be grouped with these bad actors any longer. Firebase is different. Firebase is secure. Firebase is scalable. It can support projects on a global scale and is up-to-date with the latest security standards. It is really impressive how much you can do if you just make the leap.”

Android Things

Powered by IoT Core, Android Things has more support than ever. To put it simply, Android Things is a suite of components and devices that play nice with the Android ecosystem. Instead of fighting to have your little device communicate with your phone, you can spend the bulk of your time making the magic happen.

tensorflow gimbal demo

Director of Android Engineering, Luke Wallace, snapped this photo for us. As it says on the plaque, “This is a gimbal stabilizer built with a raspberry pi and taught with Google’s TensorFlow Lite Machine Learning technology.” If you’re unfamiliar, gimbal stabilizers rotate and turn cameras to keep it focused on a particular object. In this case, the ML modal learned which direction it would need to twist the camera to keep the subject in view. Another awesome Android Things project on display was a sentinel that can monitor your house while you’re away.

Closing out Google I/O

All good things must come to an end, and so must Google I/O 2018. Before we close out the week, we’d like to take a moment to thank our Rocketeers for keeping us informed on the latest and greatest from Google.

Rocketeers stand in front of Google I/O statue

The Best is Yet to Come

Be sure to revisit over the next few weeks as we take a deep dive into the new technologies offered by Google. We’ll be looking at how Google’s efforts are improving the human experience, changing how users interact with technology, and how businesses can harness these innovations to improve their own projects and offerings.

If you cannot wait until then, contact us today to learn more about the changes coming to the Android ecosystem, Google’s new Machine Learning and Cloud technologies, and how all of these can improve the way businesses serve their customers.

May 10, 2018

Google I/O 2018 Rocketeer Recap – Day 2: A Day for Developers

Google shocked the world with its appointment-booking, conversational AI, Assistant Duplex, when the conference began. They covered new UI elements in Android P, unveiled their new TPU 3.0 servers that power their Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, and announced Google Assistant will help teach children to say "please" and free up time on your calendar. Believe it or not, all of these announcements were made in the first two hours of the conference. So, what could Google possibly have in store the next two days of I/O 2018? We’re glad you asked.

While a lot of these might not be as flashy as an AI that makes phone calls, there’s no shortage of new and/or updated tools for developers to leverage in the coming year. Here’s what caught the attention of our Rocketeers during the second day of Google’s annual developer conference.

Android Jetpack

Developers can’t just write code and expect it to run perfectly, it needs to be tested – the more often, the better. Back in the day (like last week) developers had to decide whether they wanted to run it on the machine they’re using for development or on a device. Now, they can simply choose which they would like to test, and Jetpack will take care of the rest. The Jetpack Test will even simulate the conditions an Android device “in the wild” would face to make the test more accurate.

Angular

For many companies, Angular is the basis for the majority of their Web Applications. As the reigning king of Web Applications, new features and improvements directly correspond to improvements in applications. Here are a few features that Senior Technical Architect, Jonathan Campos, found to be the most exciting:

Schematics – Customize the generated code for an application; improves development speed.

Angular Universal – A way to render out Angular applications at first request by a user; improves first draw speed and user experience.

Angular Elements – Allows rendering of Angular components without needing to include the entire Angular framework on a webpage.

Ivy Renderer – This remarkable change in rendering can both reduce bundle sizes and improve the initial load time of an application by removing unused code and only compiling the necessary code that changed between releases.

Core IoT

The Internet of Things (IoT) continues to grow, but it’s not getting any easier to manage – until now. Google’s new IoT management tool, Cloud IoT Core, will make it much easier to manage, connect, and grow IoT ecosystems that seamlessly connect to Google’s Cloud Platform (GCP). It’s not just the development that’s streamlined; analytics are also more manageable than ever.

Lighthouse

An underrated feature hidden in Chrome, Lighthouse helps web developers pinpoint areas for optimization to increase the performance of websites. As of I/O 2018, Google is expanding on its feature set. One feature that will help companies the most in monitoring their sites is the added Lighthouse API. This way, businesses can integrate diagnostics right into their Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery pipelines.

Photos

Google Photos is great on its own, but it doesn’t play well with others. As users take photos, Google Photos is great for backing up and indexing those images. However, finding an image in another app, like a photo editor, can result in minutes of searching through device folders. Yesterday, Google introduced a developer API for Google Photos. This will allow user-permitted apps to search through images directly or by using categories like “documents” or “selfies” as a filter. Director of Android Engineering, Luke Wallace, had this to say about the new API: “Imagine picking a profile photo by just seeing your last 10 selfies in Google Photos, it would be so much quicker than it is today! The API allows for basic filtering of photos, adding photos to Google Photos, creating albums, and even enhancing the albums with more information around the photos like descriptions and map views.”

Support Library

Unless an app has a singular purpose, it’s going to need a menu – among other things. Instead of starting from scratch each time, Google has made it easier than ever to edit UI components for Material Design in the support library. Now, instead of having to reinvent the wheel every time you want a custom interface, you can start with something that resembles a wheel and modify where you see fit. The best part? It’s not just for apps! The support library provides UI components that can be used for Android, iOS, web, Flutter and React.

WorkManager

A lot happens behind-the-scenes when actively using an app and when it’s running in the background. Ever put your phone in your pocket and it seemed unusually warm? It’s probably due to an unoptimized app ravaging your CPU. That’s why Google made WorkManager. With this nifty tool, developers have more visibility into solutions for background work – which will ultimately help developers make more battery-friendly apps.

Closing out Day 2

While this may seem like a lot, this is just the tip of the iceberg. It seems no service, tool, or platform was left untouched this year. What’s even more astonishing is that Google has more releases on the way. Some of the updates we’re learning about are just now being released to the public and some aren’t even out yet. So, be sure to check in every now and then as we explore even more of these new features and services from Google.

Until then, if you’d like to hear more about the updates coming to Android and how Google’s services can improve both your iOS and Android applications, contact us today.

March 15, 2018

Bottle Rocket’s Olympic Hackathon

Over the past week, our developers have been hard at work on (loosely) Olympic-themed projects using the latest features and resources available from Apple, Google, and anything else that caught their attention. Before we dive into the projects and who ended up winning, we wanted to explain the importance of hackathons to Bottle Rocket's culture.

Learn about our yearly hackathon, Rocket Science.

Taking a Moment to Try: 3 Reasons Hackathons Matter

Reason 1: Trial by Tepid Fire

Each year, the tech giants that power the computers in our pockets release a wide range of new features and capabilities for their platforms – though some features you might not see until the following year. Whether the feature is in Beta or because we haven't found a need for it in a client's app, it is important to take the time to learn and play with them anyway. We’d rather constantly run into roadblocks building an app that literally has no purpose instead of discovering the problems in an active project.

Reason 2: They’re Fun

When asked about hackathons, a Rocketeer involved in the event said, “I used to think hackathons were just for kids and college students, but I couldn’t be more wrong. They’re fun, fast-paced, and exciting, which is a great way to get students involved, but they’re still just as fun for adults.” Hackathons are a time away from the pressure of client work, where failure is without consequence. There’s no breaking of keyboards, just laughing along with the insanity of it all.

Reason 3: They Reduce Time-to-Market

Unknowns are the bane of project estimations. The more we know about the tech in question, the fewer variables there are in planning. Instead of jumping into a project that suddenly doubles in duration due to unforeseen problems with a feature or how to best implement it, hackathons give us the time to learn everything we need to know. Then, when the time comes to add a new feature for a client, we already know what to expect.

But enough about hackathons, here’s what happened in our latest event.

Results of Our Olympic Hackathon

In First Place: The PIPlads

This team (seen in photo above) explored the new Android feature Picture-in-Picture mode. The goal was to have a live scoreboard of country medal counts displayed as you use your phone for other day-to-day tasks. They were able to get a functioning prototype completed and even discovered a few fun facts along the way. For instance, they found that if you make the aspect ratio of the minimized screen to extreme, it’ll crash. Also, they found that you could make the panel transparent – a totally useless feature unless you want to confuse your users, but a cool find nonetheless.

Testing Connectivity in iOS 11 by playing a game on two different, emulated devices

Second: The Gas House Gang

Seeking to better understand the capabilities of connectivity in iOS 11, The Gas House Gang made a curling(-like) game in which you slide pucks into area marked with a target. The reason this is interesting is that they had it running in two different applications – not the same application on two devices, but two different applications. While this might not sound like a feat, it shows the potential of having two completely different applications updating in real time to display information from each other.

taking pictures of a muffin and watching it post to the application

Third: The Things

Riding off the concept of tracking athletes’ diets, The Things explored one of the newer sides of IoT devices in the Android ecosystem – Android Things. Using a Raspberry Pi, the team had a functioning prototype that allowed them to photograph the food they were about to eat and then automatically post it to a channel of their choice. This could, for example, allow athletes to easily snap a photo and share it with their dietitian with the click of a button.

Honorable Mentions

Everyone’s a winner in our eyes when it comes to hackathons. While some may not have finished, others found that the technology they were trying to leverage was actually not ready for the spotlight.

Brand New Wizbangs

This team put Apple’s ARKit 2D image detection and face mapping to the test with this face-painting experience. However, they ran into a roadblock trying to merge some features as the application would not allow it and crashed during each attempt to do so.

Javelin

Leveraging Android’s Autofill Framework and Firebase Realtime Database, Javelin worked to create an up-to-date, real-time database that could update information and provide it as an autofill suggestion on the fly.

Alloy

Alloy explored Metal, Apple’s proprietary graphics processing engine, and was able to have the five rings of the Olympics animated used 1,000 triangles.

Monads

The Monads used GraphQL and gRPC to solve API request issues and better refine the answer to a single request from a database instead of having to pull data in multiple requests.

Got an idea for your business but not sure where or how to start? Reach out to Bottle Rocket. We may just have an answer for you.

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