May 9, 2019

Two To-Do’s and a Word of Caution for Brands from Google I/O 2019

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it – does it make a sound? If a feature is added and nobody can find it – does it exist?

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August 2, 2018

Bottle Rocket’s 3rd Annual QA Bootcamp Recap

Another year, another successful Bottle Rocket Quality Assurance Boot Camp!

Every year, the QA team puts on an informative and interactive event for testers outside of the company. Interested participants come from all over DFW to learn about a variety of topics covering the test approach to mobile and connected devices. This gives people outside of the mobile space a chance to get more exposure to the mobile world as well as how Bottle Rocket’s QA team works – and this particular boot camp was our most successful yet.

In 2017, the QA Bootcamp was a half day affair with about 20 participants.

In 2018, a full day was needed to cover all of the topics given and the audience grew to 25.

But that’s not the only thing that changed – this year, the boot camp had its first ever sponsor. It was so great to be supported by Beacon Hill Staffing Group. As a neighbor in our building, they have seen the boot camps of previous years and wanted to be a part of this year’s fun. Thank you so much for your support!

What Happened at our QA Bootcamp?

Our speakers went over the following areas of interest:

  • Bottle Rocket’s general test approach as it pertains to mobile and connected devices
  • A detailed overview of mobile automation
  • Our preferred testing tools
  • Different mobile platforms
  • Advanced testing types such as performance, security, and load testing

The topics covered were similar to last year’s agenda, but the added time allowed the speakers to go more in depth. A full day event gave them an opportunity to kick up their presentations to the next level. Instead of giving an overview of each idea, they were able to go into more technical details, which gave the attendees a clearer picture of what it would be like to work with these tools and processes. One of the attendees said the experience was “very enriching” and that it “enabled [them] to gain insights and understanding of the concepts of mobile”.

But it wasn’t all lectures – there was also an introduction by our Director of Quality Assurance, awesome guest speakers from our User Experience and Engineering departments, a tour of our quirky space-obsessed office, a fantastic Q&A, and the delicious lunch provided by Beacon Hill Staffing Group.

Why Do We Host Bootcamps?

This type of event is not only a benefit to the participants but also to our QA team and department as a whole. As the saying goes, the best way to learn something is to teach. We believe in giving our team members the opportunity to share what they’ve learned whenever possible because this helps the people they share it with as well as strengthening their own proficiency in the subject. The QA Boot Camp is a great way to do this.

One of our new presenters this year, Jyoti Pothukuchi, commented that “sessions like this help us share our expertise and experience with the testing community” as well as “helping us improve based on the feedback”. Another presenter, AJ Mejorado, called out that the audience “had a series of really great questions during the Q&A panel” and that this gives us “an updated perspective on how many individuals in the area are really interested in not only QA but also in increasing their knowledge and skillset”.

In the end, connecting with people who share our passion for quality is what keeps us working hard on this event every year. The increase in attendees this year really boosted the amount of feedback and questions we received, so thank you so much if you were able to come and participate!

If this year’s growth is any indication, you won’t want to miss next year’s boot camp. Look out for the LinkedIn post for more details.

June 26, 2018

Bottle Rocket’s 7th Annual Rocket Science Hackathon

Rumblings of newly released features and tools from WWDC and Google I/O have subsided, but that doesn’t mean we’ve moved on from them. Quite the opposite, really.

Each year, we set aside two full days of work to explore emerging technologies, challenge ourselves to learn something new, collaborate with our co-workers, and make something amazing. Bottle Rocket’s annual two-day hackathon, Rocket Science, is a chance for all Rocketeers to explore new technologies or interests while creating something fun for the office or potentially life-changing for its users.

With nearly 30 projects this year, this recap would be a little hefty if we were to cover them all. So, here’s 5 that we can’t stop talking about.

hands holding an iPhone displaying current location on map

Project Title: CF Alert
Tech Explored: Progressive Web Apps (PWA)

Cystic Fibrosis is a devastating disease afflicting more 30,000 Americans with more than 75 percent of those diagnosed before turning two years old. As if that weren’t enough, children with Cystic Fibrosis cannot be within approximately 20 feet of each other due to the risk of transferring bacteria that can lead to serious infection in other patients. With that in mind, team CF Alert built a proof of concept PWA that would notify parents when another parent of a Cystic Fibrosis child was within 20 feet of them. This PWA concept was simple, elegant, and easy to use, and could potentially be life-saving for families coping with this serious condition.

Russell Mirabelli presents the Metal Detector App

Project Title: How Metal Am I?
Tech Explored: Create ML and CoreML

Leveraging Machine Learning for image and audio frequency analysis, this team looked to answer just how METAL something was. Simply snap a photo or let the “Metal Detector” app listen to the sounds around you and it will provide a Metal Quotient for how hardcore it is. While showcasing the app in the photo above, Russell took a selfie which resulted in a 34% Metal score, which is probably largely due to the Led Zeppelin shirt.

Project Title: Empathy Lab
Tech Explored: Analog

Several accessibility experts at Bottle Rocket worked together to create a truly interactive experience to help others empathize with those that are not able to use traditional inputs for technology that we interact with on a daily basis. For instance, how do you tap on a touch screen when you are unable to use your hands? This team set out to convey those struggles. Seen at the top of this page, the blue bar in the image is actually a form of crosshair that will move across the screen and stop when a Switch is triggered. From there, another horizontal line will appear, and the process is repeated. The user must time their taps to intersect the blue lines over the icon or button they want to click. It’s difficult to imagine what it’s like to have to use these devices in everyday life, but this experience definitely shed some light on the importance of designing with these needs in mind.

MacBook and Google Home sitting on table

Project Title: Device Manager Voice App
Tech Explored: Google Assistant and Firebase

As Digital Voice Assistant adoption continues to rise, we continue to look for applications of the devices that go beyond simple “questions and answers.” Just as the name says, this team was able to use a Google Assistant App to manage our Quality Assurance device cabinet (which by the way currently includes over 400 devices). Instead of picking out a device, walking up to the checkout system, entering your name, scrolling to find the device (you get the picture), Rocketeers can now walk up and have a conversation with Google to expedite the checkout process.

NERF gun altered to include Arduino hardware

Project Title: BLAST'EM
Tech Explored: Image recognition, Arduino, Machine Learning

Tired of Imperials marching across your lawn? BLAST ‘EM has a solution to rid you of those pesky Stormtroopers. By combining Machine Learning and Arduino supplies, this team was able to create an automated Nerf gun that could recognize a Stormtrooper and fire after finding the target. The best part? They saw about a 25% success rate when using a paper mask, but nearly 100% success rate once Founder and CEO, Calvin Carter, ran over and grabbed his homemade Stormtrooper helmet.

CEO, Calvin Carter, is shot by NERF gun while wearing stormtrooper helmet

As this year’s 7th annual Rocket Science comes to a close, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention just a few other notable projects that our Rocketeers conceived and created over the course of 48 hours.

  • AR Smile: An Augmented Reality app that would place emojis where it detected smiles and frowns in a room
  • Mix Up: A PWA for creating and rating cocktails
  • OWL Stats ML: A Machine Learning model that attempted to predict winners of Major League Gaming competitions
  • AR Multi-Player Piano: An Augmented Reality app that allows multiple people to place virtual keyboards in the real world – then play them and record the audio from their session
  • Kegerator 3.0: A team that created a display for the “Double Tap” Kegerator with an app that allows Rocketeers to see what beers are currently available along with the ability to rate them

Our “favorite fail” of the year goes to a team that attempted to teach a computer to play Mario Kart on an iPad, only to find out the emulator and Machine Learning model required different versions of iOS.

Want to learn more about the technologies used in this year’s Rocket Science and how they can benefit your business? Contact us today.

June 4, 2018

The Most Important Feature for Brands from the WWDC 2018 Keynote

Every year, developers make the Great Migration to Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). This week-long event is where Apple announces all the latest tech and tools coming to the suite of Apple products. Like Google I/O, WWDC kicks off with a keynote that hints at all the things that are to come throughout the rest of the week.

This year, it seems many tech companies are focusing on “quality of life” (QOL). Usually the phrase “quality of life update” refers to a software update that makes many changes to an application or game to improve the overall experience – usually a combination of bug fixes, interface tweaks, performance enhancements, and anything else that improves someone’s experience with a particular piece of software. However, most recently, we’ve noticed more and more emphasis being placed on the user’s QOL rather than the software. Both Apple and Google have released features to help users spend less time on their phone and more time with those around them. Digital Health is not a new concept, but it does seem to have gone by the wayside in recent years. Although not the one key takeaway that we chose to highlight in this article (but it was a close second), we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the hot topic of app optimization. Quite a bit of time was spent covering how developers could and should optimize apps in every way possible – in file size, performance, and amount of time users need to spend in it to accomplish the desired task (which you should be doing anyway).

Speaking of QOL, Apple spent a majority of the keynote announcing new features for their apps and devices. Things like Search Suggestions for photos, updates and UI changes for several first-party apps, new workouts on the Apple Watch, and much more. They also announced that you could FaceTime with 32 people while using your own emoji, aptly named Memojies (below).

Tim Cook and other Apple employees using Facetime and the new memojies

A majority of these updates benefited the ultimate end users of Apple devices while some helped developers more easily and effectively build on Apple’s platforms. There was, however, one update that stood out above the rest as the “killer feature” for apps this year. And that feature, is Siri Shortcuts.

Siri Shortcuts

These. Are. Big. Siri Shortcuts will change how a lot of people interact with a lot of apps. Since the emergence of DVAs (Digital Voice Assistants), the biggest barrier for adoption has been the learning curve for users. “What can I ask it? Was it how I phrased it? I didn’t want it to open that app to do ____.” are all statements you may have muttered to yourself when trying to communicate with your Google Home, Home Pod, or Amazon Echo. But Siri Shortcuts are going to change that. Instead of adding voice-controlled features to an app that users may or may not ever discover, developers can now prompt users with a button to “Add to Siri.” This does not add a particular action to Siri­­, but instead it allows users to create their own custom phrase to activate a certain feature that the app allows. For example, instead of having to say “Hey Siri, play my ‘Running’ playlist in Spotify,” someone can create a custom phrase for “Hey Siri, I’m going on a run” and the outcome will be the same.

arrow pointing to an iPhone X displaying Siri Shortcut

This doesn’t sound like much, but this could change Siri’s role to many as a peripheral accessory of the iPhone to an app necessity. Instead of having to try several times to get a request to work, users can simply make their own. As we aren’t exactly sure on how this will work just yet, we are assuming it will be based on deep linking.

example actions in a Siri Shortcut series

Another reason apps need to be Siri-ready is that Shortcuts will not just be for individual actions, but for a series of actions. Seen above, when asked “how’s the surf,” Siri began running through the requests the user had previously set up – like checking the weather and getting directions to the beach. Other examples Apple provided were Siri Shortcuts for “time to go home” or “let’s go to work.” In the “let’s go to work” example, Siri automatically knew to order a coffee from Starbucks that the user gets on the way to the office every day. So, for example, if your brand allows pick-up for groceries, you may want to integrate Siri in a way that allows people to create a grocery list of common items they need each week so users can order with a simple phrase.

Platform State of the Union keynote slide explaining the best uses for Siri Actions

By creating useful Siri integrations that can become part of a larger, daily/weekly/monthly routine instead of a one-off request, branded apps can quickly become a necessity of life even if they aren’t being manually launched. Like in the example above, the user with the morning routine didn’t open the Starbucks app, but they still bought a coffee.

Stay tuned for more from Apple’s developer conference or contact us today to learn more about Siri Shortcuts and how your brand can best leverage them.

March 20, 2017

SXSW 2017: The Big Stuff

We sent Rocketeers across disciplines to SXSW this year to learn what the future has in store for technology and users. Art directors, client and sales executives, and our top brass absorbed all they could. They came away with a lot of information, but here’s the big stuff we found most interesting.

 

The end of "user,” a new start for “experience”

SXSW was populated with experiences. Whether to entertain or inform or possibly both, attendees were immersed in brands and concepts that sought to provide certain feelings or an understanding of something by engaging as many senses as possible. The experiences weren't about UI or overtly tactical things, but about understanding context and how to properly use that to impact people. So, we can move from "user" to “experience," because that's what is truly meaningful to people.

An overwhelming desire to create experiences that connect people

Brands and technologies use the screen to find each other and themselves. There are so many things attempting to replace human interactions- self-driving cars, robots, smart agents, virtual assistants, but we must remember we are all humans and nothing can replace what happens when humans band together. Vint Cerf, one of the internet’s creators, explained that he feels that the internet isn’t currently a safe place, but we need it to connect to one another. One of the more interesting points he made: internet architecture should be implemented alongside roads and bridges, because it is just as vital and important.

Even NASA is using the power of connection by crowd sourcing solutions to long-pondered problems. Recently, they reimagined exploration with the help of robotics and hackathons. Explorers used to take everything they needed with them in their boat or rocket ship. This only allowed us to go so far and see so much. NASA realized their travel limitations and determined reaching the farthest depths of space required sending our supplies ahead of time. With the help of a robot that unpacks our suitcases, we can take a six-month journey to a faraway planet with the hope of returning someday.

Futuristic Experiences

Remember when most of the things we use daily now were once visions of the future? There was a lot of that at SXSW. NASA showed off their use of AR/VR, including 360 video to not only deliver space experiences to the public, but also train astronauts for future missions to Mars and space. NASA, with one of the largest exhibition booths at SXSW, let visitors wear a HoloLens to experience a simulated walk on Mars.

Hiroshi Ishiguro from Osaka University and Ryuichiro Higashinaka from NTT demoed human-robot conversation. This was a mind-blowing change from task-based bots (e.g. Alexa, Siri). These engineers posed a question, “Is sushi better than ramen?” The robots and humans went on to have a discussion with no script, and robots only responded based on their subject matter expertise. To witness this was extremely fun!

The Reality of AR/VR

From NASA to Home Depot, SXSW held many AR/VR branded experiences. We learned of Home Depot’s virtual reality experience that helps create efficiencies in their supply chain by teaching users how to maximize cargo space for shipping goods to stores. One of the most interesting examples of this was at the National Geographic Base Camp bar, featuring a Microsoft HoloLens AR experience that blended our physical surroundings with digital educational representations of Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity right before our eyes.

 

What educational, entertainment, or brand experiences will we see in the future from this technology? That’s up to brands and the partners that help them make those ideas a reality (however you want to qualify that).

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