November 7, 2017

Amazon Launches New Fire TV and Fire TV Stick Basic

A few weeks ago, Amazon’s Fire TV device suddenly disappeared from their site. We figured it could only mean one thing – new devices were on the way. Well, today is the day. Amazon just launched two new devices: the All-New Fire TV with 4K streaming and Alexa Voice Remote, as well as the Fire TV Stick Basic Edition. The latter is intended to be a global competitor to Chromecast and the former is, as the name suggests, an all-new streaming device set to be a fierce competitor in the Over-the-Top (OTT) space.

The All-New Fire TV

The latest device in the Fire family is only available in the US and UK – if you want Alexa as a voice assistant that is. The new device was released this morning, and viewers are already snatching it up. The latest Fire TV device provides access to thousands of channels, apps, and Alexa skills. With Alexa, Fire TV owners can now play music, order pizza, control smart home devices and lights, or control content by voice. Amazon is selling the new Fire TV for less than the previous device (for slightly more you can pair the Fire TV with an HD Antenna), which suggests Amazon is trying to get Alexa into more homes. If you aren’t interested in Alexa and want something even less expensive, you’re in luck.

Fire TV Stick Basic Edition

The latest Stick works by way of a remote and HDMI dongle. Pretty simple! Plug the dongle (aka Fire TV Stick Basic Edition) into your TV and you’re good to go. Like the new Fire TV, you’ll need a subscription to Amazon Prime to take advantage of a lot of the content accessible via the new Stick.

Whichever device captures your attention, Bottle Rocket can develop for it. Our TV Everywhere and OTT platform serves Amazon devices and delivers a responsive experience and custom look via native development.

June 19, 2017

Top Takeaways from WWDC 2017 that Weren’t in the Keynote

While there were a lot of big announcements during this year’s WWDC Keynote, there were even more our Rocketeers learned during the sessions following it. Some of these barely made an appearance at the conference, but we think they’re some of the most exciting updates yet. If you are interested in learning more about these topics, you are also welcome to watch our webinar that aired Wednesday, June 14, 2017.  Click here to watch.

Business Chat Could Change Everything

Any business large enough to have a call center or customer support group should take note. Business Chat opens a support line directly in iMessages making it easier than ever help solve everyday customer problems with a tool that’s familiar to everyone. This interaction can begin from a button in an app, a link on your website, a CTA in an order confirmation email, or pretty much anywhere else you’d want to put it. Within the chat, you can share files, images, product images and/or videos, and much more. For example, let’s say a customer wanted to upgrade or change their seat on a flight – the airline could send them a layout of the seats available and can even charge for the upgrade through Apple Pay directly in iMessage. If you wanted to schedule a meeting, the details will be saved directly to the calendar.

Business Chat is available today and already integrates with LivePerson, Salesforce, Nuance, and Genesys.

CoreNFC Now Open to Developers

Near Field Communication (NFC) has been around for several years now, and the odds are good that you’ve used it and didn’t even know. NFC can be used for a wide range of applications, but to date it has primarily been used for mobile payment through apps such as Apple Pay. However, that may change very soon as Apple has officially opened the iPhone’s NFC functionality to developers. In true Apple style, they have taken every precaution to ensure user data remains secure. Each session must be initiated by the user and developers can only read, not write, data from an NFC tag. This means there will never be an accidental scan or possibility of someone pulling information from your phone. Brands will be able to leverage NFC for everything from presenting more information about a painting in a museum to adding items to an account in a hotel – but they will not be able to bill you directly from the interaction.

QR Reader Added to Default Camera App

In the United States, QR code sightings can be uncommon depending on where you live. In eastern markets, they are much more common. QR codes failed to reach widespread adoption in America because some didn’t know what to do with them and others didn’t see the value in downloading an app specifically for reading them. Now that Apple has integrated a QR reader into the default Camera app, that could change. However, western adoption of QR codes relies on content creators and advertisers just as much as, if not more than, users interacting with them. QR codes can be used for a wide range of applications such as sharing a playlist, opening a YouTube video, downloading an app, adding an item to a cart, and much more. The more interesting the experience, the more likely users are to give QR codes a try. To best leverage them, think guerilla marketing mixed with surprise and delight – people should feel as though they found something special rather than an advertisement, and where it takes them should almost be a reward.

CoreML Brings Machine Learning to the iPhone

The ways Google and Apple have approached artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are very different. One of the biggest differences is where the “magic” happens. Google’s approach is in the cloud while Apple’s is on-device. Processing the information on the iPhone itself not only provides a much faster experience but a much more private one. CoreML has three offerings at the moment, including Vision for image analysis, Foundation for language processing, and GameplayKit for NPC (non-player character) behavior, pathfinding, and more. While GameplayKit will mostly be used by game developers, Vision and Foundation can be used for a multitude of applications. For example, Vision can be used to recognize barcodes. You could use Vision to show more information about a product after a consumer scans the barcode or, with some training, teach Siri to recognize the product itself so that they can simply take a picture of the product to learn more.

Siri’s New Extensions

Three new extensions are now available to developers through SiriKit. For apps that allow you to make or check off items on a list, Siri can now be integrated into the app to allow users to take actions around those lists. The other two extensions, Points and Domains, can be leveraged for rewards and loyalty points. Points will allow users to ask Siri questions, such as “do I have enough points to book a flight to LA?” and Domains will allow users to scan visual codes such as loyalty points on a purchase to have them automatically added to your account in the app. With Siri’s new extensions, the customer experience in apps can be improved greatly as Siri makes it easier for consumers to keep track and add reward points to their accounts.

The App Store Gets an Overhaul

There are some big changes coming to the App Store. First off, Apple has completely redesigned the store and added several sections to improve the app discovery experience. There will be three primary sections to the store – Apps, Games, and Today. To make it even easier to decide if you want to download an app, Apple has also added the option for developers to upload up to three videos to showcase gameplay, features, and more in apps. What’s even more exciting is that Apple now allows developers to decide if they want to reset their reviews when uploading a new version of an app. Believe it or not, some developers would allow bugs to go unfixed for weeks if they had high ratings for their app to avoid having the ratings potentially drop. Now hotfixes are much less stressful for brands and developers as they can effectively push out several builds of an app and retain their ratings and reviews.

Check back for more updates as these new features and tools become available. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with any other questions you may have.

June 5, 2017

5 Key Takeaways from the WWDC 2017 Keynote

Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) is the tech giant’s biggest event of the year. It kicks off with a keynote where all the device and software updates for the year are unveiled and the rest of the week is spent training developers in attendance to leverage the latest features and API’s Apple has to offer.

While there was no shortage of announcements at this year’s keynote, we’ve picked the top 5 that we’re most excited about and that we believe will have the biggest impact on brands.

Preview of App Drawer in iMessage at WWDC

Quick-Access Drawer for iMessage Apps

Following up from last year’s addition of app extensions in iOS, Apple has now made it easier than ever to access and use iMessage Apps. There will now be a tape of apps featured below the text box in iMessage to quickly select which app you would like to use. This is great for users, but it's even better for brands. Users will be more aware of extensions and can use them faster than before – meaning they’ll also be looking for new apps to use in conversation. Since there is an app store specifically for iMessage extensions, your app is much more likely to be discovered. If you didn’t have an iMessage App before, now might be the time to consider it.

Apple Pay slide during WWDC Keynote

Apple Pay

50% of businesses across the US will soon accept Apple Pay. And we don't expect this trend to slow down anytime soon. Before the end of the year, its likely that businesses that do not accept Apple Pay will be in the minority. However, software is just as important as hardware. Apple announced that the App Store, which has now passed 180 billion in app downloads, has paid out more than $70 billion to developers and 30% of that is from the past year alone. There’s no longer a question of whether you should adopt Apple Pay in your app or in your store, but an imperative to implement both and as soon as possible.

WatchOS native core bluethooth support showcase

WatchOS 4

Apple announced today that there will be a number of new watch faces and workout options for the Apple Watch. What caught our attention was that Apple also added native core Bluetooth support. This may not sound particularly exciting, but we think it is. This opens up a number of opportunities for connected devices and is one step closer to making the Apple Watch a fully connected health and fitness ecosystem. For example, a glucose monitor could be connected to monitor blood sugar levels without having to manually add each test or you could connect a smart tennis racquet to more accurately track your swing. This integration could mean big things for brands, especially those that have already adopted the Apple Watch and are looking for more ways to connect with consumers.

Star Wars VR demo for Metal at WWDC


Metal 2

Metal, Apple’s graphics API, got an update this year – and it’s a big one. Apple not only improved the performance of the API, they added several new applications for it. Metal can now be leveraged for machine learning, it can take advantage of external graphics cards and hardware, and can now even power VR experiences. So, whether you’re playing a game or developing one, creating stunning art or rendering a CG short, Apple has new and improved tools to make it easier and export faster than ever. While gaming and entertainment brands will primarily use Metal 2, any brand looking to add polished animations or visuals to their apps will benefit as well.

Using AR live at WWDC


ARKit

As Apple stated, ARKit will be the largest AR platform overnight. Apps such as Pokémon Go and Snapchat had to develop software that could take what the camera saw and place objects in the real world accordingly. It might sound simple, but its actually quite complex.  Not only does it require immense computing power, but it also leverages complex algorithms to assess the space, as well as the distance of objects from the camera, lighting, etc. Instead of having to develop environmentally-aware software to dynamically place computer generated objects in the real world, ARKit takes care of the heavy lifting so developers can focus on the content. Brands can leverage ARKit for everything from expanding the components in an engine to inspect every element to allowing kids to take a photo with their favorite character from a movie.

June 2, 2017

WWDC 2017: What We’re Excited About

Just as our Rocketeers are coming down from Google I/O fever, Bottle Rocket’s iOS Engineers are gearing up for Apple’s 2017 Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). We’re sending some of our Rocketeers to the event where they anticipate announcements regarding Siri and many other surprises that present and potential clients can use to grow their businesses and further connect with customers. We’ve asked some of our Engineering Jedi (our lead engineers) what they hope to see at WWDC this year. Here’s Russell Mirabelli, Ryan Gant, and Josh Smith with expert insight (and plenty of tech talk).

Apple’s Siri-enabled Speaker

As a potential competitor to Amazon Echo and Google Home, this speaker is rumored to be powered by one of Apple’s own A-series arm processors and run a variant of iOS. It is also thought to use some form of Beats technology and support AirPlay. Expected to carry a premium price, the speaker could feature high-end audio with one woofer and seven tweeters built in. If Apple does release its own smart speaker, our clients could easily leverage the code already written in their iOS apps and bring them into the home. This could be yet another platform our clients could utilize, as it opens up conversational interactions between brands and their customers.

Utilizing machine learning, or SiriKit, within an app could make the difference between having the next new thing, or having an app that'll be outdated and underused in five months. So, brands should watch for the addition of a Siri-enabled smart speaker closely, since there’s a pretty good chance Siri will get some improvements to support it.

SiriKit Improvements

It's a safe bet that we'll get quite a few new intent domains for SiriKit, which will bring Siri integration into many new applications. When Siri expands, it brings with it a whole new way for users to interact with your apps. Imagine asking Siri for something and your app giving you exactly what you want. There’s a good chance Apple will expand SiriKit to include more domains outside of the current Ride Booking, Messaging, Photo Search, Payments, VoIP Calling, Workouts, Climate, and Radio.

If these enhancements occur, we would be able to leverage Siri in both the speaker and on iOS devices in these ways for clients:

  • Order your favorite food with just your voice
  • Instantly play an episode of your favorite show just by asking
  • Determine the newest videos available on your favorite TV anywhere app (or what comes on tonight)
  • Ask Coca-Cola Freestyle to pour a saved mix by voice
  • Perform a search for a flight or hotel and book using only your voice

Developer Tools

Steel yourself—this is straight developer talk. Our iOS developers love new tools. We know what's next in Swift for this year because it's been developed in public, but it will be nice to have those updates rolled out to our developers. Object serialization being incorporated as a language feature has our iOS team excited—this will lead to more consistent code across all our projects.

And, of course, we're about to get some new goodies in Swift. Updates to the compiler will not only help with compile times but, with any luck, we'll also get more useful error messaging, which will increase development speeds and quality of life. Our Rocketeers would also love to see another one of Apple's main apps become more open to extension. Last year we saw a little opening into Apple Maps, and it would be great if they continued expanding that. Something else we hope for, but don't really expect, is easier keychain support. Some developers avoid storing data in the keychain because it requires some C-level API usage. Apple could revamp that interface for easier accessibility via Swift. This would serve all of Apple's users by ensuring that more apps protect user data.

One area that we might see some improvements is in the persistent caching of objects in a local store. Core Data, although powerful, is cumbersome to use in Swift, and writing your cache in a keyed archiver is prone to errors. It'd be fantastic to have a solid solution that's capable of adapting both NSObject subclasses and Swift structs into a lightning-fast storage file format.

This is exciting stuff! Is your brand ready for what may come from WWDC? Keep an eye on our blog for the latest from WWDC, or get in touch and share your vision for engaging your customers via mobile or voice.

May 30, 2017

3 Takeaways from Google I/O 2017

Last week, we hosted a webinar to recap all of the big developments coming out of Google I/O 2017. Here are three key takeaways from the webinar, which featured Bottle Rocket’s Amy Czuchlewski, Luke Wallace, Jared Stockton, and Lee Brown plus some additional news and notes from the year’s most anticipated developer conference.

Getting Conversational

Google Assistant is spreading and improving. Though iOS users will still have Siri available to them, Google Assistant is coming to Apple devices (as well as a number of new Android devices). Many believe Google’s offering to be the superior AI personal assistant, and many improvements to Assistant were announced at I/O. Users will be able to type their questions to Google Assistant in case they’re in a noisy place where words might get crossed (or somewhere they should be quiet—we’re talking to you, guy yapping away in everyone’s ear on the crowded rush hour subway car). If they haven’t already, brands might want to start thinking about planting their flag in the conversational space. A good assistant app and being able to own certain conversations and searches will go a long way in our talk-to-get future.

Interested in how it works? Let Luke tell you the rest. Get your copy of “You Should be Using Google Assistant Apps”.

Kotlin Is Here

We forgive you if hearing the word “Kotlin” doesn’t get you super excited. But maybe it should! That’s because the majority-developer audience at I/O erupted in cheers when it was announced that Google is officially embracing Kotlin, a programming language that, uh, well, is pretty awesome (as you likely by now have gleaned, a developer I am not). But here’s the deal: Kotlin will make app development on Android a heck of a lot easier for programmers, which is a welcome development for all of us. Some Android apps are a bit notorious for being a bit wonky at release or need extra time for updates when compared to their iOS counterparts. That’s partly because iOS apps have been a bit easier to build. Not anymore.

All Around the World

Google Assistant is being rolled out in many new locales and languages across the globe—Brazilian Portuguese, French, German, and more, while Assistant on Google Home is coming to Australia, Canada, France, Germany and Japan by the end of the year. While this is welcome news for consumers and marketers in these markets. Google announced that there are now over 2 billion active Android users around the world. Still, a large percentage of the population remains unconnected, so there remains a focus on how mobility will evolve in places where technology and infrastructure challenges remain. Are apps a good play in emerging markets? That’s why the emergence of Progressive Web Apps is piquing interest. Progressive Web Apps is a way to bring certain parts of a web site to a low connectivity user, essentially mimicking an app experience without the full options or need to download. And some features are even available offline. Progressive Web Apps could end up being a key, low-entry way to reach consumers who are new to the mobile experience and lack powerful connections.

All The Rest:

  • Image recognition will be as big a part of our future as voice-commands; Google Lens offers a view into that future. With Lens, pointing your phone’s camera above a storefront can instantly pull up reviews and other information. Lens can also identify paintings, flowers, buildings. Along with the surprisingly popular Google Photos app, Google isn’t just turning your phone into a visual search and organization tool, it’s collecting a whole bunch of visual data, too.
  • Google will be rolling out standalone Daydream VR headsets that don’t require the use of a smartphone. And for those still using their phones for VR experiences, Samsung Galaxy users will soon be able to hop on the Daydream train. As for AR, the Google Expeditions will be coming to classrooms next school year. The Tango-enabled experience brings virtual, 3-D depictions of things like volcanoes and DNA strands directly into the room with students. While there are many valuable uses for VR and AR, education may be the most socially beneficial.

Read Original Article on Ogilvy.

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