Over the last couple of weeks I've had some free time on my hands and wanted to see what was going on in the Flash community of late. It seems like the guys on the Adobe Evangelist team have got it right when they said the year would be a good one for Flash devs (not that any of us were sweating right!). With lots of cool projects on the Flash horizon I thought I'd put together a quick post on some interesting projects I'd been able to play with and those I'd seen on the radar.
Air 2.6... App store here we come!
Big news for most of us came in mid March when Adobe announced the launch of the Air 2.6 SDK and runtime. It wasn't just the API updates to the SDK but how it was handled on IOS devices. When Adobe first announced their iPhone packager last year the tests all proved that it was something that would be a great feature to have but did little to convince us let alone clients of it's potential in the current market. Programs displayed a clear lag and were just generally not of a good enough quality to deliver live projects on. The Air 2.6 launch proved for the first time that things were shaping up and there was a clear sign that we could one day see apps running almost/ as fast as their native equivalents. Here's my own personal post on a test application I put together to see how well an IOS packaged Air application can run.
Flash and the XBox Kinect
Now we all heard Microsoft views on the Kinect being hacked within days of launch. Not that the $3000 bounty to the first person to create a PC hack for the device made a difference. Big news for the Flash community came when these C# projects found their way onto the Flash platform through projects such as Koji Kimura's Socket server application to allow communication between the Microsoft Kinect and Flash. In terms of where this technology can go it's clear to see how demos such as these have implemented or could implement such technology... Adidas virtual shoe wall, Blitz Flash Kinect Demo, Kinect & Flash - Interaction Studies and one last one... Kinect Experiments by Computerlovers.
SURF - 2nd Generation AR
This is something of interest personally after a recent trip to the toy department of a local store where Lego had an interactive kiosk similar to the one shown in this video. Now at first I thought it was a simple case of hidden AR patterns but through recent research I have discovered ASSurf. Now I'm not sure if this is the technology used but I'd imagine it could be. To quote the development team... "SURF (Speeded Up Robust Features) is a robust image descriptor, first presented by Herbert Bay et al. in 2006, that can be used in computer vision tasks like object recognition or 3D reconstruction. SURF is based on sums of 2D Haar wavelet responses and makes an efficient use of integral images. As basic image features it uses a Haar wavelet approximation of the determinant of Hessian blob detector." I will let you explore this for yourself but think of it as the next generation of AR.
QR Codes.. but in Flash
We've all seen QR codes popping up everything from magazines to even TV commercials. Love them or hate them they are going to be around for a while and with many devices being able to read them it answers the question of why you might want to use them in your Flash project. We're not talking about your latest client website... but how about if you had created a mobile gaming app where users were able to read codes presented in their physical environment through their device's camera and then incorporate these to a mobile treasure hunt application... get where I'm going? Well now we can, thanks to Zxing, a project that allows you to create and decode a number of different 1D and 2D barcodes (including QR codes). A quick note to make also it that these small images are able to represent up to 4,296 characters so with a little imagination it's possible to do a bit more than simply direct the user to an URL.
The Blackberry Playbook
I remember a previous employer giving a presentation on customer loyalty and on the top end of the scale using Apple as the company many strive to be. It was a simple case of whatever product Apple release people will still go out and buy it. The whole debate of the iPad as changing the way we use computers got a lot of people talking when it first launched. It was only a matter of time before the others would although I feel it would be fair to say that Apple are still leading the tablet market. In the next couple of weeks it looks like there's a new kid in town as Blackberry are finally set to launch the much anticapted Playbook. The big news for the Flash community is that the device will support Flash player 10 as well as Air applications. I feel it's also important to mention that I feel Blackberry have so far done a good job with getting the Flash community involved through the Free Playbook Offer and listening to developers to improve the signing and approvals process developers have to follow to successfully launch apps. I feel until a few months have passed though it will be unfair to give a full decision on the device.
None of these points are going to be the make or break of the Flash platform, but are examples of how technology is being bought to the Flash developers toolkit and how they can deliver their products. The most important point to acknowledge is something Charles Schulze recently quoted during the release video of his Comb Over Charlie App, where he made the point of stating that it no longer takes several months to deliver a product to multiple platforms. To elaborate on this this imagine a client who wishes to launch a product on the web, an Android device, IOS device and Google TV? They would no longer necessarily need to employ a web, IOS and Android developer to create a product that would run across multiple user base devices - one Flash developer/ team that could create the product that once created would only take minimal time to bring to each delivery platform - the best bit... I can't help but feel most of this is due to the success of the Apple App store... would we necessarily have Android, Google and Blackberry stores without it?