2 weeks with the HP Mini 210 Vivienne Tam

8 06 2010

HP Mini 210 Vivienne Tam

Yup! The title says it. I am My mum is now the proud owner of a HP Mini 210 Vivienne Tam, thanks to the kind folks at HP and Waggener Edstrom. I’ve been looking at Netbooks for quite a bit but never gotten down to owning one as I find them underpowered and undersized for my common activities (e.g: design and coding). Nevertheless, I put it in the hands of my shopaholic mum to see how the laptop fairs among its target group of users.

Windows 7 on a Netbook
When my mum first started the laptop, it loaded the Windows 7 OS immediately (instead of Splashtop HP Quickweb) so she ended up being disappointed with the speed of startup. It really did take quite a while (3 minutes) and the system response was slow even for simple activities like browsing the Internet. I think Win 7 is really too heavy duty to run smoothly on a netbook, especially if you’re used to the speed your conventional laptop and desktops have been providing.

Splashtop OS


The simple, Splashtop interface with a background that complements the exterior design

On the 2nd bootup, the HP Mini 210 launched the Splashtop HP Quickweb first. For those who are unfamiliar with this, Splashtop is like a mini lightweight OS that can perform the basic activities of a laptop. The activities you can perform are:
1) Surf the web
2) Instant Messaging (pretty nifty messenger that can support multiple chat accounts from multiple platforms)
3) Skype
4) Calendar
5) Media player (pictures, videos and music)
6) Email

From Splashtop, you can choose to launch Windows 7 if you wish to do other more heavy duty activities. Honestly, the Splashtop OS is really good. It covers all the basic activities you’d want to do with the netbook, and does it really well. Booting up only takes at most 10 seconds (yea!!) and it runs very smoothly. My mum was having such a pleasant experience with the OS that she has not seen the need to launch Windows 7 thus far.

Web Cam
Interestingly, Splashtop comes with a “Mirror” feature which lets you see yourself on the laptop. I guess they built this in for girls who want to ensure their appearance is tip top at all times. We checked the quality by video conferencing with my dad and based on his feedback, the webcam is sharp and has quite good coloring, albeit a bit laggy when there’s motion at times.

Splashtop Browser
I’m not sure if this is an issue with the netbook’s specs of the Splashtop browser.. but sites with AJAX loading (like the non-HTML version of Gmail) causes lags and random jumps when scrolling. Also, while I was typing an e-mail reply on Gmail, the text cursor kept jumping back to random positions in earlier parts of the page. In the HTML version of Gmail however this does not happen. I recommend all users to use the HTML version of any mail client they have to avoid this from happening, else you’d be pulling your hair out from typing those e-mail replies.

Design & Weight

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Butterfly design on the cover

Very light. Mum has been carrying it in her handbag for a couple of days when visiting relatives and does not find any discomfort in carrying it around. Also, it is an attention grabber wherever we go, be it in a restaurant, friend’s house or cafe. Lots of people use netbooks at cafes nowadays but they still turn to stare when mum whips out the HP Mini 210 Vivienne Tam. Guess designer products really do have a different touch of class to them. :)

Overall
Looking at my mum’s experience with the digital clutch, the HP Mini 210 Vivienne Tam definitely does its owners proud in terms of both usability and design. Although underpowered for my tastes, it is adequate for people who are always on the move and looking for a product to perform basic functions like e-mail, web surfing and Skype whenever they’re sipping a cup of coffee. If you’re the above and a fashionista chic, consider getting the HP Mini 210 Vivienne Tam. You’d enjoy all the attention and class it gives onlookers :)





Mini Laptop for a fashionista!

1 05 2010


HP Mini 1104NR by Vivienne Tam

Sometime back we saw the strikingly red hot HP Mini 1104NR designed by Vivienne Tam. Seeing the success of a laptop designed for fashion-forward people, Vivienne Tam and HP has collaborated once again to give us the….


..tada! HP Mini 210!

When I first saw pics of this, I went “I GOTTA GET THIS FOR MY MUM!”. Never mind the specs. The design itself is definitely a fashion statement and eye catcher when roaming down the street or sitting in a cafe. It is perfect for those who want something really light, basic but yet fashionable at the same time. I know, a Macbook grabs attention too but not the same kind of attention this designer product will be getting especially for fashion-forward girls (and no girl in high heels and a pretty handbag would want to lug a heavy Macbook around with all that shopping!!).

When Amelia from Waggener Edstrom approached me with the opportunity to participate in the blogger’s competition, I just had to take up the opportunity right away. With Mother’s Day around the corner, this laptop will definitely be the perfect addition to her wardrobe of digital gadgets, except the difference will be this is one digital gadget that is designed to look fashionable as opposed to geeky. :)

In this competition, we were asked to create a fashion spread showing how we would match the stunning HP Mini 210 with our wardrobe. I spent a few nights thinking what wardrobe would look best with it… I thought Western, English Vintage, high fashion bla bla bla.. and even things like Korean and Japanese fashion! However, these are so common and has probably been matched with at the Vivienne Tam fashion show in New York. I was looking for something different that would be elegant and yet not grab the attention away from the digital clutch.

Finally, I decided to go with a traditional cultural approach.. one that merges old cultural traditions with modern technology. Why do I think this is sexy? Traditional dresses like the Kimono and Cheongsam are very elegant. When you wear them, people think classy. The identities represented by them are very clear, communicating not only design but also culture and values with them. When you wear traditional clothes to dinners, matched with a modern evening handbag/clutch, people don’t think “backward” or “outdated”. They see it as fashionable, bringing attention to first the person donning the costume, and then to the object in her hands.

Now, what if we replaced the handbag with a digital clutch like the HP Mini 210 Vivienne Tam. The equation changes to one being someone different, fashion-forward and in the know of not only fashion but technology as well, without the geeky/nerdy label to it. The digital clutch will arouse curiosity, garnering not only attention but also forming new social connections making it a device convenient for the socialites. What more, these traditional costumes usually play host to simple motifs of nature like flowers and butterflies, making it the perfect complement to the elegance and grace of the butterfly design on the HP Mini 210 Vivienne Tam.

And finally, here’s my entry.. something little I put together to show my concept.. the fashion spread showing how the different cheongsam and kimono designs, in combination with the HP Mini 210 Vivienne Tam, will accentuate the elegance and grace of the fashion-forward fashionista. :)


Designed in A4 size so you can print it out for easier reading

So you have it! My take on what would grab the right attention when paired with the HP Mini 210 Vivienne Tam. What about you? What would you pair the device it? How different would you have done it? :D





Virtual Sandbox: Sim City meets Augmented Reality

20 11 2009

Hey guys! Sorry for the lack of updates. Things have been really busy this semester with school projects and all. School is done for the semester for me! Thankfully I have no exams.

Anywayz, here’s one of the projects I’ve been spending a lot of time working on with my group! It is an educational Augmented Reality software targeted at little 4-6 year old kids. Basically it is an interactive system where children can use cards to build their own virtual town and populate it with people, while at the same time learn English vocabulary.

Here’s a quick video demo of our project. Please bear with the education style used for the video as we had to submit this to our professor. ^^;;

Unfortunately I can’t share the videos from our user testing session with the children at the kindergarten. This is because of the provisions in the Child Rights laws in Singapore. Hence, those videos can’t be posted anywhere in the public domain.

How was the user testing?
We conducted the testing at a kindergarten for 2 hours, with 3 groups of 3 children each, ages 6. The children had a lot of fun and were very engaged with the system. They particularly enjoyed the process of building their own town while populating it with people from the occupations that match the places. They had so much fun it took us quite a bit of effort to get them to stop playing.

Here is a picture of the city the kids built!

Due to our limited video editing and recording skills, the video demo above is unable to portray the true nature, functions and elements of our project which the children experienced. We’ll be recording a more proper demo in January.

In the meantime, if you wish to see the videos from the user testing session, do drop me an e-mail and I’ll share the private link with you ^_^





In conversation with Phil McKinney on NUI

26 08 2009


Phil McKinney and Anne in the Halo Room

2 weeks ago I was invited to participate in a discussion with HP‘s CTO, Phil McKinney, about Natural User Interfaces(NUI). As Phil is a very busy person, the discussion was held via HP’s cutting-edge video conference technology, Halo. Why cutting edge? It is because I felt as though Phil was sitting on the same meeting table as me in real-time. I could even see what Phil was sketching on a paper clearly.
 

Richness vs Reach/Mobility

Above, we see a sketch that Phil drew to start off his discussion. This is a graph showing the state of technology right now in the balance between Richness (user experience, high definition, sound quality, etc) and Reach/Mobility (reaching out and making technology available to more markets). For example, devices like televisions are high in Richness but low in Reach/Mobility.

The line slanting downwards shows the state of technology for the various products at the moment. Unfortunately, there is a void in the middle of products that are high in mobility with average richness. Not many products are able to balance this well while maintaining usability. There is also the “Laws of Physics” that is preventing technologies like a 75″ TV fitting into your pocket.

The challenge faced by most technology players right now is:
1) Filling the void
2) Getting off and above the line

HP’s strategy for achieving (2) is by exploiting Touch technology to increase the Reach of PCs to untapped markets. Currently, 80% of the market has never owned a PC due to literacy barriers. Another reason for this is the intimidation with using a keyboard and mouse. Some of us might find it difficult to understand why using a mouse/keyboard may be intimidating but if you look at it, there are people around us even in developed nations (e.g: the elder generation) who are afraid of performing mouse clicks in fear of what unintended actions may be triggered on the PC.
 

Why Touch?
Apart from there being non-gimmicky uses for Touch technology, it is a form of interaction which we have been using in our everyday lives – for example, the ATM machine. The learning curve for Touch technology is also less steep as users has one lesser step of learning how to use a new device.
 

Challenges faced with Touch
HP’s motivation for using Touch is to drive the ease of use of new technologies by designing devices that adopt to users. The very first question that popped into my head was:

“There are so many different type of uses around the world with different levels of literacy. Wouldn’t HP have to design many different devices for different communities?”
 

Sharings from the lab
Phil shared some research findings in HP’s labs. They tested touch with 2700 users in homes of mixed literacy and discovered that people touch devices differently based on where they grew up.

Here are some of the examples Phil mentioned:
– Some used a whole hand, their thumb or items like an eraser and pencil
– Pulling both sides of an image to enlarge an image
– Grabbing one corner to enlarge the image
– When grabbing one corner and realizing the image follows the hand, the user shakes his hand rigorously as though he was trying to shake it off

From all this research they were able to map out which set of gestures were natural for the different types of users. Based on the first few gestures used by the user, the computer will be able to tell which set of gestures to load for the rest of the user’s interactions. A similar analogy would be how users would select a language on the computer before your mobile phone loads up in the appropriate language.

Do note that this is just for research and not all gesture sets will be going into the final product.
 

Moving into emerging markets
Lastly, I was wondering how HP plans to break into emerging markets where there are a large number of non-PC owners. Due to cost and infrastructure issues, current PCs are too expensive for people to own in these countries. E.g: In Africa, the cost of one month of broadband is equal to 14 months of their salary).

Instead of focusing on bringing existing PCs into emerging markets, HP is focusing on building basic PCs with the right technologies to meet their needs. They are currently experimenting with concept PCs in some of these markets.
 

For a later post..
Phil did send me quite a bit of information on their work on emerging markets and also segments of the community with special needs. However, as this post is getting lengthy, I will keep it for another day. :)
 

Concluding words
From the session, I could tell that most of the players in the PC market are jumping into the bandwagon of natural user interfaces. There are lots of other cool technologies HP is experimenting with out there like gaze, motion and tactile feedback. However, most of these are still just “gimmick”s and not at a stage where it can be integrated into HP’s products. HP went with Touch as it is found to be the most practical and usable of them all.

Personally, I can’t wait to see what technologies will come into our computers 5 years down the road! (Maybe some cool holography/Augmented Reality stuff). On the other hand, I’m glad that we are not flooded with useless tech filled with only “gimmicks” for novelty. :D

P.S: Oh yes! Before I forget, many thanks to the Amelia and Calvin from Waggener Edstrom for giving me this opportunity to be in a discussion with Phil. :D





WE, FYP, Startup and Halo :D

12 08 2009

Alright! After one month+ of not writing, I’m sure I need to give you guys an explanation for my disappearance on what I’ve been up to. To avoid this article becoming length and boring, I’ll do very very quick point forms.

1) Internship at Waggener Edstrom ends

I spent my term break interning at Waggener Edstrom’s Studio D where I was doing mostly Social Media Marketing and Digital PR. For those of you who are unfamiliar with buzz words, it is planning and conceptualizing digital campaigns for clients to tell the right stories and experiences to the customers. In more simple terms, I have a license to Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter all day long :D

It was a very interesting experience for me because my life activities have been turned over. What do I mean by turned over?

In the past:
During work: Code and develop stuff
After work: Read up on marketing strategies, plan campaigns and brainstorm creative ideas for own projects

At WE:
During work: Read up on marketing strategies, plan campaigns and brainstorm of creative ideas for clients
After work: Code and build my own fun stuff :D

…and I have to admit I really like the switch in environment. A great company that knows how to recognize and value great talents :)

Would really like to thank Melvin for pulling me into the company and exposing me to the PR industry.


The Studio D team and Jen Houston during her visit to WE Singapore
For more personal pictures with the team, check my Facebook ^_~

 

2) Final Year Project and Startup
It is official now! After a few weeks of indecisiveness and running through various phases of paperwork, I will be working on my own proposed Final Year Project at NUS. I know it is quite a huge risk to take but I believe it is worth a try.

Although the focus still needs refinement, it’ll be about measuring the diffusion of “Word of Mouth” marketing both quantitative and qualitatively on Social Networks. My team and I will be building a youth retail site with an environment that would trigger “Word of Mouth” marketing (hopefully). We will then measure the flow of information about products/brands from one user to another and how recipients act on this information. The platforms we plan to integrate with the site are Facebook and Twitter. This retail site will also be the startup I’m currently working on.

Will update as more things are finalized ^_~.
 

3) Halo Session with HP’s CTO – Phil McKinney
This Friday I’ll be waking up in the wee hours of the morning (okay its not that bad! just really early for a morning person like me) to attend a video conference at HP’s office with HP’s CTO, Phil McKinney. It will be a roundtable discussion using HP’s Halo technology .

I’m really excited about this event as the topic we will be discussing is Natural User Interfaces! What is Natural User Interfaces (NUI)? In short, it is interfaces that are easy to learn through experience. To put it simply, they are interfaces designed so well that you don’t have to read the manual to learn how to use the device. Unfortunately the only experience I have with NUI is my little, amateur-ish, out of the garage interactive kitchen table. Would be really interesting to hear how the pros go about the innovation process. :D

Alright that’s about it! Feel free to e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, drop comment if there are any questions you would like me to ask during the discussion with Phil. I know some of you are real experts in this area judging from the e-mails I got on the touch table in the past.

Have a good half week! ^_~





Samsung Unpacked: The Samsung Jet

19 06 2009

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The huge Samsung Unpacked Billboard on Orchard Road

This week I was invited to the regional launch of the latest addition to the Samsung family – the Samsung Jet! It was a very classy (and purple) event that was sleek and funky at the same time. The decorations, venue, execution and FOOD was utterly superb! I believe Samsung spent a HUGE fortune on this event especially with it being held concurrently in Dubai and London.

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My only picture of the interior (sorry was too obsessed with phone) – Media Registration Counter

The event was held at the Changi Exhibition Centre which as DK says, is out in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully they provided us with a shuttle service from City Hall to the venue, else I’d have given up trying to get my forgetful self there.

The presentation was truly a class of its own having the presenter interact with the projected animations rather than pressing clicks / mouse buttons to go through traditional presentation slides. I’m not sure what technology was used for the presentation but it really came across as holographic. The presenter looked like he was interacting with a semi-holographic projection making the whole event look very 3D and interactive.

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My only decent presentation shot. As flash was not allowed, I couldn’t get any clear shots of the projected holographics :(

Ok enough with the boring stuff.. lets get to the phone. The phone has a LOT of cool nifty features but these are the ones that caught my attention (and which I would probably use the most).

The Samsung Jet

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#1 The Technology – Speed
Samsung calls the Jet a phone that is smarter than a smartphone. The phone is designed to solve all the problems we hate about using smartphones, namely the SPEED. It comes with a 800Mhz processor which is actually a LOT for a tiny device, making it possible to multi-task numerous programs and watch high quality DVD videos without any lag.

One of their Korean executives gave me a demo of the phone loading 4 web pages in the background, running a game and then watching a movie. All ran concurrently without ANY lag. The response is extremely fast too, no more frustration from waiting 3 seconds before the phone responds to a press. Don’t believe me? Watch a video Claudia took of the video playing in action on the phone here… now only if the screen was bigger.
 

#2 The Dolfin Browser

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The Dolfin Browser is one of the reasons why the Jet runs so smoothly when browsing the Internet. It is created by Samsung specially for their phones, making it possible to view 5 websites and switch between them without any lag. When I was trying it out, I could load multiple web pages including Facebook and flip among them without any problem. Not too sure whether JavaScript is a problem but DK said it has some bugs with Flash.

One last note on the browser: According to the website it is able to handle multiple downloads smoothly but I wasn’t able to test it due to Starhub’s slow 3G..
 

#3 One Finger Zoom

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One Finger Zoom

Samsung went one step further and created a new convention for zooming photos and web pages by using only one finger. This way you can zoom in and out of photos and web pages using just one finger, maintaining your hand stance like how you would while SMSing. To get into and out of the zoom mode, you just have to hold your thumb on the screen for a little while, the zoom meter appears and you slide your finger up or down to zoom in and out. Took me just about 4 seconds to get used to it. I have to admit it is much more convenient than the 2 finger zooming convention which all smart phones are happily replicating today.
 

#4 The User Interface!

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Dynamic User Interface

For starters, I’m VERY glad they created an interface of their own.. Windows Mobile is getting a little weak for smartphones in terms of performance. The image above shows the core interface with a little “tool box” on the left with links to applications, and a set of core functions in the bottom menu. What I really like is that you can hide the tool box at anytime to increase the amount of space to play with in the main area. Also, as this is a dynamic interface, you can drag and drop widgets from the toolbox onto the main area like a computer desktop. You can add new widgets as well when you download more applications.

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The interface with the tool box hidden, BlueTooth and music player widgets

Before I end off, there is ONE FINAL feature which I totally love, lacking from all other smartphones I’ve experienced. It is the TASK manager. You know how sometimes you may have multiple apps running in the background, thought you closed them but they’re STILL RUNNING, wasting your precious battery power? Samsung added a cool nifty feature where you can easily access the task manager and close running applications. All you have to do is hold the cube button down and the task manager will show up in a very easy to use interface.

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The super easy to use Task Manager

 

#5 Keyboard
Sorry there is ONE MORE feature I MUST highlight which is the keyboard. As usual, they are using a Qwerty keyboard that has keys smaller than your fingers. I hate the iPhone for not having a keypad interface as a keyboard. The Samsung Jet has both but when I tried their Qwerty keyboard, I was in total amazement. I could type VERY fast without much care and I had very little spelling errors. What’s happening here? Instead of detecting one key at a time, the keyboard detects a few (2-3 I believe) based on the area of your finger. Based on the combination of keys you typed in and the central area your finger touches the keyboard, it intelligently guesses the word you are trying to type and inputs it. Typing on it was so convenient I found myself typing web addresses more with the Qwerty than the Keypad. I have no idea why this is not highlighted on their website even though it is a big plus point.
 

Conclusion
On the overall, I really like the phone as it fixes almost everything I hate about smartphones – speed, small keyboard keys, invisible running applications, etc. It is definitely a smartphone, that is smarter than a smartphone. My only qualms with it is the User Interface.. it is very well designed… you can see that a lot of thought has been put into it especially in fixing major user interaction issues that are common in smartphones. However, I feel that there are some minor adjustments that could be done to make the phone even more thumb-friendly. And no, I’m not saying the iPhone’s interface is better.. the Jet beats the iPhone in terms of both technology and UI design. It is just that in a general sense, the UI design is not perfect yet.

And before I forget, app junkies will suffer from deprivation as there will probably not be less apps available for the Samsung Jet
 

Other random pictures from the event

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Lucky draw machine.. I didn’t win! DK and Preetam did though :(

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One of the many never-ending reception snacks

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My dinner menu

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The Starter – Poached Boston Lobster, Cauliflower and Truffle Puree, White Asparagus and Shellfish Sauce

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Main Course – Pan Seared Sea Bass, Steamed Wa Wa Cabbage, Buttered Fondant Potato, Ginger Sauce

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Dessert – Tahitian Vanilla and Manjari Chocolate Mousse, Crunchy Praline and Passion Fruit Ice Cream
 

Resources you might want to check out:
Official Samsung Unpacked webpage
Official Samsung Jet webpage (lots of useful information on the phone)
Unboxing the Samsung Jet





Ready for work in 5 mins!

10 06 2009

This came in my mail early this morning. Cheered up my morning for work!

Get up, change clothes, eat breakfast and be ready for work in 5 minutes :D Perfect solution for sleepyheadzz!!








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