My name is Osvaldo Villagrana (@vaini11a), and I’m a software engineer at Oracle for AppsLab (@theappslab), the Oracle Applications User Experience (OAUX) Emerging Technologies team. I’m based in Guadalajara, México. My team is in charge of researching emerging technology and developing prototypes for conceptual products that change the way the user experience feels. The goal is that these products eventually could become part of Oracle’s core products. My team encourages an innovative spirit, and we are always looking at new devices. We follow emerging technology closely; in the case of the Anki Overdrive Project, we were very interested in developing something using motion and gestures.

As part of the User Experience group, we have been investigating new ways to input data into an application, such as gestures and motion, where users can interact with enterprise systems in a more natural way. But before going with a direct implementation into enterprise software, we wanted to research the technology and have a little fun, so we came up with the idea of controlling a racetrack’s cars with gestures.

From the beginning, we wanted to build a wireless solution for this project. We didn’t want a device attached to a computer to track a user’s gestures or motion. We had worked with other gesture and motion trackers before, but we were interested in the Myo armband because it had gesture and wireless capabilities over Bluetooth and because it has an SDK for different programming languages. It was perfect timing for using it.

For the racetrack, we choose Anki cars, because they provide a limited but functional enough API to control the cars over Bluetooth. We wanted to keep the conceptual prototype very simple. The goal was to control a car’s speed with gestures and motions. We ended up with just two motions:

  • Extending the arm forward and turning the wrist to the right would increase car speed. Turning the wrist to the left would decrease car speed.

  • Putting the arm on the side of the hip and raising the arm up would increase car speed. Moving the arm down would decrease car speed.

Our vision was to develop an Android application that would act as a server for the Myo armband and Anki cars. They would connect to the Android app through BLE, and the Android app would receive signals from Myo. Using an algorithm that I developed, we would map Myo values to Anki car’s speed.

We choose to work with Myo because we were looking for a wireless gesture and motion device that was easy to configure and very simple to use. It gave us a lot of flexibility when presenting the demo, as the bands could be worn and calibrated very easily. We also liked the fact that we could track a very wide variety of gestures/motions out of the box. The SDK for Android is also well-documented, and it provides example code that can be quickly incorporated to a base code. So we had all of the elements to build a prototype of this demo quickly.

Not only did we want to prove our concept, we also wanted to introduce a new way of interacting with things in the real world in a virtual way. We were also testing user reactions to the technology and noting how comfortable they felt using this kind of interaction. We wanted to collect as much data and information as possible, then apply the same principles to the information and data we collected, in enterprise context.

The bar for usability used to be walk up and use, but increasingly, as environments are made more intelligent by smart devices, they can combine with smartphones to create a walk-up experience wherein you don’t really even know you’re using software. Stuff just happens.

To follow up our team’s work, visit http://theappslab.com and http://tinyurl.com/appslab and follow us on Twitter @theappslab.

Learn more about the Anki Overdrive Car Project.

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