Thinking Out of the Box

Efficient, aesthetic, suitable – style definition for 3D, AR, and VR

Sascha Blättgen
Sascha Blättgen
August 9th, 2017

Visual design has a long and storied tradition. Still it is a lively and dynamic topic and constantly exposed to current influences and trends. With the emerging technologies of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) designers have to learn how to create impressive and positive experiences for users of these media.

There are hundreds of tutorials on developing 3D applications, but one part routinely left out in these tutorials is the style definition for the visualization. There is a wide range of visual options that carry distinct advantages and disadvantages.

This article is a quick summary of possible styles, each illustrated with examples from video games.

Photorealism

Photorealism is characterized by being as lifelike as possible – from detailed textures to high-polygon models to real-world lighting.

read more…

About Automation and User Centered Design – Interfaces at SEW EURODRIVE’s Hannover Messe booth 2017

Marie Schiemann
Marie Schiemann
June 30th, 2017

Hannover Messe 2017 – Enterprises present their new technological miracles: robots that can play the drums, robots that play table tennis, robots that move like animals, 3D printers, VR worlds and AR glasses that combine the digital and physical world. Let us be honest, as visitors of the exhibition, we are, of course, entertained but some might have asked themselves what kind of substantial benefit one or the other exhibit might bring to the daily production routine.

„Our Chancellor always calls on us to be cautious not only doing nice things but rather things that are profitable and productive and this is what we tried to do here.“

– Udo Aull (Managing Director Sale and Marketing at SEW-EURODRIVE)

As User Experience providers, we are always happy to see when companies are more deliberate: our customer SEW Eurodrive portrayed a complete production process at its exhibition booth. From the moment of ordering to the finished product, the visitors could experience what it means when robots are used efficiently and the human machine interaction goes hand in hand.

What seemed to work smoothly and natural at the exhibition booth, took a lot of effort in the setup. The smarter and the more autonomous the robots and computers interact with each other, the more important it is for the human user to maintain an overview of single steps in the production process. In the following, we want to explain how visitors of Hannover Messe were enabled to monitor and operate the production process at the SEW exhibition booth through playful, intuitive and accessible 3D user interfaces.

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How playful do you like it? Motivation and Potentials through Gamification and Serious Games

Jörg Niesenhaus

Lately, I have been asked more frequently, when Gamification will emancipate from its role as a niche topic and reach mainstream. Since mid-2016, I am sure, that we find ourselves just in the phase of emancipation of this topic and I would like to reveal, why this is my opinion.

During the last year, the media in German-speaking regions frequently covered Gamification: many TV productions, newspaper reports and scientific papers covered potentials of the use of motivational and playful elements in non-game contexts. But not only media response was consistently positive – also Centigrade received numerous requests for Gamification projects, some of which where moved into realization and, by now, are used on a daily basis.

However, one important question occupies many of our customers: How much “game” is suitable for a certain context of use as well as for users‘ and customers‘ needs. This question is crucial as playful and motivational elements can be integrated in existing processes and products in many different ways. Our customers also ask themselves which manifestation of playful systems fits best in their user context: are some playful elements enough or should it possibly be a full game to meet the pursued benefits?

Gamification vs Serious GamesGamification vs. Serious Games: Although both approaches share common traits, there are some significant differences when it comes to the application of playful elements.

This question in mind, this article covers similarities and differences of Gamification and Serious Games and aims at gaining better understanding of potentials as well as conveying possible scopes of application for both concepts and thus, facilitating the decision for or against one of them. read more…

DeepSight – looking into the future of Augmented Reality

Ronja Scherz

Festo-DeepSight-Teaser

A shift supervisor is standing in a large machine hall monitoring production. From her vantage point she can overlook the complete hall. She is carrying no laptop, no tablet, not even a phone. Instead she is wearing a plain pair of glasses and looking from one machine to the next. When she gazes at a machine, a window opens in her field of view, showing the machines’ current status. The shift supervisor can check which job the machine is working on, the number of finished items, and if all tools are in order. When she gazes away from the machine, the window disappears and she can look around the machine hall freely.

A promising vision, but is it realistic? Unfortunately at the current state of technology (March 2017) it isn’t – yet.
 

Update 2018: Results of this study are already being used in current Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality projects. You can take a look at our 3D services portfolio.

 

But the progress of companies like Microsoft, Magic Leap, or Daqri in the development of augmented reality glasses suggests that augmented reality will be ready for use in the near future. This is a giant step towards Industry 4.0: across the production process workers can be supported in their everyday tasks. But how can we prepare for this new technology? How can we already gain experience now to start developing user-friendly applications when operational devices are released, integrating augmented reality effectively and efficiently into work routines?

With the DeepSight project we at Centigrade have found a way to prototype augmented reality applications right now while identifying and leveraging possible advantages of this promising technology. For this we resorted to another technology that might be surprising in this context: virtual reality.

read more…

Multi-platform mobile software development: Qt instead of Xamarin

Jörg Preiß
Jörg Preiß
February 28th, 2017

Microsoft is accessing the field of WPF platform independence with Xamarin Forms. However, there has for a long time been an existing framework that runs on Windows, MacOS, Linux and starting with version 5 on iOS, Android, Sailfish OS and other operating systems – without re-implementation: Qt.

LISTING 1: MAIN.CPP

 

Qt has been around since 1992. For a long time, the company Trolltech distributed the framework commercially. There was a free version for the Linux desktop KDE that later was licensed under GPL. The two versions differed in the availability of certain modules. Starting with version 4.5 in 2009, the LGPL (GNU Lesser General Public License) was added. The current version 5.x is available in commercial and free versions as well. The rights are currently owned by The Qt Company.

Qt development was distinguished by the signal/slot principle. While other frameworks still used events, this already was an implementation of the publish-subscribe pattern. A button provides the clicked() signal, which view components can bind to a slot onClicked().

Version 4.7 introduced the Qt Markup Language, QML. While designers previously generated the completed source code, now the interface could be described in a JSON-like language. On-screen elements can be manipulated with JavaScript, values and lists can be bound. The framework achieved an architecture called model-view-delegate. Version 5.6 was used for this article. read more…

Digitalization – serious monkey business

Clemens Lutsch

Imagine that you are chosen to handle digitalization for your company. Of course, you hear the talk of heads of politics and business ringing in your ear. You have quite possibly already visited trade shows loudly promising digital transformation and industry 4.0, but delivering very little on the matter. What’s the reason for this letdown? Is digitalization an empty word, a bubble filled with hot air? Is it just monkey business?

The monkey business of digitalization

What has gotten into the author? Google Trends clearly shows that digitalization is a hot topic!

„Digitalisierung“ in Google Trends (D) over the last five years. [Google is a trademark or registered trademark of Google Inc. in the US and/or other countries.]

read more…

Eight steps to create an app icon

Olga Poliakova
Olga Poliakova
December 22nd, 2016

BeforeAfter

The Icon – it is a small element, yet it is the first thing that users see when meeting an application – and a first impression can last for a long time. So, it is very important for a product to have an attractive, clear and explanative icon. But how to reach that? I would like to share my knowledge in passing through these steps using pen and paper as well as Adobe Illustrator. I worked as an Icon Designer for many years, and I still create icons from time to time, so maybe you will find my experience useful and can use some of my tips for your work.

Just as an example, I will create an Icon for a hypothetical insurance oriented application “Weather Event”, which warns about dangerous weather conditions (such as storm or hurricane) and suggests to insure a property depending on a situation. I will take you through the necessary steps. So, let’s start! read more…

Establishing an HMI Styleguide in a Company – Part 2

Thomas Immich

The first part of this article was about the treacherous intuitiveness of establishing an HMI styleguide based on a Corporate Design (CD) styleguide, and why this decision is risky: unlike a CD styleguide an HMI styleguide has to work for software engineers as well as visual designers. Also, this form of documentation is too rigid for a dynamic modern HMI. The most important insight: an HMI styleguide cannot be the sole basis for developing a consistent, aesthetic and intuitive HMI. Looking back on many years of big HMI design projects and speaking as a UX consultant I can say: only a combination of tools and processes will lead to success.

TRUMPF-Centigrade-HMI-Styleguide

Figure 1: Centigrade is supporting TRUMPF to establish a company-wide HMI styleguide.

read more…

Establishing an HMI Styleguide in a Company – Part 1

Thomas Immich

Intuition seems to be one of those things we all profit from a lot. But at times it will deceive us. Designing an intuitive HMI seems to be one of the highest priorities of modern software development, minimizing both the need for training and the risk of operational errors. Still, a lot of software engineers and even HMI designers stumble into one trap when aiming for intuitive software design: listening to their own intuition. They will tell themselves, and quite rightly so, “A good HMI design has to be aesthetic and consistent, so that operators will be able to profit from already learnt patterns in a new context of use – if they can use one machine, they can use all machines.” So far, so good. But now comes the misconception: “If you want your HMI design to be consistent in every way, why not adapt the already established corporate design? It has been there for ages, guiding along the way to consistency and brand experience: the corporate design (CD) styleguide”.

Alas, this is the wrong analogy – but not the first time it has been used: the early years of television had the same problem, reading the daily news to their audience the same way radio did, or the early years of the internet, displaying long columns of information in serif fonts, just like contemporary newspapers did. This might have felt intuitive because it was well-known and long-established – but it was still wrong.

The philosophy of a CD styleguide cannot be transferred to a modern HMI and its development.

screenshot Amazon 1994 und AppleCom 1997 newspaper metaphor in the web

Even Amazon and Apple were wrong to assume it was a good idea to apply a newspapers’ design guidelines and know-how to the internet.

read more…

Getting to the root of the problem: Debugging TypeScript projects with Visual Studio Code

Thomas Becker
Thomas Becker
September 29th, 2016

Although being relatively new Visual Studio Code has already gathered much attention since its publication in November 2015. At first glance you could believe that Visual Studio Code was just another iteration inside the Visual Studio family, but that is not the case. Visual Studio Code is a completely new phenomenon and does not have much in common with its namesakes, except for its actual name.

There are many good reasons for using TypeScript in a new project instead of JavaScript. To name just one advantage TypeScript allows you to structure code in classes. In this post I would like to address how to debug a TypeScript project with Visual Studio Code.

read more…

OK Google, what about good UIs?

Olga Poliakova
Olga Poliakova
August 31st, 2016

Not everyone likes Google products, but everyone who has a computer / laptop / smartphone uses them. It’s really fascinating how a company founded by two students conquered a huge part of the market, became the most desired employer, and every year continue to surprise us with highly innovating ideas. And it’s even more fascinating how a company with about 60.000 employees apparently can’t afford good user interfaces (UI).

Search results – bad Google UI

Google is a trademark or registered trademark of Google Inc. in the US and/or other countries.

read more…

Cultural Awareness – Start Becoming an International Designer

Chloe Chan
Chloe Chan
July 29th, 2016

I can still remember the moment when I was up in the sky looking down on Frankfurt, anxious yet excited. In June 2015, I moved from my hometown Hong Kong to a country known for its beer, sausages and miserably cold winter – Germany. It was indeed pretty intense for me as I had never travelled to Europe before. And when I did, I started living and working as a UX designer there.

Being International: More Than a Matter of Geography

After going through the culture shock, I realized that being a truly international designer is more than just a matter of geography. Travelling and living in another country won’t make you international if you are narrow-minded, reluctant to look further at the cultural influences behind those behavior and thoughts that you find it hard to identify with. read more…

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