CES 2010: Light Blue Optics launch “Light Touch”

CES 2010 in Las Vegas saw a very interesting device launch from UK based Light Blue Optics.  The great news is that they’ve received really positive press and comments from users that are eager to get their hands on the Light Touch.

So what is it?  Effectively it’s a projector for rich media, but it’s laser based which gives it the ability to project onto different surfaces while maintaining a sharp focus and bright colours.  LBO used the Flash Platform to provide a rich user interface engine for applications, games, photos and even H.264 video playback.  The device is also multi-touch enabled using infra-red, but employs an invisible grid projection onto the surface, which enables much more accurate and speedy response times.

As a user you can envisage a huge array of different use cases, maybe your calendar projected onto your desk, or video playing on your bedroom wall.  We saw a huge array of 3D TVs, ever larger, thinner and brighter televisions this year at CES.  Could the future require no screen at all?

Just think of the options for this kind of device in the auto-industry, gaming and entertainment.  The great news is that the device spec’s make it capable of running Flash Player 10.1 in the future, reaping the benefits of our consistent Open Screen Project runtime for all platforms.

Specs:

  • Adobe Flash Lite 3.1 on WinCE 5
  • ARM11 CPU @ 600Mhz
  • 10-inch touchscreen with WVGA resolution
  • Laser based pico projection
  • Infrared multi-touch detection
  • WiFi and Bluetooth radios
  • 2GB of on-board storage (+ microSD)

Check it out in action:

Adobe Mobile Packager reaches 100,000 users!

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Some great news on the mobile packager, we finally passed the 100,000 users mark yesterday as shown here on the magic “Dashboard”.  This is really good news and shows that we’ve managed to reach to more developers than ever with the tool.

Interestingly enough I’m also seeing recently spikes for the Flash Lite downloads too, which would indicate that applications are finally reaching users :-)

Note:  The orange line shows the attempted downloads, a few of which may be failures totalling 170,623 (which includes the 100,000 successful downloads).  My take on it is that these are Mac users cancelling after they discover that the Mobile Packager is Windows XP only :-(

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Flash Development with Android SDK 1.5 Part 2

As we already know by now the HTC Hero supports Flash in the browser, and by double tapping on Flash content it will be played in full screen mode.  In fact I believe that’s also the reason why we cannot use the Flash Player directly with Intents.

Those of you familiar with Nokia’s WebRuntime or the iPhone UIWebView will recognize WebView, because it’s the same thing.  Really it’s an implementation of the browser framework made available as a UI component.  Some of these implementations come with hooks into the platform code through JScript, and enable the use of device APIs like Location.

So what can we do with the Android browser?  Let’s look at the pieces provided by Android:

  • WebView – Used to load and display web pages using the built-in device browser and chrome, embedded into your application.
  • WebViewClient – Enables the handling of various browser actions like page loading and error handling.  Overrides the Activity in the built in browser.
  • WebChromeClient – Enables the replacement of the browser chrome for events like progress, alerts and for window controls.  Can override the default Chrome.

Step 1: Launch the built-in browser using WebView

The code to do this couldn’t be simpler, but there are a few extra changes to make with the layout declarative XML and with the AndroidManifest.xml.  Android supports the ability to lay out the application using standard components, much like Flex.

To add a WebView to our layout we must add the WebView node to the main.xml (in project/assets/layout).  You can see the id property of the node looking rather special, and that’s because it’s indicating a binding.. again, just like Flex.  We can use this resource, and any others later in our code using the builtin R class.

Picture 10Now we’ve done that we have to add a new permission to the Android Manifest.xml.  You’ll notice that the XML includes a number of nodes pertaining to my application, most of it is easy to understand.  Note also that my application has it’s own Intent and an Activity called StubApp.

Picture 12With that we only need to add a tiny piece of code to use the webview component, check it out.

Picture 9As before we overload the onCreate method, call the parent for good measure and then get to business.  We call setContentView to build the WebView using our layout XML file above and then get a reference to this view, set JScript to enabled and load a URL.  It really couldn’t be simpler and as before this runs on the device, however there are issues.

Clicking links in WebView above causes the loss of client control over the page.  The result is that Flash works, but we cannot control the user experience.

The next step was to attempt to bring the control over loading new pages within the webview instance.  To do this we need to extend the WebViewClient class and override the shouldOverrideUrlLoading method, this gives us the opportunity to load the page ourselves; before the browser gets to it.

It looks like this and note that return true after view.loadUrl(url) means don’t bubble this event to other web views:

Picture 13The result of this is work is that we can simply replace the currently loaded page without launching a new activity, but it comes with a penalty.  As when I implemented the custom WebViewClient it became clear that the Flash plugin was not being loaded.  Worse still, there’s no way to load it (despite APIs to the contrary) and that’s by design at this time.

So there you have it, the investigation into creating a Flash Application that lives in the browser can only succeed when using the native browser.  The Android Platform allows for the creation of custom browser clients and chrome, but the penalty for this is that you loose access to plugins.

Hopefully this has been an informative post, and maybe inspired you to have a look at Android with Flash Player support.  Maybe you can extend my examples, or by all means provide some secret code that can help us start up the plugins :-)

Flash Development with Android SDK 1.5

Following on from my previous post below I have also been playing around with the Android SDK, and specifically with the Flash Player on the Hero.  It has been sometime since I did any programming, but some of you may know that I come from an engineering background.  So below I’m going to go over the different tools and technologies that I encountered during these two days.

Be warned, there’s code and geek talk below :-)

Step 1:  Get the SDK and tools


The Hero runs Android 1.5 with a custom UI from HTC called “Sense”.  With 1.5 comes a number of additional features like on-screen keyboards and Android Widgets.  All I needed to do was download the SDK for Eclipse, the same development environment we use for Flash Builder, or Carbide for Symbian C++.  The Android toolchain is a real dream and it runs across Mac, Windows and Linux with feature parity.

If you have Eclipse/FlashBuilder or Carbide installed then you’re good to go.  Just install the ADT plugin using software update, unzip the SDK into a relevant folder and point to it like this.

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Instructions

Step 2: Create the HelloWorld app

It used to be that you had to actually type something to create your HelloWorld app, with Android there’s no need :-(   Using the File->New Project menu you create an Android Project, and setup the app name, package name and the name of your Activity; then click finish.

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You’ll end up with a typical application created in the Package Explorer, and if you look in the source folder you find the generated .java files.  Remember that Android uses the Java language, but it’s own APIs, and so it’s familiar to look at.

Notice that my application extends Activity, part of the Android application package.  An Activity is generally considered an interactive component, like a screen or dialog.  For our purposes we can thinking of it like a MovieClip or UIComponent if your a Flex person.  In this auto-generated code we have simply overridden the onCreate method as this is the first function to be called.  There’s also an onStart method and that should be used if you want to be formal.

Picture 3Picture 4

From here I can simply run the emulator, but just for fun I decided to plugin my HTC Hero, go for bust I say!  The great news is that devices are auto-detected by the ADT plugin in Eclipse as shown above.  From here I can run or debug my application using the normal IDE buttons, and also with the SDK comes a nice tool to capture screenshots from the device while connected to the ADT plugin.

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Step 3: Launch Flash Player Standalone

This is where things get more complex, simply because I don’t know exactly how the player was implemented for Android.  Android uses pretty standard methodology for application development, and so I can presume that the implementation followed the rules.  So what are the fundamental rules?

  • Activity – Is a UI component that presents itself to the user for interaction
  • Service – A background process that carries out a task for other components such as pulling emails and calendar synchronization.
  • Broadcast Receiver – A component that listens and does something in response to broadcasts.  Widgets are great examples of broadcast receivers.
  • Content ProviderA useful way of wrapping access to content, images, audio files or even data base access.

Activities, Services and Broadcast Receivers are all started by and registered to receive messages from the platform called Intents.  An Intent is a simple message object with a simple Action string and it’s also possible to send data, or call a specific component to handle the message.

So with a spot of “playing” around with a decompiler I was able to find two potential Intents.

1.  To launch the FilePicker with SWF/FLV files detected automatically.

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This works pretty well, though seems restricted to landscape mode.

2.  To launch the player Activity (com.htc.flash.SingleViewActivity) directly passing a SWF file to play.

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It’s possible to launch the Activity using this method but the file provided in “putExtra” doesn’t actually load.  So while this would be the best solution it appears like it’s designed not to work in this way.

So in summary, the only valid path for standalone apps (as far as I can tell) is to load the FilePicker.  This method is pretty good for on device testing, maybe you want to see what your mobile web site looks like and need to tailor the flash content to fit the screen.

Next we’ll look at the browser solution…