Happy Holidays

While there is no real theme to this post, I just wanted to take time out of my day to wish everybody a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. It’s been quite the road this year, but I’m planning some big changes next year. Who isn’t? I’d love to let all my designer and developer friends know it’s OK to just take a day off if you celebrate and to relax with family, friends or just chill out and close your mind for the day.

Design Challenge Exposure, Coming Soon

I’m excited to have been asked to take part in the .net magazine design challenge. For those who don’t know what that is, it’s a monthly challenge where three designers are given a brief description of a site and it’s their job to create a site based on those directions. It’s my favorite web design magazine that does a great job at giving out info for both designers and developers.

I’ve always wanted to do one for years, and I was excited to be asked to take part in it. I’m not sure how it goes though. Three designers get published, but maybe they ask about a dozen and the best three get picked? The fact that they had to at least comb through my portfolio and say “Ya, this guy looks decent enough to not fuck it up entirely” makes me happy. I’m not sure what issue it will be in, or how long it’ll take before it hits this side of the ocean, but I’ll make sure to post it across my social media feeds for  all to see!

Designing a Splash Page in a Few Days

People have side hobbies and that’s pretty cool. My side hobbies include AR, VR, video games and a video game channel on youtube. On occasion I also stream games on mixer with friends or just when I get a new game. One of my favorite series is coming out soon for the Xbox One and that’s Forza Horizon 4. The Horizon series has been my favorite racing games since it’s based around a music festival and you drive in a HUGE open world area over different terrain. I was super stoked about it and even had the Ultimate Edition pre-ordered months ago to make sure I get to play 4 days earlier before it’s official launch.

My excitement didn’t stop there because I knew I was going to stream this game. I just downloaded the free Adobe XD program that I use for work, on my home PC and wanted to practice some site designs. I also wanted to see how our developers used it on a day to day basis after they take it from us designers. So this was my chance to try to design then collect and use XD to develop a site. I decided to create a website splash page announcing that I will be streaming this game and all are welcome to watch! I got started right away with some sketches to see what I wanted and how I wanted it to look. Here are some of the sketches created:

If you were following my on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/cliffnow/ you got the sneak peeks of it all!

After I had all the sketching done, I broke open Adobe XD and went to town. I tested some ideas out and realized that due to asset issues of finding what I wanted in a good enough quality, I had to make some changes. I also began to look more into the development side of things and realized that there were a few things I was unsure of, or would take more than a day to put it all together. This was meant to be a quick weekend project, and I didn’t want it getting out of hand. Make it simple stupid!

The final design created was this:

 

The final design isn’t that far off from what I developed! You can view the design on my behance here. Once I was finished, I had to decide how to put this together. I wanted quick and simple, so my two choices were to use a quick pre-made grid framework from Bootstrap or Foundation. Why those two? Those were the two frameworks I’m familiar with and I’m not going to “challenge myself” when I need something done in a day. I went with Bootstrap since I’ve used it the most. Since I only needed the grid, the new Bootstrap 4 had a grid only css file, which worked great to keep load speeds at a minimum.

My original idea was to offset items, but then realized that wasn’t going to work for a mobile version. I was able to find some quick solutions to the problems. The process of using Adobe XD’s design spec helped to a point, but I found myself going back to the original XD file for correct sizing between objects which was kind of a pain, new respect for our teams developers. Batching out the images was super fast and easy and I’m glad that’s a feature! It took some tweaking here and there, but I got the images just right.

The next task was to figure out the countdown timer. I looked around for some simple javascript that I would be easily able to edit the CSS for to make it match up with my design. Could I of done it from scratch? Of course! Again though, timing. I could crack open a book or go through some online tutorials OR I could find a script. Not only did I find a script, but I also found one that perfectly matched what I wanted with great documentation. Win win! You can check out the script I used here. The only down side is that I was only able to go to the launch date, and not the time as of this posting. I’m in the process of asking some developer friends to see if there’s quick fix that my feeble javascript brain didn’t understand…or tried to understand at 2am. Bad combo.

Everything looked great on desktop, now it was time to add some media queries to it looked great on the phone. I didn’t have to spend too much time, which was great as it was a super simple page. After I tested on my Chrome browser, I did some testing on Firefox as well as my Pixel phone. Everything laid out nicely and turned out smoothly. I put it out there on the internet, and now it’s time to wait and see if anybody will watch me play Forza Horizon 4 on September 28th, at 9pm.

View the full complete site here.

It was a nice fun exercise in sketching, designing and developing within a few day span. I feel that the move to using Adobe XD for my full design process was not only a smart move, but a good one that helped my workflow rather than using Photoshop to layout a website.

 

Edit: Update 12:50pm. A good developer friend, Teresa, was able to help me solve my countdown clock Javascript timer issue. Thanks again!

Artificial Intelligence Bots – First Attempts

There’s no blog post today, but instead I’ll give a quick heads up on what’s going on. I’ve been busy with family things and enjoying the last few weeks of summer with my boys before they go back to school.

I have been playing around with wit.ai, a ai bot website, where I intense to create my own bot for an AR app. I’m still working on a course where I will use the bot to be able to voice control my app and tell it to do things. I’m not sure how, as I’m not to the voice part yet. However, I’ve bee teaching it new things and plan to keep it open to the public. Since the app is essentially a car model with interactive pieces, the voice control will let me say “Open the doors” and then then doors will open. It’s been real fun teaching the bot.

The entire time I kept thinking how I could make a Jarvis from the Iron Man movies. Little steps first! My hope is high with AR right now. I plan on look more into other ai bot creators and give a quick overview for other beginners like me.

Cliffs AR/VR Life Recap – August 6th – 12th

Welcome to another quick recap of my AR/VR life, which has been super fun with momento360 and 360 images.

Websites

Momento360
This is an easy upload are to put your 360 images up and check it out online through the browser, or through your phones VR headset. I’ve been playing around at work with this, so I don’t really have anything I can show as of right now, but I’m working on it. Super fast and easy to upload and share.

Flickr VR
I literally came across this site thinking the following plugin “Flexify 2” was called flickr 2 for some reason. Either way, it was a happy mistake. Flickr VR is Flickr, but with only 360 images to view. This helps you check out all the cool stuff on your headset without getting stuck with a normal image. It’s been fun checking out some of the breathtaking images.

Software

Flexify 2 – Photoshop Plugin

This is a plugin I found online for the equirectangular grid that takes that grid, turns it into something manageable, and lets you built a cube VR room from there. What exactly is an equirectangular grid? It’s a grid use to proportionally show align everything in a 360 image. The process is simple. Take a flattened image of your grid, use the plugin to turn it into a “horizontal cross”, insert what you want or hatch together your photographs, and reverse the process. This easily puts it in an image ready to upload to your favorite VR image area.

The only downside is that it’s pretty pricey at $55. Is it worth it? You can check it out for yourselves with a free trial. I tried doing a warp in Photoshop myself, and I seem to do a real hack like job. This plugin makes it super easy to put it all together. If this becomes a thing or I find a niche in it, this plugin will make its way onto my computer.

That’s all I have for this week. Stay tuned as i continue a few more things and post them up to Momento360. I’ll be making sure to put the up on my twitter as well as post here for a more complete version.

Cliffs AR/VR Life Recap – July 30th – August 5th

Here’s a random snap of me reading in the waiting room my wife took while at the hospital. The book neatly hides my 4-6″ goatee and gives me the nice appearance of a clean shaven man. It’s been a crazy week involving multiple trips to the hospital for family reasons so I haven’t been able to do any actual work in Unity or programming this week. On with what little I’ve looked into this week.

News:

Make VR Designs

I saved this early in the week to try later so I could hook up my Merge VR and try to see what I could do. While I haven’t done that, and haven’t gone through it to see if it’s worth doing, I plan on checking it out later this week. It’s on my list!

Software

Cortana

I was looking over at my Yeti mic wondering if I could use it with Cortana on my Windows machine to make it do stuff for me. I figure Cortana on my xbox interrupts me all the time mid-game asking me if I want something, why not my PC? Well it turns out to work just fine! I’ve been mainly opening up applications by saying “Hey Cortana, Launch…” followed by the name of the program.

To set it up, just go to Settings > Cortana and make sure it’s checked to “On” for “Let Cortana respond to ‘Hey Cortana’”. That’s it! You’re now set up to talk to your computer with your mic.

Events:

Inclusive Web-based Virtual Reality: A11Y & WebXR Immerses the Visually Impaired Webinar

This is a meetup BUT it’s also a free webinar, so check it out! Here’s a description from their page:

This presentation will showcase different approaches to accessibility in web-based virtual reality. Specifically, we will present an experience designed for visually impaired and blind users, showcased on the Oculus Go, empowered by spatial sound and audio navigation. We will also touch on a collaborative project with Equal Entry, that uses spatial audio in a virtual representation of a critical NYC street crossing, to train and prepare blind users to navigate and orient themselves in the everchanging urban jungle of Manhattan.

Thanks again everybody for checking this blog post out. If there’s anything you wanna show me, have me try out or just look in to, make sure to reach out!