An application for interacting and controlling Pivothead
What is SMART Control?
The SMART Control mobile application is an app that allows Pivothead SMART eyewear owners to interact and control their eyewear and wireless accessories. The eyewear itself is Bluetooth 4.0 enabled and can be combined with a Wi-Fi enabled accessory (called a SMARTMOD) for additional wireless capabilities. The app focuses on 4 main experiences of the eyewear: connect, control, capture & see.
My role in this project was designing the user experience as well as the user interface. Within Pivothead I am a key member in traveling to tradeshows to demonstrate Pivothead products, evangelizing its product offerings, maintaining all Pivothead web properties, and being on the front-line with interacting with users. Doing these activities was essential to developing new hardware and a new companion application. I had a front row seat to user issues, requests and concerns.
In 2012 Pivothead released the World's first 1080p recording eyewear. Shortly afterwards a major feature request we received was to add wireless connectivity in order to give the ability to control the eyewear and download media without the need for a computer. Pivothead's second generation eyewear, named Pivothead SMART, was planned to address this and other hardware requests. The new eyewear has Bluetooth 4.0 as well as accessories that are Wi-Fi enabled. With developing new hardware, it was essential that a new application be designed and developed to allow users to easily interact with the new device.
Previous iOS Application
In-between the release of V1 and V2 of the eyewear there was a Wi-Fi accessory and application that allowed some of the requested features from users. The interim device and application allowed users to download content and change settings over Wi-Fi. While this app was a starting point, we totally redesigned the application for a few reasons. The existing application didn't conform or follow any design principles, it wasn't designed with any cohesive flows in mind and to be honest wasn't the most visually appealing app to interact with.
- The companion application to the interim Wi-Fi accessory.
Primary goal of redesign
Pivothead users had 3 main concerns & feature requests; battery life, connectivity and live streaming. While the first request didn't require any new software to be designed, the second and third request did.
The main user stories broke down like this:
- As a user, I want to be able to configure the camera settings of my eyewear with my mobile device, so that I can have complete creative control wherever I am.
- As a user, I want to be able to connect my mobile device to my eyewear & SMARTMOD, so that I can view and download content from my eyewear and share via my mobile device.
- As a user, I want to be able to preview what my eyewear are seeing with a live stream, so that I can make sure that I am framing my shot correctly.
- As a user, I want to be able to use my mobile device as a remote control, so that I can start/stop recording and capture Grabs or images without physically touching the eyewear.
Along with the above user stories we wanted to refresh the applications with new visuals, update with lessons we learned with the first iteration of the features for the iterim Wi-Fi device. Along with the above user stories, we needed to improve the connection flow and create an area for more eyewear specific settings such as LED's and notifications.
I should mention too that during the project we launched new company branding. This impacted the design as you can see from comparing the previous and final app designs.
- Bluetooth bandwidth limitations meant in order to download photos and videos to a user's mobile device we needed to use a seperate wireless protocol (Wi-Fi 802.11a/b/g/n 2.4Ghz), connection method and UX flow. A small note on designing for Android and iOS. Android and iOS are different in what APIs they allow to control their hardware. Android has an API that allows applications to control the radio of the mobile device. This meant for the Android app we could do the entire Wi-Fi connection flow in app. For iOS, the user is forced to leave the application to connect to a Wi-Fi network.
- With timing and some engineering limitations the app it was decided that the app was to control and own the Bluetooth connection with the device rather than the mobile device's operating system. This meant we needed to design/use a different BLE connection flow but also meant that the flow would go against some already socially acceptable flows such as wireless speakers.
When we first kicked of the design to this application we had both control features and live streaming (to the web) features we needed to design and develop. We discussed the idea around having both the live streaming and control application be one single app. Which eventually we split up into two app; Pivothead SMART Control & Pivothead LIVE. As you can tell as well, inbetween the early protos we had a branding refresh. The early protos became the crude wireframes of the project. Given how we had to develop internally, wireframes were less useful than mocking up some early designs. While not proud of these, they are a necessary step in the design process allowing us to make the decision to split the app features into two distinct mobile apps.
- Very early designs
While building the designs for the app I also like to build a site map of sorts. I guess you could call this an overall application view. It explains how everything is interconnected, a high level flow for the major features, and helps developers understand how the views transition from one to the next.
- Overall application map
Bluetooth Connection Flow
Engineering wanted to manage the Bluetooth connection from within the application itself. This meant we could keep the user in the app for the entire connection flow. For users the flow is quite easy. They are instructed to turn on the eyewear before launching the application. If they first launch the app, there is view that informs them that they must turn on their eyewear to continue. From there the application scans for BLE devices and presents a list. All Bluetooth devices that are not SMART eyewear are filtered out. From there the user selects their eyewear and the application connects then presents the configuration view.
- Bluetooth connection flow
SMARTMOD Wi-Fi Connection Flow
The application has increased functionality when the eyewear has the Live SMARTMOD Wi-Fi accessory attached. Users can view and download content from the eyewear as well as receive a live preview from the camera. This connection flow requires users to leave the application and connect using iOS Wi-Fi settings. For Android this flow is done in app. Once the user learns that the device acts just like a Wi-Fi network, they can go straight into their iPhone's Wi-Fi settings and connect even before they launch the application. From there the application becomes a form of feedback and assurance that they are correctly connected to the Live SMARTMOD's Wi-Fi network.
- Wi-Fi connection flow
Configure Camera Settings
Camera settings are pretty straight forward and we had a pretty solid design for them already. We refreshed the branding and assets for the video & image settings and redesigned the view for burst & time-lapse settings. Adding a bit of variety into the app we designed the selection "wheels" with hatpic feedback to mimic old selector knobs off old school cameras. Giving a bit more visual variety and adding something new into the app.
- Camera configuration views
The remote control was a fairly often requested feature. With designing it we wanted to also provide a way to automatically download media if connected via Wi-Fi to the SMARTMOD. Users can remotely capture photos, video, bursts, time-lapses and also a new feature we added called grabs. Grabs are short video chunks of 6, 15, 30 & 60 seconds in length. We wouldn't be adding any video editing ability into the app so giving users a way to capture short digestible chunks for sharing was a must have.
After using the app for media capture, the app will automatically pull the media from the eyewear's MicroSD card through the SMARTMOD and into a local library where users can share via native iOS sharing options. While possible, we had to leave out automatically pushing media to the app when triggering media capture via the eyewear themselves. This can be added in a future release.
- Remote views
One of the most requested features was the ability to see a live stream from the camera. Providing users are connected already to their SMARTMOD's Wi-Fi network, the user can select preview from the See view and their eyewear will automatically start streaming to their mobile device and the application. It's a simple feature that provides quite a bit of wow factor.
With talking to the support team we decided to offer some upfront in app help with the goal to get it infront of the user when the user might be in need of it. We placed "i" help icons throughout the app in locations that we felt users might have an informational question such as what the burst feature was. This helped eliminate users from jumping out of the app and searching online for the information needed. We also compiled a small help section consisting of LED means, touch gestures and sound notifications. All meant to help educate the user in how to use the devices.
- Help guides
Overall I'm happy with how we designed the SMART Control App. It's a simple app that allows users to perform a variety of functions while not being overly complex or becoming a maze of sorts. With working with the first hardware & software implementation we learned valueable lessons for future interations and devices. While software can interate quite fast and to some extent firmware can as well, hardware on the other hand can not.
Gathering feedback with users all over the world can be a challenge. We rely on our support team for detailed reports on feature requests and feedback. Overall user feedback has been positive. The app is performing it's intended function and will be expanded upon as future Pivothead hardware is released.