Posted by: James Nash | February 13, 2009

Symbian Foundation at Mobile World Congress 2009

Symbian Foundation Blog banner

Mobile World Congress 2009 is almost upon us. The Symbian Foundation will have a stand with some fun demos (and free coffee!) so please pop by and say hello! They have also set up a Symbian Foundation Blog where they will be posting news and coverage from the show.

Please go visit it, bookmark it, subscribe to it and share it with the world!

Posted by: James Nash | November 11, 2008

That’s all folks!

"The Way to Paradise" by Nattu

It’s taken a little while (Sorry, but I do still have a day job…) but I’ve now posted all the material I wanted to about the Smartphone Show 2008. I think William’s finished uploading photos too so that about wraps up our coverage of this year’s show. (Btw, I’m pleased to see that others joined in sharing their Smartphone Show photos too! If you still have a few lurking around on your harddrive why not join in and add them to our Flickr group!)

With a bit of luck our posts on the various Symbian OS demos will have given you a glimpse of what you can expect from your phones in the future.

We hoped you enjoyed the show! We’re always keen to hear your feedback, so if you’ve got any thoughts or suggestions please post them below in the comments.

With a bit of luck we’ll be back next year, so keep this blog in your bookmarks and news readers! See you then! Have a good’un!

(The photo above is by Nattu who kindly made it available under a Creative Commons license for all to use and share)

Posted by: James Nash | November 11, 2008

VCC demo

There is one more demo Symbian was showing off at the Smartphone Show this year which I haven’t covered yet: The Voice Call Continuity (VCC) demo. This showed off a seamless handover between a GSM phone call and an IMS one (over WiFi)…

VCC Demo

The demo was running on the development board pictured above which was equipped with GSM and WiFi radios. The demo could then call a normal phone (or vice versa) using either GSM or IMS (over WiFi). During the call you could press a button on the demo app that would switch the bearer from GSM to IMS (or vice versa) without dropping or interrupting the call! (ok, there was a slight popping sound when it switched from one to the other but that’s about it)

Why is this cool? Well, it means you could make a call while at home and have it connect via your home WiFi network (which means you’re guaranteed good reception and, depending on your provider, cheaper call costs). You may then decide to leave home and wander to the high street while still chatting on the phone. As you leave your home, your phone will notice that the WiFi signal is weakening and look for alternatives. It would then find your normal GSM mobile phone network and switch to that seamlessly without interrupting your call. Later on you might find yourself in a coffee shop or office with a WiFi signal. Once your phone notices that it could switch back to that to improve reception and keep your call costs low. All that would just happen automagically without disconnecting you at any point. Pretty nifty if you ask me!

VCC demo application

Behind the scenes Symbian’s FreeWay architecture and Cicero NetworksVCC engine were working their magic to make this possible. The beauty of FreeWay is that it can handle the detection of available networks and decision making about which to use and when under the hood. That means that applications don’t need to do anything special to benefit from this kind of functionality. Although our demo only used GSM and WiFi there’s no technical reason this couldn’t be extended to encompass other kinds of bearers too (3G packet data, WiMAX, LTE etc.).

Finally, as with our other demos there is some extra material and a video of this demo on SDN++ so, if you have SDN++ access, head on over and check it out!

Posted by: James Nash | November 3, 2008

LBS demo

Location Based Services (or LBS for short) is another technology Symbian was demoing at the Smartphone Show. Specifically, we had a demo application that was showing how the LBS system within Symbian OS can use a variety of technologies to find out where you are and then make that information available to applications on the device.

Our demo used a variety of methods to locate itself on a map (the map data was provided by Open Street Map):

  • Cell-ID & last known position within that cell. This least accurate but also the fastest method (and requires no extra power assuming that your phone is not in flight mode). It’ll tell you roughly which part of a town you’re in and is useful if you just want a map of your surroundings (perhaps to see what places of interest are nearby or to get a local weather forecast).
  • WiFi positioning. This method uses a locally stored database of WiFi MAC addresses and their locations (though there’s no reason this couldn’t be updated via the internet). In built-up areas where there are lots of WiFi hotspots it can narrow down your location to the building you’re in and do so pretty quickly (within 5 seconds). This would be accurate enough to show you roughly where you are on a map (for example which street you’re on).
    The underlying implementation in this demo was provided by Skyhook Wireless, but the LBS framework in Symbian OS is extendable so this could be replaced or augmented by other implementations (potentially user-installable ones too!). Interestingly this is not limited to WiFi positioning – you can use any method you like!
  • A-GPS. Finally, the good ol’ GPS that we all know and love. The most accurate but also the slowest when it comes to getting a fix on your location. In this case the GPS is assisted not only by the cell ID but also the WiFi positioning. When used in our office (in a room with thick stone walls and tall buildings outside) this combination managed to get a GPS fix within about 15 seconds despite the very weak satellite signal.
    Apart from pinpointing where you are down to a few metres, GPS is useful when your location needs to be tracked. For example for turn-by-turn directions.

Positioning on phones isn’t really a new thing, but the nifty part is LBS framework can take care of choosing or combining different positioning technologies for you. It can trade off power-consumption and speed versus accuracy depending on the application and it can combine inputs from various methods to get a quicker or more accurate lock on your location. And since it’s built right into the OS all applications can take advantage of it.

If you happen to have SDN++ access, you can find a video of the demo and some additional information on the Smartphone Show page there (SDN++ log-in required).

Posted by: James Nash | November 3, 2008

Symbian Partner Network Videos

Just a quick heads-up: There’s now a Symbian Ecosystem YouTube channel with a collection of videos showcasing members and events from the Symbian Ecosystem and also the benefits of joining the Symbian Partner Network. One video that may interest readers of this blog is the Symbian & Scalado one which shows some of the people behind the imaging demo:

Posted by: James Nash | November 3, 2008

QSound audio demo

It’s time to give you the skinny on another demo we presented at the Smartphone Show last month: The QSound audio demo.

The demo consisted of a development board running Symbian OS which was rigged up to some big-ass speakers. The demo application on the board was playing some music (a rather eclectic playlist containing “Eve of The War“, “Die another Day“, “Orinoco Flow“, “Alla Hornpipe” and “Nocturn;-) ) and presented a 7-band graphical equalizer along and various audio effects for the user to control. The available effects were:

- Bass & Treble boost
– Stereo Widening
– Loudness

You could play with the EQ and the various effects in real-time and hear the effect over the speakers. The software for the effects was provided by QSound. The sound quality was excellent and really showed off what phones will be capable of pumping out in the near future!

However, what was equally (or perhaps more) interesting was what was going on under the hood. The Multimedia system in Symbian OS is in the process of getting some substantial improvements. One of them is support for OpenMAX IL components. The QSound plug-in we used was one such OpenMAX IL component running inside our new Multimedia system.

OpenMAX IL is an industry standard API for Multimedia components like codecs and effects which is maintained by the Khronos Group (who are also responsible for OpenGL and OpenVG).

Why is this cool and why should you care? Well, standardised APIs are more attractive to device and software vendors because a single implementation can potentially target many platforms. Less development costs + bigger market = more $$$s! Integration also becomes easier. In theory, if you have an OpenMAX component that conforms to the spec it should be able to work with Symbian’s new Multimedia system out of the box with minimal configuration! That’s particularly interesting for phone manufacturers since it speeds up their development. They can add exciting new Multimedia features quickly and cheaply!

Case in point: It took one engineer about a day to get the QSound plug-in up and running in our Symbian Multimedia system and another 3 days to write and attach the colourful user interface!

You can see some footage of this demo on Sky’s Technofile video from the show. For those of you with access to SDN++ there another video available there (SDN++ log-in required)

Posted by: James Nash | October 27, 2008

Smartphone Show on Sky News

Sky News was at the Smartphone Show filming for their Technofile programme. Their footage covers several products and demos from the show including our own imaging and OpenMAX audio demos. Enjoy!

Posted by: James Nash | October 27, 2008

Imaging Demo Details

Incase you hadn’t figured it already, the demo I was teasing with before the show was our “Zero shutter lag” imaging demo. We’ve posted a picture and a link to the associated Flickr stream already but I think a more detailed write-up is in order now…

Smile! You’re on camera…

We were demonstrating a camera application that could take pictures the instant you press the capture button. To date, there is always a slight delay on camera phones between the user pressing the button and the camera actually capturing the image. Since our set-up elimates this delay we’ve dubbed it “Zero shutter lag“.

To make it a bit more fun we had a few effects that could be applied to the photos such as black & white, sepia, milky and more. Some of these also worked in real-time on the camera view-finder. There were also a number of celebrity lookalikes to pose with: Posh’n’Becks*, Del boy (a character from “Only Fools and Horses” for the non-Brits reading this), Jean-Luc Picard, Austin Powers and Kylie Minogue.

The finished images could then be uploaded directly to Flickr and from there were then downloaded and displayed on the main Symbian stand (behind the coffee bar) and the ScreenPlay demo. You could also get your photo printed out onto a keyring, bottle opener or fridge magnet for added freebie goodness!

The ingredients

The demo was built on Symbian OS 9.5 and running on a Texas Instruments 3430 development board with a 3.2 mega-pixel OmniVision camera. Although they don’t look like phones, such dev boards are representative of mobile phones – same CPU, memory, peripherals etc. – but have some extra connections to help software development.

The software that enabled the zero shutter lag feature was by Scalado. By working closely with them, we have pre-integrated Scalado’s imaging solutions into Symbian OS. This means that it’s a lot quicker, cheaper and easier for Symbian OS licensees to use Scalado’s software in their products if they so desire. A great example of the Symbian Parter Network in action!

How the magic happens

You may be wondering why we haven’t had zero shutter lag before. Well, traditionally phone cameras will send a low-resolution stream of images while the viewfinder is being displayed. This is because using full-sized images for the viewfinder is prohibitively CPU and memory intensive. When the user presses the capture button the camera therefore has to switch into full-resolution mode first and this takes some time (largely because it involves re-calibration for which the camera needs to capture a few frames as reference). That’s where the delay is introduced.

Enter Scalado. They have some incredibly clever and effecient JPEG-decoding software. In fact, it’s so nippy that it allows us to use a full resolution feed from the camera for our view-finder (and that’s all running ARM-side btw). When it comes to capture time that means we already have a full sized, JPEG file that we just need to save to disk. No more switching camera modes equals no more lag!

Although our demo app didn’t do this, it wouldn’t be much of a stretch to buffer the last few seconds’ worth of camera frames so that when you capture it could present you with photos from just before you pressed the button. That way even if you were a bit late to press the button you still wouldn’t miss those once-in-a-lifetime moments! You could also implement a burst capture mode along similar lines.

With higher spec camera hardware and sufficient bandwidth on the camera connection you could up the mega-pixels quite significantly too. Scalado recons that with the CPU we were using their solution could comfortably decode up to 20 mega-pixel images. Sweet! :-)

* Incase you were wondering: The Posh’n’Becks were the same ones that appeared on Dragon’s Den!

Posted by: James Nash | October 24, 2008

Phones on parade

As expected, many Symbian-OS phones were on display at the show. I snapped a few and have uploaded them for your viewing pleasure (you can click the images to see higher resolution versions)…

Various S60 phones on the S60 stand (Including the new 5800 XpressMusic with S60 5th edition)

Some pretty Korean models ;-)

…and finally, a classic: The Ericsson R380, the first phone to use Symbian OS (or Epoc as it was back then)

Posted by: James Nash | October 23, 2008

ScreenPlay demos

This year we had two ScreenPlay demonstrations at the Smartphone Show. One was a fancy image gallery with hardware-accelerated OpenVG graphics (this was running on a TI OMAP 3430 development board). The gallery was populated with photos from our imaging demo. It also had a transparent incoming call dialog window that could appear to demonstrate the surface composition effects of ScreenPlay. Pretty nifty!

(Btw, our SMP demos were running a non-hardware-accelerated version of this)

Additionally we had a second ScreenPlay demo showing a basic UI that had been enhanced with various transition effects (menus and windows zooming and fading in and out).

Posted by: William | October 22, 2008

Handmark


I love the latest version of pocket express, it really is a simple, all purpose content aggregator that gives you a plethora of information at the touch of a button. News, sport, entertainment, travel, all accessed from within the app and by jingo it works a treat. Oi (mobi) mate, sort yourself out.

Posted by ShoZu

Posted by: William | October 22, 2008

Joikusoft


Worthy winners of a star developer award, this fab app turns your mobile into a wireless hotspot so you can easily connect multiple devices to the net using your phone as a router. It doesn’t make coffee yet but soon, so soon.

Posted by ShoZu

Posted by: William | October 22, 2008

Quickoffice


It may not look like much but this is the new Quickoffice v6, showing off the excel chart capabilities on a remote drive accessed over WebDav. This almost makes graphs look like they’re cool! Almost.

Posted by ShoZu

Posted by: William | October 22, 2008

Samsung mobile innovator is welcomed


Following up on the announcement that was universally welcomed two months earlier, Samsung Mobile Innovator debuted their fledgling developer program at the show and have already received a swathe of interest from innovative mobile pioneers. Welcome to the fold! Again, I say welcome!

Posted by ShoZu

Posted by: William | October 22, 2008

Hot bot action


The ubiquitous echobot has proven to be a show winner. This fiesty little bendable friend has been flying off the stand and will be mumbling tourettes-like obscenities in industry offices around the world. This fella found respite from a frantic show floor at a local vegan cafe (ahem!)

Posted by ShoZu

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