Thursday, March 15, 2018

Augmented Reality: what could be, should be

Tony Stark operates his Iron Man suit from his office, Aloy from Horizon Zero Dawn overrides Tall Necks, and Shuri drives a car remotely in Black Panther. Pokémon GO overlays your environment to show creatures, and Vuforia allows you to see and interact with digital content. All of these are powered by Augmented Reality, though the first three fictional examples are a bit different, aren’t they: they physically influence the real world, not just overlay it, or provide additional data. This is what needs to change about Augmented Reality development.

Just as the remote control revolutionised the use of the television, augmented reality should revolutionise our lives: allowing us to potentially remote control everything! Wave your hand at the TV to change the channel, or grip and turn your hand mid-air towards your air conditioner to turn it up or down. These kinds of gestures can surpass things like voice control because they are universal – no translation needed!

In Sydney, Australia, at nsquared solutions, I work with the team to create some truly amazing applications and experiences. We turn what was the ‘future’, into the ‘modern’, and show businesses and people how they can work together better, by harnessing technology to its full purpose, so to make our lives easier, and allow people to be more collaborative.

More recently I’ve been working on an application called nsquared space planner, which is usable with both the Microsoft HoloLens, and the new Mixed Reality Immersive Headsets. Though, it provides the user with a different experience, depending on their device. The core premise to the app is to help people design and plan their spaces. The app provides you with various furniture options (over forty), which can be placed in your space, so that you can see what it might look like in your space, in actual scale. The included tools allow for changing the various material styles of the furniture, and the ease of placing them in the world, using position and rotation. In this way, it helps people be more productive, by taking away the logistical headaches that would otherwise be associated with such a task.

What if you could take it a step further though, and whilst overlaying your surroundings, also interact with the real world? Make that lamp brighter or turn the stereo up! Have your Italian friend speak to you and receive live translation. Or mute your smartphone, because you’re too busy having fun – I mean, planning and designing your space.

The good news is that this is all very possible. We are already doing it at nsquared, in Sydney! Object shape, and image, recognition is available to devices like the HoloLens. So is translation of hundreds of languages, and the ability to interact with your lamp remotely.

So, the next time you are watching Tony Stark transform his environment with augmented reality, you will be able to also, and it won’t be so futuristic. From now on, let’s aim to work together better.

Coogler R, Black Panther (Marvel Studios 2018).
Favreau J, Iron Man (Marvel Studios 2008).
nsquared space planner, (nsquared solutions, 2018).
Tatsuo N, Pokemon GO (Niantic 2016).
van der Leeuw M, Horizon Zero Dawn (Guerilla Games 2017).
Vuforia (PTC Inc 2011).

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Design Better Together

nsquared tabletop re-imagines the way you design on the DIGITABLE. We have made it easier than ever to furnish a floor plan, or even build a custom brochure based on your furnishing needs.

With the Content Explorer pack for nsquared tabletop:

nsquared attractor cloud - Preload the DIGITABLE with company brochures and artifacts ready to be used to furnish client floor plans.
nsquared artifacts - Layer client floor plans with artifacts to furnish a space that suits their requirements.
nsquared drawing - Annotate floor plans based on decisions made.
nsquared web - Open up a web browser and search for some living room inspiration.
nsquared sharing - Share custom brochures and floor plans directly from the DIGITABLE to your clients inbox.

Watch the video below to find out how Freda and Joel come to an agreement and furnish their living space using the DIGITABLE:

To find out more about how we can help you design better together, contact us at

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Security and nsquared documents

One of the questions commonly asked about nsquared documents is around the security of the NFC tags and the associated PIN.

It is difficult to know how much we should disclose about the way we secure your authentication information. Therefore I will keep this post at a fairly high level and explain the concepts that keep your details safe.
First the obligatory disclaimer; nothing is truly safe. Seriously, if you believe you have a system that is 100% secure you are naïve. In order for encrypted data to be useful it needs to be decrypted. The encryption and decryption is done in software using mathematical algorithms to make it hard for people without the correct corresponding components to access the data. The question, with security, is how hard do you make it for "bad" people to access your information? At nsquared we believe we have made it difficult for anyone to access your data without substantial effort.

When you log in to one of your cloud document stores (OneDrive, Dropbox etc) the service responds with a token that enables the software to access that cloud store. Somehow nsquared documents needs to store that token. We don’t need to store your username and password. In fact we don’t even have access to your username and password. That is hidden by the login screens provided by the cloud store providers (Microsoft and Dropbox). Even if we did have that data we wouldn’t store it, as we don’t need it.
We then associate an NFC tag to that token. The NFC tag contains a unique ID, nothing else. We do not store the token or your PIN on the tag. The tag is like a locker number. It uniquely identifies a place your data is stored. Except it is encrypted. So even with that unique number on your tag your still need to know how to decrypt it in order to find the locker.
So what about the PIN? We never store your PIN anywhere. The only place the PIN is stored is in your head. Please don’t write it down somewhere, your security will be lower. The PIN is a bit like your locker key. We use the PIN in combination with your tag ID to identify who you are, where your data is stored and how to decrypt your data.
If you lose your tag and are concerned about the fact your PIN was written on a sticky note on your desk (yes, you know who I am talking about). Then you can go to your cloud store provider and disable access for nsquared documents to access your store. You can then create a new tag using nsquared documents and this will generate a whole new setup.
If you are using a Surface Hub please download the free trial of nsquared documents from here
If there are any features you would like to see added to nsquared documents please let us know.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

nsquared documents 2.1

The Surface Hub is an incredible achievement. As an interactive multi-user screen it presents a canvas (or surface if you will) upon which your team can collaborate, create, brainstorm, and present ideas.

As a true multi-user device, you do not login to the Surface Hub; who would be the person logged in when a team needs to work together at the screen? Authenticating the entire session for a single person makes sense if only one person is going to need to access their data. The latest update to Windows 10 Creators update does do this, and it alleviates the challenge for a single presenter.

When you have a meeting with multiple people, who want to bring their content to the screen, you need a way for each person to authenticate. Authentication on the Surface Hub is a cumbersome experience. If you log in using the on-screen touch-keyboard you are sharing your password with all the people watching. This is made far worse if your Surface Hub is projected out to other screens on a teleconference or in room.
To solve this problem at nsquared we built nsquared documents, an application that allows multiple people to authenticate with their accounts on the Surface Hub, in the same session. With nsquared documents you associate an NFC tag with your account the first time you use the application.

In the first version we released you could connect to your OneDrive for Business account using your Office 365 account. In version 2.0 we expanded nsquared documents to support your SharePoint and Dropbox accounts. You still only need a single NFC tag and you can access any of the accounts you have added to your profile.

This latest release enables you to also add your OneDrive personal account to the same tag.
With nsquared documents 2.1 you and your team can access files from Dropbox, Office 365, and OneDrive personal accounts.

Create an NFC tag to connect to any of these cloud document stores

Add other cloud document stores to your tag in nsquared documents 2.1

If you are using a Surface Hub, please download the free trial of nsquared documents from here

If there are any features you would like to see added to nsquared documents please let us know.

For more details please watch the video

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Microsoft Surface Hub - Whiteboard collaboration settings

At a recent Sydney Surface Hub user group meeting there was a question asked about preventing the Whiteboard app from sharing. 

There are a some settings that can be changed on the Surface Hub to enable or disable sharing of the Whiteboard. 

Disable Sharing
Hide entry points from the Share button, hiding export in the Share charm and Collaboration.

Disable Export
Users cannot send Whiteboards using email, thumb drives, or other mechanisms through the Share charm.

Please follow the link below for more information:

Microsoft Surface Hub - BitLocker Issue

At a recent Sydney Surface Hub user group the topic was raised on how to recover a Surface Hub from a BitLocker locked situation.

If the Surface Hub is BitLocker locked for whatever reason without BitLocker code recorded, in addition to the option of sending a spare SSD, the other option is to ‘reset’ the locked device using ‘Cloud Recovery’. This feature is only supported in Creator’s Update. Refer to below screen flow for process. This process can take up to 2-3 hours.

1. Press 'Esc' on keyboard.

2. Press 'Skip this drive'.

3. Click 'Recover from the cloud'.

4. Press 'Yes'.

5. Press 'Reinstall'.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Microsoft Build Tour June 2017

During June,  Dr. Neil Roodyn visited Shanghai, Beijing, Munich, Helsinki, and then thankfully came back to Sydney, all for the great Microsoft Build Tour of 2017.
Neil got the first hand gossip from the Microsoft experts on the latest technical news and updates. The event was designed for developers building Line of Business or consumer applications, using Cloud or traditional desktop tech. The days started with a keynote address. Then a full day of practical sessions covering recently released Cloud and Windows technologies followed. These were all topical to building applications using the latest technology.
Many cities also hosted a workshop on the second day, where developers attending could get hands on with the latest technology presented on the previous day. Neil gave over 300 hands-on demos of Microsoft HoloLens in the cities visited. 
Did you get a HoloLens demo? What did you think?
(If not get in touch and we can try to organize one for you)
Full days but so rewarding!
Here are some photos from the first day of the Sydney Event, June 29th

Missed the Microsoft Build Tour this year? Click here to watch all the highlights from the Sydney event