iStrategyBlabs

Take An Instant Selfie With This Magical Mirror

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Meet S.E.L.F.I.E., the “The Self Enhancing Live Feed Image Engine”. Triggered by simply standing in front of the mirror and holding a smile, hidden LED’s indicate a countdown, then simulate a “flash” as your photo is taken. The photo is then automatically posted to Twitter (with a watermark/logo).

Find out how it works and see it in action:

A MacMini powers the facial recognition software:

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The LEDs (controlled by an Arduino) visualize the countdown timer:

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All components are hidden behind the 2-way mirror:

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A custom vinyl graphic on the floor let’s you know exactly where to stand:

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Want one for yourself? Have some ideas for our next experiment?  Hit us up!

The LED Cave Sign: Powered By Electric Imp & Arduino

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As our company has continued to grow our desire for common work space has increased.  We recently decided to turn our “Dev Cave” into a multipurpose meeting area — allowing for our team to take client calls, have project check-ins, and work together productively in an enclosed space.  We initially mounted an “On Air” sign above the  Cave’s door that was activated via a button on the wall. The system worked, but there was room for improvement.  Enter: “The LED Cave Sign”.

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The LED Cave Sign is powered by an Electric Imp and an Arduino, with a simple webpage acting as the control center. An iPad inside the Cave runs the webpage and has a multiple buttons that allow people to control the display. When the user taps one of the buttons on the iPad, a signal is sent to the Electric Imp, which then sends a signal to an Arduino Mega. The Arduino then relays the information to the LED array, and there you have it!

 

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RobotsConf 2013 Recap

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The inaugural RobotsConf event was held on Dec 6th-7th at Amelia Island, Florida. As a whole, the event aimed to be “A Software Developer’s Hardware Conference,” bringing software developers of all backgrounds (skill levels, programming languages, and yes even editor choice) together to interact with each other and build inventive projects — by all accounts it was an incredible success. We had the pleasure of attending and running a workshop highlighting the skills of wiring, soldering, and prototyping. While this may sound a bit dry, it actually afforded us the opportunity to see all of the other conference goers build their awesome projects throughout the course of the weekend.

As a wrap up to the conference we wanted to highlight a couple of the coolest things that we experienced.

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Tech Recap

One really awesome component of RobotsConf was all of the available technology.  Not only was there a bounty of the latest gadgets on display, but all attendees were given free developer kits, which held various items including an Arduino Uno, a LeapMotion, and a Spark Core. Throughout the weekend we came across an array of items such as the Oculus Rift, BeagleBone boards, XBee shields, Tessel prototypes, Spheros, and even quadcopters. While we use Arduinos almost exclusively for our projects at ISL, it was really interesting to see how much of a de facto standard it was (and is) for other developers.

RobotsConf gave us the opportunity to interact with a Spark Core for the first time.  The Spark Core is a very small, wifi-enabled development board similar to Arduino in both its look and feel (aside from the different chipset on the board). We found the biggest benefit to be that Spark Core comes with on-board wifi that works! This has been a big pain point during many of ISL’s recent projects. If you want internet, you need to use an ethernet shield, which tethers you.

All conference attendees received one of these devices in their gift bags and the Spark Core promptly became the go-to device for getting things up and running throughout the event. As the Spark Core was used widely during the conference many perks were quickly discovered. For example, the learned possibility to remotely flash new firmware onto the board over the internet. In fact, the editor of choice is the web-based IDE from which you can deploy the code to the board with just the click of a button — Awesome! Once this was discovered people in the room immediately started creating easily accessible libraries for the Spark Core including a node.js library, a web-based tool and a cylon.js library.

Community Recap

In its inaugural year, RobotConf boasted an extremely impressive spectrum of speakers and attendees.  The roughly 150 people present represented Denmark, Columbia, Canada, Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, Myanmar, Australia, and almost every state in America.  Of these 150 people 35% were non-male.  Even though it was a first-time conference, that statistic speaks volumes about its viability moving forward.

One of the most riveting keynotes during the conference came from a 12 year old girl and her father. Sylvia (@MakerSylvia) and James Todd (@techninja42) are a father-daughter team that worked together to build a watercoloring robot. A WATERCOLORING ROBOT! They even had the opportunity to show it off to President Obama at the White House Science Fair. The team’s energy was infectious and set the tone for the rest of the conference as everyone else then went on to build with great excitement.

The workshops, which were used for building, had the truest and most amazing sense of community.  While there were experts on site to help create bots, it was really the other attendees who offered their assistance and expertise to fellow conference-goers that kept things moving with great ease.  The camaraderie was unparalleled to any conference I had ever been to before. We came across people teaching one another everything from soldering to coding. It was truly fantastic to see people acting in a fashion befitting a community.

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One of the best moments of the conference was the presentation of the final products at the Science Fair. A panel of judges walked around the room talking to individuals and teams asking about what they had built. Many people where just happy to have gotten a robot built, while others boasted some more impressive bots. Some of the crazier projects we came across were a third person camera that follows you around using an Oculus Rift, a quiz game tug of war in which a Sphero moves slowly towards the winner, a LeapMotion controlled water glass playing machine, and a facial detection robot that uses RaspberryPi. The father-daughter team from before? They made a dog rescuing quadcopter (seen below).

 

We had a great time at RobotsConf and hopefully we’ll be a fixture in conferences to come. We get to do some really amazing things here at ISL everyday working on projects like Redds, Nickelodeon, Redskins, and the GE Fridge, and it was really great to get to meet up with a group of likeminded people looking to make amazing things together.

 

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Behind The Scenes: Natural Markets Food Group Web and Social Strategy

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In 2013, Natural Markets Food Group (NMFG) expanded their flagship restaurant and market concepts — Richtree Natural Market Restaurants and Mrs. Green’s Natural Market — across the US and Canada, and tapped iStrategyLabs to lead comprehensive website redesign and development, and social media strategy.

Before we started, Richtree and Mrs. Green’s had been operating independently, and NMFG was in the process of integrating them into a cohesive brand family. We were challenged to work within creative concepts that both maintained the companies’ unique identities and character, and refreshed them to reintroduce to new customers.

To meet the core needs of the project, we focused on three central objectives that would serve as a foundation to our approach.

1) Re-introduce a new, cohesive and unique brand identity. We needed to stay true to the companies’ history and core attributes, illuminate the best aspects of the brands’ character, and present a new identity that resonated with both long-time customers and new shoppers alike.

To accomplish the task, we knew we needed to make good food the star of the show. Beautiful photography of organic and all-natural foods are used front-and-center in our foundational design approach, complimented by supporting design elements of fresh colors and artisanal textures to provide a cohesive design concept.

From there, we were able to use the design framework to create a flexible, unique approach that tailors the core visual concepts to the individual brands. The result is a complimentary design approach that overlaps visually while maintaining a unique and independent visual character.

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2) Create a customer-centered web experience. The heart of this project required us to reflect, compliment, and translate the in-store customer experience to the web. To do that effectively, what customers need to do first and foremost is experience the store in person — which means finding store locations and information, food options, and even complete online ordering in a simple, easy process.

To tailor the web experience for what customers need most, we focused on a few key elements. First, store information and locations are super-easy to find, making it as easy as possible to take the first step in experiencing these unique food markets yourself.

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Second, an independent online ordering system was a top priority feature that informed our central design approach. While the integrations between platforms are simple, we designed them to result in a seamless experience from the customer’s perspective.

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Third, the websites prominently feature the essential aspects of a good customer experience — like in-store events, promotions and specials, recipes, and more. These aspects of the customer experience are important to customers who care deeply about the foods they eat, while driving in-store visits.

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Fully responsive website designs help to ensure that customers can find what they’re looking for easily from any device, from the comfort of home or on the go at one of the many store locations.

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3) Bring it all to life with character.  Our design approach needed  to make Natural Markets Food Group  stand out from the crowd among other organic and natural food markets.

To do that, we used the latest, most innovative interaction design concepts, grounded by a foundation of arresting, bold imagery. The result is a flexible design framework that puts core visual elements in the spotlight — with just the right touch of motion and interactivity.

On the Richtree Natural Market Restaurants website, we use a fun set of animation designs that highlight individual dishes from each of their unique eateries, and reflect the personality of the store.

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For Mrs. Green’s Natural Market, bold imagery is complimented with full-screen parallax animation that highlights their core values around good health and good food.

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And on the Natural Markets Food Group website, we used a unique slideshow format that combines bold use of color, imagery, and messaging to communicate the core values of the company and reveal what those values mean in practice.

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Finally, we made it all social. In the design process, we accounted for how each of the concepts would translate into social media — and how social would integrate back into the websites.

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The ultimate result is a visually consistent network of digital marketing channels, customized to the personality of each market, with social media content that feeds back to the websites in a meaningful way.

On completion of our initial project phase, iStrategyLabs has remained on board as an NMFG partner, for ongoing website design and development, and as their social media agency of record. It’s been our pleasure to work with a company so committed to an innovative customer experience that promises good food as part of a healthy lifestyle.

CourtPlay’s Brand and Digital Platform Launch

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CourtPlay, the brainchild of two die-hard tennis enthusiasts and professional coaches, came to iStrategyLabs with a clear mission: streamline the scheduling process between tennis coaches and players, allowing coaches to spend less time booking lessons and more time giving them.

iStrategyLabs took this concept and, with the CourtPlay team, built a brand and web application that gives coaches the ability to market themselves, eases the administrative responsibilities of coaching, eliminates the inefficiencies of their current scheduling process, and gives them maximum earning potential. Players now have all the necessary tools to sign up for lessons, find players at their skill level, and locate courts in their neighborhood.

The first step was to develop a killer brand for CourtPlay. Inspired by the sport of tennis and the possibilities CourtPlay.com held for creating a new sense of ease for tennis coaches and players alike, iSL Creative Director, Zach Goodwin created a striking logo for the new company. He explains:

The CourtPlay identity, typeset in Klavika, needed to feel like it straddled the line between a sports and lifestyle brand. The simple, modern, Nike-esque boldness of Klavika helped achieve that balance. The vertical stroke dividing the two words was intended to suggest the net of a tennis court, while also providing a needed jolt of contrasting color.

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Next, iStrategyLabs worked with the CourtPlay team to develop core values for their brand. Given the company’s early stage, iStrategylabs found it pivotal to establish their internal compass – the values that would eventually drive our work with CourtPlay and their functionality as a business. In our discovery process we worked closely with the CourtPlay team to deeply understand both their team and their brand in order to establish the following values:

Be Authentic – Be Simple – Inspire Action
Share Knowledge – Be Essential

ISL started the web design process by performing a technical assessment of CourtPlay’s existing platform. We needed to create a sophisticated application that included a booking system with a credit card-driven point of sale, a messaging system for players and coaches to interact, and profile creation with location-based searching. On top of all of that the new platform had to be visually striking, extremely intuitive and easy-to-use.

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The result is a clean and beautiful web platform that allows coaches to focus their time on what they do best, coaching. While CourtPlay is an effort to make the lives of tennis coaches easier, it is also an endeavor that caters specifically to tennis players, allowing them to connect to coaches, players, and tennis facilities. In the end, everybody—tennis coaches, players, and clubs—wins. And really, that was the goal of CourtPlay all along, create an innovative way to bring together the greater tennis community.

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Start playing now! Sign up today at http://CourtPlay.com.