Monday, April 11, 2011

Contour joins the Plasma Active track: Get active with a new and innovative usage paradigm for digital devices

Many of you rememberme from being KDE e.V. president back in 2007 before I handed over to Aaron and later to Cornelius. Since then I've been rather busy with other things, driving Qt in business through my company basysKom and being involved with creating MeeGo. However, there are really exciting things happening in KDE. Those make me step deeper into KDE again and I'd like to let you know about it!

Today I would like to introduce to you the Contour project. Contour is part of Plasma Active - the project of the KDE community to create a desirable user experience encompassing a spectrum of devices such as Tablets, Smartphones, in-car or Set Top Boxes. There have been several blog posts by Sebas, Martin and Aaron.

Contour will contribute to this vision with a new and thrilling usage paradigm using adaptive activities and intelligent recommendations. The aim is to create a context-sensitive user interface that adapts to the users current context, activities and behavioral patterns. The overall goal is to create a data-centric user interface which is not concerned with applications but offers intelligently combined data through a context-sensitive recommendation manager.

Moving on from todays application-centric approach

Smartphones, tablets or PCs in general handle a huge amount of data like phone call logs, contact data, videos, photos, and much more. The classical approach on mobile systems is based on the idea that the user first chooses the application to reach their goal. They have to search for data and sort the information themselves. This creates a very static and application-centric user-experience. Contour goes one step beyond.

Activities and Recommendations

Contour sets out to break with this tradition and to combine the available data with personal usage patterns and context information. The Contour project aims to provide different entry points for different situations and contexts, called activities. In a work environment for example users have different preferences than they have on the train or at the opera. So the activities can contain different resources like files, contacts, applications, informations etc.

The system provides smart recommendations based on the current context like the current geo location, time but also the current activity, active files and applications or recent action history. So the provided resources depend not only on the context, but also on the previous behaviour of the user. The system tries to learn those patterns and adjusts to the users' needs in every situation.

Mockup showing Activity Browser

Activity with different resources such as documents, applications, contacts and more

Recommendation Overlay

Select activity with slideIn


Contour uses KDE technology

Contour is based on well-known Qt and KDE technologies like Plasma, Nepomuk and Qt Mobility and extends Plasma Active. These technologies will be combined and extended to create new ways of working and using digital devices.

Plasma is the desktop and mobile workspace of the KDE project, as well as a library for the retrieval and visualization of any kind of data, based on the Qt QGraphicsView and the Qt Quick framework. The Plasma library allows to build any kind of deeply personalized user interface, with a unified SVG-based theming system and with a clear separation between the data and its visualization. It is also the natural complement of Qt Quick to develop user interfaces that can adapt themselves (even with radical changes) for different form factor devices.

The Plasma Quick will be used as the primary user interface for the interaction with a Contour enabled device. It will visualize all the activities and suggestions of the system, and will be the UI framework for its main applications. The existing Qt Mobility APIs will be joined with sophisticated data mining algorithms to enrich the overall mobile user experience.

Nepomuk will act as the main data storage and query solution. Nepomuk allows a linkage between all kinds of information and powerful queries over the data. Apart from the file indexing Nepomuk is used as a passive framework providing services for other components to use.

Contour will be made available and tested on real world platforms. Initial target platforms are MeeGo and the Balsam Professional live image. basysKom and open-slx cooperate on providing packages to go.

Contour is Open Source

The Contour project is part of the Plasma Active Project in KDE. Originally it was started as a research project in basysKom. Very quickly it turned out, that KDE technology is a natural choice offering the functionality required for Contour. With Sebastian TrĂ¼g and Marco Martin joining Contour, it was clear, Contour would be developed as an open project and as an integral part of KDE, so that our big community can contribute and benefit.

Get Active!

I am very excited about Contour and Plasma Active offering innovative new user experience and technology to the device world. KDE has a lot of building blocks to offer. With Plasma Active we enable device manufacturers to easily integrate KDE into new devices. Thus we enable ourselves to be part of creating people's way of using devices. New contributors can join easily by creating Active Apps and adding more functionality in a large marketplace.

You are welcome to help us creating Contour. We invite you to read more about Contour in the wiki and subscribe to Contour or Plasma Active mailinglists / IRC channels.

Let's build the future. Let's get Active!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Alive and Kicking!

So far I've been rather resistant to the blogging community. Maybe because I am rather the powerpoint person... also fotos have proven to be a fantastic medium for me. So what has changed to make me start blogging after all? There are a few cool things ahead. It is definitely worth talking about these things and spreading the word. So here I am am. Let's see, where it leads us to.