YOUi Labs‘ CEO Jason Flick was clear about his priority when we met at Mobile World Congress: speed. His company provides a cross-platform layer which enables designers to build interfaces in Adobe After Effects, transpose them with a minimal amount of re-tooling and deploy to a range of digital touchpoints. This is, of course, by no means unique – the market is already crowded with products targeting a similar goal – but it is Flick’s relentless focus on speed which caught my attention.
His approach has its origins in the gaming industry and the core technology behind YOUi Labs platform actually started life as a games engine. This has brought an understanding of what speed means relative to user perception rather than measured in megahertz or the number of cores. Coincidentally, several other conversations I had at Mobile World Congress revealed YOUi Labs is not alone in looking to the gaming community to inspire the next generation of interfaces. There seems to be growing recognition the demands of graphically intense gameplay are good training for making new UIs.
As an example, Flick showed me how they render a multi-gigabyte photo gallery on a single core tablet. Using game industry techniques, scrolling through the gallery is always maintained above 30 frames per second, even if that means skipping the rendering of some images when the user flicks through on a fast scroll. The objective is ensure a smooth and consistent response to user input, prioritising the continuity of the interaction from the user perspective rather than visual accuracy.
I examined this issue of true speed in my earlier MEX essay (creatively entitled ‘Speed‘). The industry’s current obsession with faster processors and multiple cores seems to have little impact on the real pace of user interactions. The most highly specified devices are still prone to stuttering when rendering complex graphics. The result is a disconnect between user input and on-screen response.
Making this better will be a source of competitive advantage. It is easy to observe how users with multiple devices gravitate towards those which offer the fastest overall experience, even causing them to shift between classes of device, so that habitual laptop users abandon their machines in favour of less capable – but faster – phones and tablets.
The commitment to speed also runs through YOUi Labs’ development process. They’ve built the architecture so that designers, with a little assistance from YOUi Labs experts, can go from prototyping in Adobe After Effects to delivering a working interface on a client device in a day.
The first product with YOUi Labs platform is staring to ship and several more are due for release later this year. In a crowded space, I think their focus on speed will pay dividends.
Here’s an example of the a prototype camera interface running on their technology: