Kapow! Shazam! Zing! Mary Jo Foley from ZDNet drove in hard with a right hook last week, referencing my recently-returned-from-hiatus series of great WPF applications and asking why Windows Vista didn’t have more killer applications. As one of her correspondents notes, and even Wikipedia highlights, the notion of a killer application is both rare and perhaps something that is better observed in hindsight than at the time. Windows XP and Windows 2000 were both great successes, but I can’t name any one application that was the tipping point for industry adoption of either.
From a development standpoint, the killer application is less relevant than the killer platform. This needs to strike the right balance between feature richness and ease of use, between power and flexibility, between ease of deployment and performance. Can you build an application that takes full advantage of your machine’s hardware? Can you build an application that your customers love to use? Can you create faster, more feature-rich, less buggy software with fewer resources? My intention in writing this series is to try and highlight great applications that take advantage of WPF – the killer platform in Windows Vista!
Which brings us nicely on to one of the more amazing WPF applications that I’ve seen recently. This application came up in our team meeting today, and we were all noting that it’s not had nearly the exposure it deserves. The application is the HP Interactive Canvas, built by Obscura Digital and Look or Feel for the Wall Street Journal D | All Things Digital conference held in May of this year. Created in just four weeks, this application takes full advantage of WPF to deliver a massive multi-touch interactive video experience. It’s hard to do it justice with a couple of lines of text, so I’m going to break my usual moratorium on all things Google (!) and post this YouTube video that gives you a quick sense of the experience:
In the video above, you can see that multiple users are able to use their fingers to manipulate different objects on the screen: musical instruments, a photo and archive video collection, real-time stock symbols and charts. Obscura claim it is the world’s largest multi-touch interactive video display. The application blends a high-resolution display with prototype hardware to bring the alleged Holy Grail of user experience to reality: the Minority Report interface.
Much of the work for this application was done by Darren David, a self-proclaimed "GUI geek" who was also responsible in large part for The North Face’s in-store explorer application. He’s got further videos and photos of the Interactive Canvas on his blog, which is also a great read on advanced WPF development. Keep an eye out for another similar application that he’s going to be posting about in the next 24 hours too – another good reason to be subscribed to his blog.