CompetitiveAnalysis-RichardLan

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Contents

Restatement of Idea

List of Competitors

  1. Whiteboard Lite
  2. ZeptoPad 2.0 Whiteboard
  3. Instaviz
  4. IblueSky
  5. (ShareYourBoard) Jigsaw
  6. Collaborative Whiteboard
  7. Netsketch
  8. A+ Whiteboard
  9. Storypages
  10. Storyboard Composer

Analysis

Whiteboard Lite

The target user group for this iPhone application is designers who want to collaborate on sketches in real-time. This group differs from our group in that our app targets educators who want to plan their physical whiteboard usage. This application allows for collaboration, but does not address the same issue as our whiteboard layout application. The competitor whiteboard application uses wi-fi technology to link two iPhones that are running the app, which allows for collaboration between two people in close proximity, but not between users in disparate locations. Our original application did not include collaboration in its original manifestation, but such a feature could be useful, particularly in classes taught by multiple professors or teacher assistants.

ZeptoPad 2.0 Whiteboard

ZetoPad is a whiteboard app that allows users to draw vector images onto the phone screen, and is billed as a notepad for handwriting. It is a lot like the paint utility in windows, however, but with limited functionality due to space constraints. From the screenshots provided on the website, however, it seems that it includes several other graphics functions that I cannot name. With this added functionality comes a loss of simplicity, however, as the screen becomes more cluttered with different functions. This app is more advanced than the Whiteboard Lite app because it allows users to draw some default standard shapes, such as circles, rectangles, and arrows, whereas the whiteboard app only allows for free-form drawing. In addition to these shapes, it allows for free-form drawing, similar to many other apps in this genre. In particular, it uses openGL in order to render the computer graphics (I don't know what Whiteboard Lite uses, though chances are it also uses openGL). The target user group clearly differs from our target group, as this app targets graphics designers while we are targeting professors and teachers. In terms of its ability to facilitate collaboration, it is limited to saving worksheets and emailing it to other people. It also has a “shake and share” ability, with an interface design similar to the “bump” application. With this ability, two users can shake their iPhones to magically transfer worksheets between them.

Instaviz

The target user group is someone trying to draw flow diagrams onto their iPhone. It takes user finger's input and converts it into nicely formatted diagrams. The main difference between this app and ours is that our target user group consists of educators, while this app has a broader potential user group of anyone who draws diagrams. From examining the content of this app, it seems like it is geared more towards businessmen or professionals in charge of managing projects. From watching the demonstration video, Instaviz automatically arranges the graph nodes and edges when they are connected, which bypasses the purpose that we had in mind for our app. This app seems very usable because it doesn't rely on the user to create precise input signals. The user's fingers can draw messy shapes on the screen and the app will nevertheless present a beautifully formatted diagram with straight edges and proportional ellipses. Our app, however, doesn't run into such problems because it doesn't really accept free-form inputs. All diagrams you can place onto the whiteboard are discretized entities, and all the user needs to worry about is where on the board the place the item and how that affects the placement of other objects.

IblueSky

This application allows the user to collect and organize their ideas into a graphical format. The interface seems to feature a large board, on which a graph consisting of nodes and edges that link ideas to each other. The website bills the iPhone app as a “mindmapper” for quick brainstorming, essentially allowing to throw all your thoughts onto the board and arrange them using touch and drag motions. Originally, I found this app through a link on a website for graphics design applications. However, I believe the target user group is broader than graphics designers, and could encompass groups of people who get lots of great ideas, but never have a a physical means of recording their thoughts. After a while, they forget about it and their idea is lost. This app protects against that by providing a mobile platform on which one can effectively organize their ideas. In this sense the iBlueSky app is similar to ours, in that it allows the user to organize ideas or objects in a physical space, similar to the desktop metaphor, but instead with a whiteboard. Like the other competitors, however, this app does not focus specifically on the issues that educators have with whiteboard space usage. In terms of usability, this app seems comparable to the Instaviz idea, as they seem to share a similar interface in terms of the way they implement idea management through virtual diagram manipulation.

(ShareYourBoard) Jigsaw

This application was designed for the android platform. Based on the product description, it appears that it does the exact opposite of what our whiteboard application is supposed to do. Namely, it processes a picture of a whiteboard layout, extracts the information, and then displays it on the iPhone, whereas our app goes the other way around, displaying information on the iPhone screen in order to aid educators in planning their whiteboard space usage. The target user group could conceivably be taken as educators wishing to share whiteboard layouts. However, I feel it is more likely that the app was designed with students in mind, in particular, students who want an easy way to take notes without actually writing in notebooks. This is akin to what many people do nowadays, which is to take a picture of the board with their cameras, but this app adds in some image processing in order to enhance the image with the whiteboard framework in mind. Indeed, the image processing seems quite advanced, as the webpage claims that it can extract the information from the board regardless of angle, lighting, type of whiteboard, and type of markers used. This app does not include a demonstration video, however, so I could not determine how well it works under these conditions.

Collaborative Whiteboard

The sole purpose of this app is to allow users in proximity to each other to collaboratively sketch pictures on a common, shared whiteboard. This application idea is similar to the Whiteboard Lite app, which allows the same level of collaboration. It seems like these apps would be more useful for passing secret electronic notes, than for use as productivity tools in the classroom. The ability to save and remember whiteboard layouts is limited, and the only type of input is a paintbrush, which affords itself to drawing rather than layout planning. Therefore, the app is designed for spur of the moment drawing and doesn't seem like a useful productivity tool. The target user group is then people who have fun doodling and want to do it with other people in the same wi-fi network. Like I said earlier, this app has extremely limited functionality. It probably would not be used in any type of business or professional setting, and educators would not find it useful for developing whiteboard layouts. Put another way, its function is not specific enough to any one group to be of very much use. Our app does not encounter this problem because it has a very specific target user group and a very specific function for that group of people.

Netsketch

Netsketch was created with advanced graphics designers in mind. Among other things, it boasts “infinite pan and zoom”, giving the user an infinitely large canvas on which to draw. Additionally, it features vector graphics that allow resolution to increase when you zoom in to look at something up close. While the imaging technology is astounding, the target user group does not conflict with ours, which is due to the fact that our apps serve very specific niche markets. The similarity lies in the concept of placing objects and images onto a white screen in order to impose a design or ordering over the collection of objects. In Netsketch it is called painting. In our whiteboard app it is called layout design. In addition, it supports collaboration, which is something that we had not planned for our own application. Our intention was not to create a graphics application, however, but one focused more on organizational aspects of using a blackboard.

A+ Whiteboard

This application is similar to others that support free-form drawing, and seems to support the ability to change brush colors, save the content, and erase from the board. It seems like it could be used by a multitude of people, although the image provided seems to suggest that it is targeted towards elementary school-aged kids. This app does not support that functionality that we suggest, namely to manipulate high-level representations of text and diagrams on a whiteboard platform. In addition, our app doesn't envision supporting free-form drawing, as we want the users to interact with the board objects on a more abstract level. Therefore, the target user group is not the same as ours. This app, however, is much more simple than ours, and lends itself to greater usability to a wider audience. On the other hand, its general nature means that no one group will be likely to find it extremely useful for its purposes.

Storypages

This app is for people who want to quickly create stories using a mobile storyboard platform. It is similar to our application idea in that it introduces the concept of a progression of boards. One of the features of our app was that the user would be able to scroll between different board layouts in order to simulate the order in which the board would get filled. In this sense, our app is very similar to Storypages, although they address different needs in different contexts. The interfaces appear very similar, both of which have a main canvas on which objects or drawings can be placed. Scroll buttons allow the user to scan through the different slides. It seems that Storypages is designed more for comic creators who get ideas and want to quickly sketch down a picture with an accompanying line of text. The target user groups are different, however, because the two apps are useful in different scenarios.

Storyboard Composer

This app seems to be an extension of the Storypages idea, as it allows the user to insert audio and images into a storyboard, rather than free-hand drawings. Therefore, this app seems more geared towards making movies than comic strips, though the basic concepts are very similar. The target user group for this app is then those people who wish to make simple movie clips using a composition of images and audio, but who do not want to take the time to draw out long storyboards for the animations. The app seems to have a very densely packed user interface, with icons for functions around all four borders of the screen. Therefore, some level of simplicity is sacrificed in order for the developers to introduce some more advanced features from the cinematic industry. However, they claim that their app is suited for both students and professionals, suggesting that it is an easy to use iPhone application. The target user group clearly differs from our own, and I would say that the applications themselves are distinct. Like the Storypages app, the main link between Storyboard Composer and our whiteboard app is the concept of a stream of boards, rather than a single, fixed layout entity.

Summary

In conclusion, it was very difficult to find applications similar to the one we designed because of the specific function we had in mind for our application. I found many apps related to free-style drawing and idea organization through spatial arrangements, but none of the apps specifically addressed the issues that a teacher or professor faces in a classroom setting, specifically how to use the whiteboard most space-efficiently. Furthermore, very few of these applications that carried the whiteboard concept had anything to do with education. They were mostly applications for people who wanted to draw when they are bored or who want to draw with their friends. On the other hand, the storyboard apps seemed to closely mimic our intended purpose with the whiteboard layout, although the contents and purposes were clearly different. The one application that most closely resembled ours was the ShareYourBoard application. That application, however, turned our purpose around, in that it creates a flow of information from the whiteboard to the phone, rather than from the phone to the whiteboard. One reason for the lack of apps serving this field could be that many professors are more elderly, and would be less familiar with smartphone technologies. Alternatively, the widespread use of powerpoint technology could be a factor that stymies the development of such an app. In such a case, all of the layout management is predetermined, and the app would serve no purpose. On the other hand, Berkeley seems to have many whiteboard using professors who could benefit from this app. For instance, the app could be used to remedy problems such as whether the student can see the text, if the professor's writing is too cramped, or if there is a way to fit one last diagram onto the board without erasing anything. Therefore, our app's topic was not covered by any of the applications I found, and could serve a niche market that is currently dominated by pencils and paper notes.



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