CompetitiveAnalysis-VidyaRamesh

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Our Application

The main purpose of our app to is to cut, mix, and meld different songs together in order to create a dance mix. Also it is important to be able to identify different portions of an already mixed song, associate sections with text and data, and port this data to other users. The link to our Group Brainstorm is here: http://vis.berkeley.edu/courses/cs160-sp10/wiki/index.php/GroupBrainstorm-Group:iGroup .

The Competition

1) Noise.Io Pro Synth (http://noise.io/) This application is a sound synthesizer with many highly advanced features for professional synthesizers. This reflects their target user group which is professionals with an interest in mobile sound synthesis. This is slightly different from our target user group of dance groups looking to synthesize different songs to create one unique mix, however there is a lot of overlap between the two groups of dance group organizers who need these tools to create mixes. Our proposed app will not be as complex as this application because it is not as necessary for a dance piece to have as much of the sound features as this application proposes. However, it will be much easier to use as even the most basic of descriptions and reviews of this application suggest that it has an incredibly high learning curve and is aimed at professionals who already know how to use similar interfaces and devices. The main usability complaint is the incredibly cluttered interface that the Noise.Io Pro Synth application has. Users are often confused what certain buttons do because they are not well labeled and there are way too many features on the main working view. We will learn from this application by not cluttering up the main working view and instead of adding multiple features to main page, we will keep most of the features that are not as commonly used hidden away in other views.

2) GrooveMaker Free (http://www.groovemaker.com/home/) This application is used to create hip-hop, electronic, and dance tracks in real-time while on the go. It gives the flexibility and functionality of a full DJ workstation within a free mobile application. The target user group looks like it could be anyone interested in music, however the reviews and descriptions of the application reveals that the actual user group is made up of users who have used and become dissatisfied with other DJ applications. Most new users who use this application tend to get confused and mixed up until they watch the videos provided on the website. Since our application is not a full-fled DJ application, it probably will not do as much in terms of functionality in mixing songs, adding beats, and overlaying different tracks. However, we will improve upon this by making our application very accessible and easy to use by first time users. As one reviewer described, the DJ application the GrooveMaker Free is an amazing application with a mess of an initial screen. However, he points out that once the user does know what they are doing, the initial screen becomes demystified and the reasons behind the exact placement of various buttons becomes obvious. However, I do not believe that it is necessary for an application with lots of functionality to be initially frustrating for new users and we will definitely ensure that our interface is extremely evident by mimicking other similar applications.

3) mix.dj (http://www.mix.dj/) Unlike other DJ applications, mix.dj is an application that takes advantage of mixes that have already been created on other applications. It combines the work and allows users to access already created mixes that are stored online and gives users to the tools to manipulate these already created tracks for their own purposes. It has 66 subcategories of music to search and edit, but the mixes are not allowed to be used for public or profitable showings. The target group of users are users who are not professional DJs, but want to create deeply personalized mixed tracks. Their target user group is very similar to the target group for our applications in terms of the end use of the product and the level of skill. However, unlike our application, this application heavily takes advantage of an online library of resources. We substitute that with the ability to mix songs from the user's music library on the mobile device itself. Since our target users will not likely want to use already created music, this is not a feature that is necessary within our application. The main problems noted with this application is an inability on why the application abruptly crashes or goes into error mode. The users complained that they were left with no option but to reinstall the application multiple time as well as continuously restart the application every time an error occurred. The way we can improve upon this is by issuing clear messages when errors happen and stopping the entire application from crashing even if some type of error occurs.

4) Visual Playlist - http://fabio.policarpo.nom.br/Apps.html This application allows users to save and create multiple personalized playlists. These playlists are visualized with a timeline that is very innovative in its interface. It allows users to click anywhere in the timeline to go to a specific moment either in the song or in the playlist overall. It also allows them to edit the playlist while the music is playing so that the feedback between the application and the user is immediate. The target user group for this application is any user who isn't satisfied with the built-in playlist maker that comes with the mobile devices and wishes to create specialized playlists for specific uses. Our application will hopefully mimic this ease of use and the functionality of being able to edit the music while it is playing. In terms of usability, the vertical interface is very unique and intriguing. It gives a different metaphor than the typical music application and it takes advantage of this metaphor with a great deal of success. I would definitely consider borrowing portions of this interface for key tasks in our application, like naming and associating video with particular sections of the song.

5) Equalizer (http://www.carmot.co.cc/Carmot/Equalizer.html) This application allows user to edit their music that they've previously uploaded to the application's website. The target group of users for this application are serious music editors and those users who have enough music to edit that they don't mind the extra effort involved in using this application. While this might be a part of our target user group, it definitely doesn't have to be and our target users would probably mind having to do extra work outside of the mobile device in order to use the application. This application allows music that has been edited to be ported directly to other compatible applications as well as combines both music and video in one single application. It is exactly this functionality that is similar to our application. The interface for this functionality however is not well thought out and it also requires that the files be uploaded separately on the website before it can be accessed by the mobile application. The major complaint in terms of usability is the fact that this application requires the user to use the internet to upload their data from their computer and then come back to the mobile device in order to edit those data files. Other than that, the few users who actually used the product on a regular basis commented on the fact that the interface is very simple and similar to other music editing programs. It also has very clear cut directions every step of the way which is very beneficial for the new user. The only improvement that I would make when mimicking this interface would be to ensure that our application can access the native data on the iPhone/iPod Touch so that users would not be required to upload their data to a website beforehand.

6) AudioBoo (http://audioboo.fm/) This application allows the user to record their voice and upload it to a website so that it can accessed by other users. It allows video, photos, and other data to be associated with the recording so that other users can access all the data as one complete package. The target user group for this application is basically anyone interested in social networking outside of the usual text-based website realm. It also specifically targets users who are constantly interacting with their mobile devices and might not have the time to go online with a larger device. Since the application has been made to be compatible with popular social networking sites, these packets of data can be posted on Facebook, Twitter, and other various sites from the application itself. Our proposed application wants to do the same thing conceptually in terms of keeping packets of data packaged together in way that is portable across multiple sites. We want to improve upon this functionality by having the application itself be able to share data across different users instead of having the user upload the data to another site in order to give it to other users. The interface of the application is very well done and mimics other successful networking applications. It is pretty evident on how to share the files and the application uses Facebook terminology in order to make it even more familiar for the user. The only complaints that users had were concerning the interface for recording the audio. There was no way of knowing if the recording had started and when stop was pressed, there was no immediate feedback to the user. This is a very important heuristic for any type of recording application. There must always be a constant stream of feedback to the user about what is going on in the application. We can easily improve upon this by remembering this heuristic during our design iterations.

7) Toolroom Touch Mix (http://www.touch-mix.com/) This application allows users to have a very unique control over their music when it comes to mixing and especially cutting music. This application targets first time DJs who want to learn the art of mixing without using a very complicated interface. The application since it is targeted at first time users, does not try to add in excessive functionality but keeps the application on a very basic level. Some of the functions it offers is a visualization of the music, two ways of specifying the time at which the music should either be stopped or cut, and the ability to load files from the music library. Our application should also offer all of those, but also offer the ability to associate music with text and video. It should also be able to get music from other websites online and grab video off of popular video-hosting sites like YouTube. The interface for these functions however is well designed and implemented in Toolroom Touch Mix. Multiple users who reviewed this application stated that it made them feel like they were in total control of what was happening and found there to be a very smooth learning curve. We definitely want to replicate this experience with our users in our application.

8) DJ VirtualDeck (www.virtualdeck.com) This application allows you to do anything that you could do with an actual DJ turntable. In fact, it does more because it can play digital tracks which is not possible on the traditional turntable system. It has an incredible amount of functionality in terms of the music types that it can edit. Everything from songs in the native music library to unprotected MP3s. It needs access to a WiFi network in order to upload the final products to a website. The target user group is obviously not new users or new DJs, but experienced DJs who have possibly used other DJ applications on the iPhone/iPod Touch. The description of the application even says so when it states that in order to fully use the VirtualDeck application, it is imperative that users read the entire manual on the website. Their target group of users is obviously not overlapping with our proposed application's target group, however this application does a lot of similar functions with music that we wish to. It allows users to mix, record, echo, and cut different songs as well as meld them together to create a single track. We hope to offer all of this functionality, but in a much more intuitive and easy to use interface. If only successful and experienced DJs can use this application, it loses out on a huge portion of potential users. We don't want to make that mistake so we plan to design for the lowest common denominator of user. Another common complaint from users is that there is not enough feedback from the application when the application mistakenly crashes or errors in some way. This something that can be easily avoided during the design of the application so we will take measures to do so.

9) iSoundMixer (http://www.kioteproductions.com/apps/Home.html) This application is a powerful four track sound recorder that can meld and rotate between four different songs with ease. It can pan, mute, speed up the tempo, and add volume to the tracks. The final result is packaged in multiple formats and can be moved out the application with relative ease. It can also record noise from the environment surrounding the iPhone/iPod Touch and incorporate that as one of the tracks in the final product. It needs an outside recording device when used on the iPod Touch. The application doesn't seem to have a target user group because most of the descriptions online vary in who and what the application should be used for. It wasn't built with a target group in mind, but it does seem to predominantly attract amateur users who need a similar application for a single time or very less frequent use. We hope that our application isn't used in a non-frequent manner, but rather is constantly updated and used in conjunction with frequent practices. We also have a very specific target group of dancers and dance team coordinators who we are aiming our application at. The interface of the iSoundMixer very much mimics native applications on the iPhone. It goes as far as keeping the color scheme, the look of the titles, and the appearance of the buttons identical to the typical iPhone application. While this engineers a sense of familiarity and usability in the user, the actual experience is very varied. Some users find the application to be totally unusable because there is very little documentation and on-screen assistance, while others find themselves able to use the application without either of these. It is slightly tricky to see why there is such a spectrum of usability experiences for this application, but I can conclude that using familiar appearances, while good for some cases, should be done with a little bit of caution. It is easy to confuse users when similar things in native applications do not work the same way in new applications.

10) pocketDJ (http://www.vanillabreeze.com/) This application boasts of having the best point setting and playback functionality of all DJ applications available on the App Store. It has pitch, balance, and volume controllers as well as the ability to record using the native microphone. It can access the native music library and switch easily between different tracks. The target group of users are DJs who wish to use this product live during events and record the final results for later review. This differs from my application's target user group, but the functionality offered by this application would be very valuable to my user group as well. The idea of doing live recordings is also appealing because the dancers and coordinators in my target user group would probably appreciate being able to change very quickly and very spontaneously the recordings during practices and other events. They would probably also appreciate the playback functionality that this application boasts of. Some of the complaints about usability had to do with the application's functions that don't really concern my target user group like the realness of the scratching sound and the lack of a crossfader. Other than that, most of the users of this product seem pretty well satisfied with the interface. The users seemed to like the soothing color scheme of the application, the unique style of menus, and the incredible amount of feedback from the application. In our application, I would like to mimic the amount of feedback that this application gives as well as the very unique type of menu that it utilizes. The menu is nothing like a typical iPhone application menu and calls to mind a very advanced technological experience.

There are many other DJ applications on the iPhone App store that also have similar capabilities to the ones that I have described above. The only program that I saw that was outside of the mobile realm that is similar to our application is http://www.3am.pair.com/iTunesJoin.html. This application gives the user incredible control over joining multiple tracks in the user's iTunes library together without loss of quality.

Summary

The applications out there already cover the following features quite thoroughly:

   precise music editing controls 
   playback functionality during editing
   simple, easy to use interface for music editing
   recording using the iPhone microphone and incorporating it into the music mixes

Our Project

The unique value of our project is the fact that we are focusing not on the music editing aspect, but rather on the processes that dance teams and dancers will take when planning out their performances and finding ways of making these processes easier. Music editing is just one small portion of what we plan to do. We also plan to help out in the playback of the music with the ability to set specific start and end times that are different from the song's start and end time. These times can also be saved and associated with other data like text, other users, photos, and videos. Since we are not looking to aim at a huge target audience, we are able to really tailor our app for the unique needs of our users. This means that we don't need to really worry about all the unique music editing features that the DJ applications offer to their users, because our users only need the more basic features and will be using our application for something more than music editing. We are going to bridge the gap between music editing and organizers for the specific target user group of dance team managers, dancers, and choreographers.



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