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  • Growing up, it was rare to see a screen constantly on in my house. I’m sure it’s different for parents of children growing up today, as screens are an inevitable part of all our lives now. But how can we merge our devices with our physical spaces (especially to teach children to not always be attached to screens)? frogLabs in Shanghai is trying to answer that question with Yibu, an iPad app connected to a series of playful wooden sensors designed to encourage kids to explore their environment.
  • The functionality of clothing continues to expand thanks to wearable technology. Designs from The New School are helping us disconnect and aiding people with visual impairments through ‘Keybod’ and ‘Sensory.’ Wearable Tech, Designed for Social Good.
  • Authenticity doesn’t mean beauty. It means substance. Even though Apple proved that beauty not only works, it sells, don’t just design a product to make it look pretty. What’s the intention? What’s the message? Authenticity vs. Beauty: Why you don’t need design like Apple.
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This might not be the first time you’ve read about Charles Proxy here on the WillowTree blog. Maybe you’ve even watched this awesome video about Charles Proxy my co-workers made as part of the WillowTalk series. But just in case you’re unfamiliar with Charles, it’s a tool that allows us to setup a workstation as a proxy between an app we’re developing and the internet. It also allows us to inspect API requests and spoof the responses.

The QA team at WillowTree uses Charles Proxy frequently to do things like validate network calls, verify analytics, modify responses to do negative testings, etc. Setting up Charles on devices is usually a pretty straightforward process. But as we recently discovered, it’s a different story when you’re working with tvOS apps.

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Microsoft’s BotBuilder Framework for Node.js

On March 30th, Microsoft hosted the annual Build Conference for developers. Needless to say, there were a number of takeaways such as Universal Windows Apps, Bash for Windows, and a big push for Xamarin. That said, this blog post isn’t about any of the above (check out Jeff Ward’s most recent post on Microsoft Build if you want a full recap).

What I want to discuss (write) about is bots.

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Over the last months, many of our clients have come to us to work on a bot development strategy, so we thoughts we’d share some of our high-level thoughts on where bots are going, and how our clients are leveraging them.

What is a bot?
Bots have been around since the start of computing and are nothing more than an automated response to a query (or a simulation of an automated response to a query). Back at AOL in the late 1990s we had a bot program where you could call in and play Blackjack against a computer using voice commands.

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Important Announcements From Day One

Messenger Platform

Facebook announced the release of its Messenger Platform and Send/Receive API. The platform and API allow businesses on the Facebook Platform to interact directly with users (now 900 million users) on an opt-in basis.

The Messenger Platform allows organizations to interact with Messenger users through the implementation of Bots and/or the integration of existing CRM solutions like ZenDesk. Current brands launching April 12 include CNN, 1-800-flowers, Spring, Uber, and Lyft.

Important numbers:

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I was working at a startup about 5 years ago when I was introduced to the concept of Technical Debt, a term coined by Ward Cunningham to explain the amount of necessary future rework created when a development team takes shortcuts to rush a product to market. While our own product barely made it to Minimum Viable Product stage, I remember thinking that the concept accurately described nearly every software project I’d worked on up to that point.

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Microsoft’s developer conference, Build, wrapped up last week and there were some pretty big announcements this year. Interestingly, though, many of the app-related announcements we are most excited about and plan to research extensively in the coming year flew under the radar. Here they are.

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When developing a cross-platform app, there are a few solutions that offer a single codebase to cover all platforms. We are frequently asked about Xamarin, our opinions on which we’ve covered previously, and PhoneGap / Apache Cordova.

Cordova is an open-source mobile development framework that allows you to use standard web technologies such as HTML5, CSS3, and JavaScript for cross-platform development. It uses wrappers targeted to each platform and relies on standards-compliant API bindings to access each device’s sensors, data, and network status. These wrappers are usually the platform’s native Web Views. This presents Cordova’s greatest strength and its greatest weakness.

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