What Pixar might have to do with smoother applications?

Hello there,

Long time since we spoke!

First few updates:

  • Official (“update button”) Ice Cream Sandwich update in November after Google’s launch in late Oct
  • Pixar and smoother animations
  • Kernel Update with November built with working camera
  • Another Service Center in Germany and Netherlands by December
  • Parseltongue for Android?
  • Another Phase of Investment Closure
The last one literally took all the time, but was worth it. We are expanding out of India and are setting up a design house in China and, a lab in Taiwan as well soon. Most of the expansion is in for RnD labs, Service centers, content team and in materials and mechanical research. These are long-term goals, but required. Severe bad health (Spondylolysis) and concentrated focus on investment has taken majority of all my time. But now I feel little better and am back on full working mode.
Going back to the other updates, we all know about the impending launch of ICS (IceCream Sandwich) in October. Kernel update is a sort of internal development timeline for pushing better and faster software. New kernels (like .38) supports ARM hibernation and lot more important tools to bring portable devices closer to its desktop counterpart. If you go by the industry signals, OMAP is the preferred platform for next wave of devices. It will also see ICS before Tegra.
Motion blur as seen on first doll in comparison to the one on right. Source: Wikipedia
We have formed a dedicated team to look into the jerks in object (graphics) movements on Android. Obvious standard was to compare the iOS. This problem is also prominent in Game design, and was obvious for the game development team at Notion Ink to also get very involved. We looked at the problem from various angles and are startled at the results. Let me explain.
Suppose we design a UI or game at 60 fps. That should ideally mean around 16.6ms per frame and in total 60 frames per second. Now general mistake we all do is to assume that computer will be able to give you fixed 16.6ms time between every frame and miss out on the part, that possibly the logic of the program need not be computed 60 times a second! I.e. if you program a render at 60fps, it could as well be rendering say 10 consecutive frames at 15, 18, 14, 19, 16, 17, 18, 14, 19 and 18ms timeframe and giving you an average 60fps. The differences are small, but our eyes can’t be fooled and for every violent delta it senses a jitter.
One of a very strong approach in game design is to limit the logic computation to minimum possible to run the game smoothly (so more juice is left for processing graphics) and add what everyone knows as motion blur. More I learnt about motion blur and gaming technologies, more I realized the experience that might have gone into iOS straight from Pixar, their head being same. May be the experience infusion was more because of experience in one field and need on other.
Lets analyze one more angle, the TVs:
Have you ever felt missing movie experience on HD TV specially ones with sizes 50inches and above? You can generalize the experience by saying, “movies on these TVs looked more like TV serials”.
HD TVs render scenes at even 200Hz today. Movies we watch, are generally 24 or 30 fps. You can guess that most of the frames on these TVs are left idle. But that was the case before “true motion TVs” came in. In true motion, TVs fill up these missing frames with interpolated scenes from existing frames. End result is realism which has never seen before specially for movies.
Computers on the other hand, just know what to show at each instant of any frame. While when we capture a movie at a particular FPS, it is better to say “it captures a smaller movies for say 1000/24=41.66ms and superimposes all the image on top of each other and then show a particular frame”. In other words, 41.66ms is the exposure time per frame. The sensor is left open for this amount of time and it captures a moving scene, superimposing objects on top of each other and the end result is captured motion blur. You know how it works when you snap a still image of a moving object.
Coming back to User Interface, say we design a simple animation of 60fps. We have been trained to think that 60 fps is a good frame rate. Let’s define this simple animation as an image moving from left to right on Adam (Eden 1 panel movements for example). We have 1024 pixels to cover in one second and the frame rate chosen is 60. 1024/60 is 16.67 pixels. That is a lot of pixels. If i just show you a line moving across Adam from left to right 1024 pixels, but jumping 16pixels every frame, your eyes will tell you “hey, thats jittery!”.
These results are not our inventions as game designers are very well aware of this. We are not the only one who faced this issue, as jerkeyness is all over Android OS. But the experience in game design and animation can definitely be used to improve the graphic performance on Android. Results clearly speak out that it doesn’t matter if you design on OpenGL or on pure java canvas, smoothness is not dependent on a platform, but on the logic. One very important result we can derive is that every sequential animation (pop up, screen movement from left to right, translations, transitions, etc) can have very different frame rates which makes them look smoother. Smoothness has a lot of components like motion blur, area covered while in motion (or pixels moved per second), logic frame rate and yes even color (our eyes are more sensitive to yellow-green and any jerkeyness in it can be immediately captured, unfortunately you saw more of this color on older androids).
Our research is still not finished, and there are many other beautiful areas of research where we want to spend time to understand these issues from all possible angles.
For reasons which will soon be obvious, our love for a parsentongue, python has grown exponentially. This is one platform we sub-consciously wanted and where we invested as well. Nearly everyone at NI is working on this as their main programming language. If anyone of you there understand what a scrpiting language can do on a platform like Android, you must be as excited as we are!
With Warm Regards
Rohan Shravan

44 thoughts on “What Pixar might have to do with smoother applications?

  1. Good to see an update Rohan after a really long time. Hope you are doing good. Eagerly waiting for ICS running on Adam. Are you planning for any other updates to Honeycomb on Adam before the November ICS on Adam?

  2. Hi Rohan,

    good to hear that you are feeling better.

    Thanks for your post, but what about your last indications?
    “I have been collecting comments and thoughts from Conclave and majority of them want us to focus on the screen quality, […] battery life and wi-fi strength. We have done extensive research on these fields and will share it with you in coming weeks.”

  3. glad to see a new post. was dying for some news. and from next time onwards just say a hi on saturdays if u have nothing new. calms the nerves.
    will read the post now.

  4. +1 for screen quality and responsivness (you just can’t use it for handwriting, too much delay between hand motion and appearance of your drawing on the screen…)
    Python on android, I’ve been waiting this for a while !!! tell us more about it

  5. A post is a good thing.

    And I suppose it were absolutely right talking about tech research, further dreams (promises?) and new aspects and perspectives IF (a big if) there were some other place where someone official would adress the various complaints, say in a blog-wise manner. As far as I heard, the conclave isn’t that place either, is it?

    I want back the feeling that somebody cares for me and my user experience.

    But first get well and then surprise us 😉

  6. Finally after a long time!

    I am eagerly waiting for ICS in November.

    Rohan, can you please make Linux available through USB for Adam?

  7. Nyce to finally see a post……hope ur duing bettr rohan….nw we need one post evry week(every day if possible 😉 ) to compensate 4 the past month.

    looking 4ward to more updates…..specifically on adam 2

    take care

  8. Rohan now that I have read your post I see a resemblance to your previous post. It makes me wonder if you ae lost in some kind of dreamscape(?). As you can see from the response rate there is a drop in quantity and speed rate and is an obvious indication of what has been lost and squandered. since A1, I have moved through 2 tablets am am looking at a 3rd, the Viewsonic 10 Pro. Time is short and moves so fast an eventhought everything you say is exciting and relevant(?) there are things, tangible actions that should have been taken. Do you at all read the commentary that has been posted here and/or the Conclave and Tabletroms? I dont believe that you have ever responded and my expectations are for another long silence.

  9. I’ll ask my granddaughter to explain Harry Potter and the muggles hiss to me.
    On the otherhand tell us more about the battery fix.

  10. That is indeed an extremely interesting read!

    Especially the Python part!

    So you are in fact suggesting that the new language that Google is going to launch will be Python like?
    And I guess it will have all that V8 savvy, which means performance won’t be an issue?

    Turning away from Java to get out of the clutches of Oracle seems a drastic move, something I would have barely thought possible months ago.

    But after seeing Joyent and node.js on V8 as well as Fabrice Bellards Linux emulator in JavaScript (web)bellard.org/jslinux/ some old concepts need revising.

    I love, that you are not giving up.

    I don’t think that I ever will get proper value out of my Adam, but if it helps growing a really cool company with a vision and a warm heart, I’ll consider it a good investment none the less.

    Just don’t let us hang quite that long for the next post!

    Kind regard, Thomas

  11. There’s the man!

    Actually Adam for me has been great. I can definitely see room for improvements, but I use my Honeycomb Adam almost every day, and been adding apps and functionality as I go. The other day I was sitting on a train heading into Sydney, used teamviewer to take over an office PC and look up some figures, and at the same time logged into an internet site to report the outcome and results into a database. While I was waiting for the 3G to give me my pages I kept jumping into a book in kindle and making notes in evernote.

    I felt so smug.

    So does this mean stop trying to learn to program java for android and start learning python instead?

    Peaceout adamfreaks

  12. Hi Rohan, nice to read your message but the truth is you haven’t solved many problems the adam users are facing. You are posting one topic to another but the all promises are still pending. Good luck.

  13. Health comes first, if you take proper care it will take care of you. My spouse suffers from the same, it’s tough when it hits.

    Now the usual talk:

    Google said October/November for ICS Even if it releases in October it will take time to release to the providers (unless you are already working with them), my guess would be you can release during Christmas (considering big player’s current release schedules and every one wants to hit by that time).

    You claimed of Game Development team before Adams Pre-order how come we haven’t seen a single game release. How come a startup gives its developers so much flexibility (w.r.t time)?

    You said in a recent interview with TR that 3.2 build is at 70% development (assuming it’s nothing beyond raYman’s work) how come there is no news on that front. Is it becoz raYman is not able spend time on it ? I would probably beg/borrow/steal him for a month and release the 3.2 kernel.

    I haven’t seen much of the graphic issues you on other tablets (Iconia tab, Transformer). When I compare I feel like I am running windows 7 on a 64MB RAM with Adam compared to others at full life smoother experience.

    Most of things were not smooth even with Eden (forget HC) when NI has the source. Until I had taken a look at other tablets, I had the impression that Google built a highly inferior OS which is not true. For ex: compare Adam vs Galaxy Tab 7″ on 2.2/2.3, you can see the experience difference.

    P.S.: there is nothing personal here.

  14. Isn’t the graphics layer abstracted by Tegra and Android? I understand that programmers have to make some decisions to make smoother graphics. Aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel and staying of course and in dreams? Every time I read your post it looks like you read a new topic and trying to put your understanding of it.

  15. First of all its re assuring to see a post from you . I thought you guys packed your bags and left us in the dark . DOnt you guys do that again . We all love NI as much as you do and we want it to the biggest there is . PLease keep us updated at regular intervals . Atleast let your personnel be a lil more responsive on the forum .

    HC was a big dud , I hope and hope ICS brings us all a lot of joy .

  16. Hi Rohan,

    Happy to hear about your thoughts on Python on Android. If it would help your developers kick start their efforts I have already written a complete Python JNI bridge for Android a couple months ago as part of my Reasonspace project. It includes a set of scripts to generate the binding files automatically from the android.jar. More work would be needed to make it a complete solution, but it works sufficiently that I’ve been developing my application on Adam in Python for a while now.

    It is especially nice to be able to telnet to a running application on Adam and use an interactive Python shell to debug it! And also nice to be able to try out ideas against the Android APIs on real hardware without a compile/push/test cycle (i.e. much faster development times).

    The applicable source for the Python is at:

    _native.py and _java.py are the main implementation. The android modules were auto-generated from a script, and a small bit of native code is needed to kick off the python interpreter and provide access to the Dalvik VM handle.

    It is currently licensed under the GPL, but since I was the only contributor on that code I could relicense it under a BSD/Apache style license so that you could use it. Just let me know and I can write up some instructions on how it is used at the same time.

    More about the reasonspace project (a data gathering platform for Adam) is on our forum at http://forum.reasonspace.com.


  17. Rohan, Sorry to hear you have been so sick. Also sorry to hear your definition of “soon”. November is a date, and I can wait for it, but soon it is not. I don’t know how many developers you have in your open development system, but somehow I don’t think it is their fault that we don’t have an update with actual repairs yet. I hope I don’t have to wait till November for the parts I ordered. But I suspect that:
    Waiting is

  18. I never was that happy to be wrong as I’m now 😉
    This blog isn’t dead!! Great!
    @dwarf4242: Since I own my ADAM (almost one year) I had to realise that promises haven’t been kept or came just in small slices after long waiting… Therefore I would be surprised if ICS for ADAM is launched before Christmas…
    I hope I’m wrong once more again 😉

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