Creating user interface of tomorrow solely depends on how good the tools of the trade are. There’s no beating around the bush, but the user interfaces of today aren’t exactly brilliant, and what we came to expect from the movies and commercials we’ve been (silver) spoon fed. Regardless are we talking about Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android or Microsoft Windows as the pinnacle of how fast you can interact with machines of today (HMI – Human Machine Interface) or solutions in cars and planes that are quite frankly, out dated – it all boils down to the fact how good your UI tools are.
Hollywood, gaming, marketing industries all enjoy well-developed tools from Adobe (Creative Suite: Photoshop-Premiere-After Effects), Autodesk (Maya, 3Ds max) – but those tools lack the intelligence to connect to the machine and actually step up from being a pretty interface into an interface that actually can direct a machine to do something.
Enter Rightware’s Kanzi. It is no secret that Nvidia started its career in automotive and embedded space by winning Audi over with then Futuremark’s UI design tool, now known as Kanzi. As the story goes, Rightware was spun off from Futuremark with the sole purpose of building the super-UI-tool. Fast forward into 2013 and we have Rightware introducing the Kanzi 2.6, which admittedly could carry a more exciting name (Kanzi 2013? Kanzi 3?), given the amount of new features which are being launched today.
First and foremost, Kanzi now supports modern 3D model import using industry standard FBX and Collada formats. Now you can seamlessly integrate your 3D models created in Maya, 3ds Max or other popular 3D tool into Kanzi, and start manipulating it. The text readability is improved by new 3D and 2D UI controls, as well as supporting more 3D layers (stack, grid controls).
Kanzi powers the Audi MMI system
We will list all the new features at the bottom of the article, but what makes Kanzi 2.6 important is its flexibility. We all know that the new Audi MMI interface is designed by Kanzi, as well as 3D user interface on a smartphone like Chinese Konka’s, which we saw on 2012 Computex Taipei.
We would not be surprised if for example, Audi creates an app for Android/iOS etc, which would mirror the user interface available in their MMI-enabled cars. The same goes as to upgrading the interface for the existing MMI-enabled cars.
In order to make Kanzi available to as large audience as possible, Rightware has set very aggressive pricing targets – Kanzi 2.6 30-day Trial is available for free (Android only), Kanzi 2.6 Pro (Android, optional iOS) is $999, while the Kanzi 2.6 Enterprise goes for $10,999. The Enterprise edition supports both application and embedded product development (read: system UI) for Android, Linux, Windows and QNX Realtime OS. You can download the trial version here:
Kanzi 2.6 Trial Version Download
Furthermore, the company did not stop there. Unlike other software vendors, which deliver software packages to market and say "Go forth and multiply", Rightware offers special set of services for its clients. The company recently teamed up with RKS, a well known California-based design studio which created numerous campaigns and products for their respective clients. Their focus is "Interaction Design for new and emerging markets such as embedded, digital signage, entertainment, smartphone, tablet and other verticals."
RKS can develop a next-gen 3D/2D user interface for your application, be that a real-world one, or a design for the next Hollywood movie, TV commercial, computer game etc. The difference being that again, unlike previous workflows, Kanzi actually focuses on enabling the HMI (Human Machine Interface) through drivers in a much faster way than embedded manufacturers used to work.
Good example is that now, with about 20 engineers and 2-3 quarters of work, you can replace a 300 people studio that took 4 years to develop a simplistic dashboard with complex and unintuitive interface. The way embedded UIs were done in the past involved hard-coding hardware features in Adobe’s Flash, which is something that particular design language was never supposed to do (Adobe Flash originally was a Macromedia product, intended to make web more interactive – it expanded in the embedded industry "by accident", and spread like flame – causing a lot of strain on the API itself).
Be that as it may, the future belongs to tools such as Kanzi 2.6. Time will tell how fast Rightware can grow into an Adobe or Autodesk sized company. For that, they will have to grow up and speed the internal processes, as well as do some proper marketing as far as naming conventions go (guys’n’girls, this Kanzi is 3.0, not 2.6? or 2013?). But if the quality of their tools is anything to go by, they have a bright future ahead.
New Features in Kanzi 2.6:
- All new 3D model import from industry standard FBX and Collada formats
- Accurate and flexible presentation of text using 3D and 2D UI controls
- Layout system extended for 2D UI layers including stack and grid controls
- Proportional layouts to support UI deployment to diverse screen sizes
- Hardware texture compression supporting now ATC, ETC and DXT
- Precise rendering of transparency using pre-multiplied alpha
Features for usability and productivity:
- Context-sensitive access to reference documentation and new quick tutorials
- Video tutorials to support early learning
- Visual editing of the UI project with real time preview tools
- Quick access to materials in new material library
- Many more improvements to project navigation, event triggers, animation editor?
- Easy creation of shadows with shadow map composer
- Accurate and fast rendering of reflections with cube-map composer
- User defined custom composers for post-processing effects such as motion blur
- Significantly reduced run time memory consumption with new resource management