Augmented books and the Apple tablet: I can hardly wait to create one on Keynote for the tablet

With the extra spare time due to the summer break here in Australia (things get busy again next week), I have been experiencing a “Perfect Storm” of blogging: Intense interest in things electronic via CES 2010 (now history), the headiness of a major Apple product revolution that even has sceptics agreeing something big this way cometh January 27, and of course thinking and preparing for my Macworld trip in a month’s time.

It will be an intense two weeks away, with several days at Macworld for a Presentation Magic Powertools workshop the second week of February, a folk dance camp in Palm Spring immediately after (where TEDActive is also occurring), then a Presentation Magic seminar for the Psych Department at USC, back to San Francisco for a visit to Apple for a presentation the day after, then a three day conference in San Francisco on Smarter Brains and Improving IQ.

I’ll also be leaving on the first anniversary of catastrophic bushfires in my state where 170 people died, and for which a Royal Commission is being held into how the disaster was managed. I was involved as a Personal Team Leader for the Australian Red Cross working in the days and weeks after with victims and survivors of the fires, as well as trying to match reports of missing people with those who had made the reports, to see if there were people still missing. With last night being the hottest on record (36C) there are fires again today in the State.

If I can pull all these activities together into a theme, it’s one of diversity and continuing learning experiences, where I take what I have learnt in the past, and place myself in a position of “not knowing” yet finding ways of applying my knowledge in new situations with new populations.

I remember working in a Red Cross welfare centre 150km from Melbourne not far from the fires where people would gather to seek safety, food, shelter, and clothing, as well as seek out their neighbours, friends and family who had “gone missing”. In addition to comforting them, my task was to supervise other workers to take down details of the people attending and those being reported missing. We were setting up lists that were then faxed to Red Cross headquarters in Melbourne where 24/7 workers sitting in front of PCs would enter the faxed data sheets into a database, so that if people turned up at my or other rescue centres, they could be crossed off the list of being safe, and added to lists of those who might need follow-up for both material and psychological aid.

As I think about it (I’ve been invited to attend a further training session in preparation for anniversary effects) I’m left wondering how a 3G/Wifi Apple tablet could have helped us out, taking pictures of those who attended, using face matching as we can in iPhoto to match up with pictures of those presumed missing, and directly placing survivor details into the database. I’m fairly sure hours went by when PC operators were swamped with faxes.

If I think now about the training I expect to offer at Macworld, the task will be to offer a theory of presenting based on cognitive and affective neuroscience, basic design principles, commonly seen effects for text and visuals in the movies, on television and on the web as models for driving Apple’s Keynote, and of course, exploring Keynote’s functions and operations in order to achieve the best exposition of my theories of presenting.

I’ll also be referring to various texts which I’ll also be giving away as prizes (I think everyone enrolled will probably get one book!). One will look at iWork 09, and give a section by section breakdown of Keynote’s features, while others will offer considerations of design principles including slide makeovers, as well as examples of good presentation technique. For that, I’ll also use my own and TED videos for the good to excellent and downloaded Powerpoints for the bad to really horrible.

If I think abut the books, they are all good in their respective endeavours of enlightening readers. But by necessity, they are static examples of what is really a dynamic human activity. Moreover, as much as reading about, or seeing screenshots of Keynote’s Inspector or font menu is useful, it can’t really compare with watching someone take you step by step through the process of using Keynote’s facilities, then seeing the interim, then end product.

To my knowledge, there is no book yet on the market that really tells you how to use something like Keynote and think about how to use design principles such as Garr Reynold’s new book contains (Garr is giving me some of his books as prizes of course!) Garr’s book like many others tries to be platform-agnostic and thus broaden readership. Powerpoint keeps improving but as long as its major settings for its use are academia, the military and the enterprise, Garr’s book could be included with the next version (due for release in June)  but improvements in presenting with Powerpoint would still happen very slowly. (Previous criticisms of Garr’s approach with respect to scientific data has been addressed, and I certainly give this aspect close attention in all my workshops).

In fact, given the nature of the subject, can a book accomplish these two tasks? Can a book help you choose an animation, or build or transition for your particular subject matter and let you see the various effects possible. I know of this difficulty given each time Steve Jobs presents at an Apple keynote, I (and others) watch very closely for any new Keynote effects and designs. When I spot them, I can’t show a video on my blog for copyright reasons, but I can show screenshots of the builds or transitions in action. Not a very satisfactory method, but it’s the only way to show the new effects until I get my hands on the update and can use it myself.

So if one of the functions of the tablet will be to deliver reading material, as many have suggested will be the case, why not show how to use Keynote’s feature set while describing why one is creating certain effects. I already do a little of this on this blog, uploading screencasts of my Keynote files to YouTube for display here. It’s clumsy however, requiring a fair amount of effort for a few minutes. Not that I’m against that of course, if you’ve been reading this blog, since I know how much effort is required for great presentations. But we’re talking here of cutting down on multiple clicks, a centrepiece of Apple functioning.

I’d like the tablet to enable me to use a tabletised iWork to help me create a book form of my Presentation Magic workshop, Pages for assembling the text and layout and Keynote for demonstration purposes. Hopefully, the tablet will have some way of recording screen activity, much like the iPhone allows for static screenshots.

Then I can assemble my book, with my text in place, my demoes including how I setup each slide, and what the final output will look and sound like. I can include hotlinks to sites like iStockphoto for photos and movies, and other sites for audio files, as well as newspapers and journals for headlines and abstracts I wish to show.

The idea of using videos to demonstrate science journal writing already exists in the Journal of Visualised Experiments which shows viewers how the experimenters performed their tasks, the equipment and questionnaires they used, and the interpretation of the data. Take a look at this publication about using biofeedback in working with anxiety (screenshot below).

I’m going to guess the first of “augmented book” you’ll see, hear and read on the Apple tablet will be Apple’s own tablet manual, guiding you through a hands-on demonstration of its wares, with videod commentary and feedback about how you’re doing. This will be terribly important if the tablet does in fact include something of a learning curve for a new interface.

It kind of reminds me of the first few days I spent with my first Mac, a Mac Plus in 1990. I used the included floppy discs which taught you mouse functions, like clicking and dragging, as well as how to resize windows and use the drop-down menus. I vividly remember having dreams of mousing around with the Mac and then spending hours the next day practising how to manage this new interface, so different was it from my previous experiences, using mainframes, PDP-11s and Tandy TRS-80s.

I’m going to guess it will be the same twenty years later, such will be the change in input method. I can hardly wait this time however to write my own tabletised book complete with Keynote demoes. No more need to include CD or DVD samplers in the backs of books to demo what your chapters are trying to illustrate with words and static pictures.

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One response to “Augmented books and the Apple tablet: I can hardly wait to create one on Keynote for the tablet

  1. Books are so 2D and dead – these devices are part of the decline. The future is 3D-rendered, presentational, immersional, blam-blam augmented reality video . C’est la vie!

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