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July 30, 2014

Jesse Freeman

Fire phone represents an incredible opportunity for HTML5 developers to create new experiences.  Developers now have direct access to the hardware sensors that power Fire’s Dynamic Perspective, which opens up all kinds of new ways to let users interact with your web app content. Just like native devs, Fire phone’s four dedicated cameras offer x, y and z data that you can access directly to determine where the player’s head is looking at the screen, and shift the perspective to reveal new angles on what would have otherwise been a flat web page.

Over the course of this tutorial, we will walk through how to create a simple splash screen for a game in Phaser (a popular open source game framework). We’ll also cover how to take advantage of the ability to run web apps next to native ones on the Fire phone and how to add Dynamic Perspective to create a parallax layering effect which gives the scene more of an immersive experience. Before we get started, let’s take a quick look at the splash screen we’ll be creating:

Here you can see a standard splash screen for a game where the main player will float up and down, giving the scene some sense of motion. The start text also blinks to let the player know what action they should take.

Getting Started

To start, download my Phaser Project Template from https://github.com/gamecook/phaser-project-template. You will need to have the following setup on your computer:

  • NodeJS
  • Grunt
  • IDE (Sublime Text, WebStorm, or any text based IDE)

This project will give you everything you need to run our project and has step-by-step instructions on how to get everything configured to run locally.  Once you have everything set up, rename the Phaser Project Template to DynamicPerspectivePhaserDemo, then navigate into it via the command line. You’ll want to run the following command to get everything configured:

> npm install

Once that is done running, you should be able to launch the project by typing in the following:

> grunt

This will start a local server and open up your browser to http://localhost:8080.

Now we have everything up and running to build our Phaser splash screen. Just download the artwork from here. You’ll need to create an assets folder inside of the deploy directory of the Phaser Project Template. Once that is created, put all of the artwork you just downloaded into it.

One note: if you are using WebStorm, you will want to exclude the deploy/js folder from the Directories setting so you don’t have any performance issues as our grunt script automatically rebuilds the JS code for us.

Building the Splash Screen

Step 1. Let’s create a clean slate to work from by opening our main.js file in the src/game folder of the Phaser Project Template. Once you have it open, simply delete all the boilerplate code in that file.

Step 2. Next we are going to create our new state object and Phaser game instance from scratch by typing out the following:

var state = {
    preload: function () {
    },
    create: function () {
    },
    update: function(){
    }
}

// Create new game instance
var game = new Phaser.Game(
    800,
    480,
    Phaser.AUTO,
    'game',
    state
)

Step 3. Once you have all the artwork in your assets folder, we can add it to our preload function:

preload: function () {
	this.load.image("mask", "/assets/background-mask.png");
	this.load.image("background", "/assets/background-image.png");
	this.load.image("title", "/assets/title.png");
	this.load.image("start", "/assets/start-text-touch.png");
	this.load.spritesheet("player", "/assets/player-sprites.png", 385, 412);
}

Here you can see we are simply loading everything up as an image with the exception of the player, which will be animated. That means we can use the dedicated sprite sheet loader.

Step 4. In our create() function, let’s setup the scaleMode to give us full screen on different device resolutions:

create: function () {
	this.scale.scaleMode = Phaser.ScaleManager.SHOW_ALL;
	this.scale.pageAlignHorizontally = true;
	this.scale.pageAlignVertically = true;
	this.scale.setScreenSize(true);
...

Step 5. We can start blocking out how the scene will be laid out. Inside of our create() method, add the following:

	// Calculate center point for laying scene out
	var centerOffset = {x: (this.world.width - 679) * .5,
                    y: (this.world.height - 466) *.5};

	// Create background image
	this.background = this.add.image(centerOffset.x, centerOffset.y, "background");

	// Save bg position
	this.bgPos = this.background.position.clone();

} // end create

This will calculate where we will center the background image. We’ll also save out the value for the background in order to use it as a reference point later on.

Step 6. If we refresh the browser, we’ll see our first glimpse at how the splash screen will look:

Step 7. Let’s get back into our code now and add in the player as well as the title and other elements that will help complete the scene. In our create() function. Below the background code we just added, put the following code:

create: function () {
...
	// Create player
	this.player = this.add.sprite(this.bgPos.x + 20, 	this.bgPos.y + 20, 'player');
	this.player.animations.add('fly', [0, 1, 2, 3], 10, true);
	this.player.animations.play("fly");
	this.playerStartPos = this.player.position.clone();

Here you can see we are setting up our player as well as creating and setting a fly animation. We also save out our player’s start position, which we will use later on when we start modifying it based on the Dynamic Perspective code we’ll add for Fire.

Step 8. Now we can wrap this up with the last bit of layout code:

	// Add mask, title and start images
	this.mask = this.add.image(this.background.position.x-50, 	this.background.position.y + 280, "mask");
	this.title = this.add.image(this.bgPos.x + 370, 	this.bgPos.y+295, "title");
	this.start = this.add.image(this.bgPos.x + 405, 	this.bgPos.y+385, "start");

} // end create

Here we add the background mask, the title and the start text.

Step 9. If you refresh the browser you will now see our scene:

While this is really easy to setup, it looks a little boring. Let’s add some animation to it.

Step 10. In our update() function, add the following code:

// Make player float up and down
this.player.y = (this.playerStartPos.y / 2) + 8 * Math.cos(this.time.now / 200) + 20;

// make start text blink
this.start.visible = Math.round(this.time.now/500) % 2 ?  true : false;

This code will make the player float up and down as well as make the start text blink. You can test this by refreshing the browser again.

At this point, we have our entire splash screen laid out. Let’s talk about how to set up the Web App Tester on Fire phone to get our splash screen ready for adding the Dynamic Perspective APIs.

Configuring the Web App Tester

Just like you can currently do on the Kindle Fire, you’ll need to download the Web App Tester on the Fire phone for this next part of the tutorial. You can get the latest build from the Amazon Appstore here.

Step 11. Once you have the Web App Tester installed, you’ll want to look up your computer’s IP address.

Step 12. When you have the IP address, you can enter that into the URL field and save it.

Step 13. Now you can pull up the Amazon WebView to make sure everything is working. Once it’s loaded, you should see the splash screen running at full screen on the device. One thing to note is that we are not locking the rotation in this simple demo, so make sure you are holding the phone in landscape. Here is the splash screen being rendered at full 720P resolution on the Fire phone:

As you can see, the process for installing and testing hosted web apps on Fire phone is straight forward. We’ll be using the Web App Tester and Fire phone for the remainder of our tutorial to make sure we can properly test the Dynamic Perspective APIs.

Adding Dynamic Perspective

The good news is that the Dynamic Perspective APIs are built into the Amazon WebView we’ll be testing within the Web App Tester. That means that you don’t have to add in any extra JavaScript libraries to start using Dynamic Perspective in your own HTML5 apps and games, it’s ready for you right out of the box. Let’s get started:

Step 14. We are going to want to make some global variables to store the motion tracking data points we’ll be using in this example. At the very top of our project above where we declared our state object, add the following:

var dpX = 0;
var dpY = 0;
var faceDetected = false;
var scale = 2;

Here we are going to store the x, y values for the Dynamic Perspective x and 7 axis, whether  facial detection is working, and a scale factor to help us manipulate the raw data into something more manageable.

Step 15. Now at the very end of our create() function add the head tracking event listener:

addEventListener('amazonheadtracking', this.handleAmazonHeadTracking);

As you can see, we’ll be using a standard event listener to implement the Dynamic Perspective APIs in our web app.

Step 16. After our create() function, add the following:

handleAmazonHeadTracking: function(event){

    dpX = event.x_mm/scale;
    dpY = event.y_mm/scale;

    faceDetected = event.isFaceDetected;
},

This will save the head tracking position values into our global variables that we set up previously. You’ll also see that we are dividing it by our scale to reduce the value a little so we don’t see large x, y values shifts since the original artwork is being scaled up to 1280 x 720 from 854 x 480. Remember that the data returned is relative to the size of the phone’s renderable screen area - not your game - if it’s up-scaled like we are doing here. You may want to modify these factors by the games scale factor instead. Here I am simply dividing them in half.

Step 17. Now let’s calculate the new position we’ll use to apply to each of our layers. Add the following to the top of our update() function:

var newPositionY = Phaser.Math.clamp(dpX, -30, 30);
var newPositionX = Phaser.Math.clamp(dpY, -30, 30);
this.background.x = this.bgPos.x + newPositionX/5;
this.background.y = this.bgPos.y + newPositionY/5;

Here we are using a method called clamp() which is part of the Phaer.Math lib. We supply our Dynamic Perspective x and y values along with a limit so it stays within the specified range. One thing to note is that since this splash screen is designed to run in landscape we need to swap the Head Tracking x and y values since they don’t change based on the phone’s orientation.

Now if you run the game on Fire phone and look at the device as well as move it around, you’ll see the background now subtly shifts in response to your head movement.

Step 18. Let’s add the same effect to our player. You’ll want to replace the current this.player.y line of code where we calculate the floating animation with the following:

this.player.x = this.playerStartPos.x + newPositionX;
this.player.y = (this.playerStartPos.y / 2) + 8 * Math.cos(this.time.now / 200) + (20 + newPositionY);

Now we are modifying the player’s x position and adding the newPoistionY to the end of where we calculate the up and down value to create some additional movement along the Y position. You may also notice that we are not dividing the new x and y values by 5 like we did in the background. This allows us to give the layers a parallax effect so that the background will move at a slower rate.

Step 19. Run the scene again on Fire phone and you’ll see the final effect.

Publishing Your App

If you have previously published a web app to the Amazon Appstore,  you can follow the same process. For those who are new to this, there are 3 easy steps after you have set up your free developer account and specified that you want to create a new app in the portal:

Step 1: Verifying Your Web App’s URL

You can now validate your web app’s URL right from the developer portal.

 

Simply put in the URL for your web app or game with the Fire phone code and click the verify button and the tool will let you know if the contents of the URL pass the preliminary submission requirements.

Step 2: Declaring Web App’s Permissions

Once your URL has been verified, you can select your app’s permission. Simply check off the options that apply to your app.

 

Step 3: Select Compatible Platforms

Then you can define which devices this web app can be published on.

While the Kindle Fire HD, HDX and Fire phone devices offer the best performance for web apps, make sure you test your web app on older devices to ensure the performance is ideal for your users. Intensive web games and anything using WebGL should be distributed on Kindle Fire HD and above.

While you can install web apps in the Amazon Appstore on any Android device that has the store installed, it will default to the native WebView on that device. This means that your app will not have access to the Dynamic Perspective APIs on other Android phones.

Step 4: Certification of Distribution Rights

Finally, certify that have the necessary rights to publish your web app.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, not only can you easily publish HTML5 apps and games alongside native Android apps through the Amazon Appstore, you also get access to the Fire’s Dynamic Perspective API just like native Android apps do. So be sure to submit your app to the Amazon Appstore to tap into millions of potential new customers. 

Related links:

- Jesse Freeman (@jessefreeman)

 

July 16, 2014

Jesse Freeman

Introduction

For game developers, Fire’s Dynamic Perspective SDK opens up all kinds of new ways to let players interact with your game’s environment. The phone’s four dedicated cameras offer x, y and z data that you can use to determine where the player’s head is in relation to the device’s screen. This allows you to shift the perspective to reveal new angles on what would have otherwise been a flat image. Over the course of this tutorial, we will walk through how you can convert a simple splash screen to take advantage of a perspective camera, add Dynamic Perspective and create a parallax layering effect to give the scene more of an immersive feel. Before we get started, let’s take a quick look at how the splash screen appears before modifying it:

The above splash screen was built using Sprites in Unity 4.5 and setup with the Orthographic camera. You can download the original Unity project from HERE.

Getting Started

Once you have the project downloaded, open up the Splash scene inside of the Scenes folder so we can walk through how everything is set up.

Here you can see we have 5 sprites and our main camera. You’ll notice that our camera is set to Orthographic. We also have a black background to handle the outside areas around our artwork. Finally, each of our GameObjects has their own custom layer order so they render correctly.

If you run the project, you should see that our player moves up and down (appearing to float), and the start text blinks on and off. Inside of the Scripts folder you’ll find two scripts – “Blink” and “FloatEffect” that make this animation possible.

Now that you have a general understanding of how the project is set up, let’s start making the modifications to work with the perspective camera and lay down the foundation for adding in Fire’s Dynamic Perspective SDK.

Working with the Perspective Camera

Step 1. Select the Main Camera from the Hierarchy tab and change its Projection from Orthographic to Perspective.

You’ll see in the Camera Preview window that everything becomes smaller since the new perspective camera’s Field of View is set to the default value of 60.

Step 2. To start, let’s setup the game to run at the native resolution of the Fire phone (we’ll change this later). Go into the Game tab and select the resolution drop down. We’ll need to add a new resolution called 720p. It will look like this:

Step 3. Select the 720P resolution we just added and re-select the Main Camera so we can play with the Field of View until we find something we like.

Here I have set the Field of View to 30. Now the artwork is centered in the display correctly. Next, we’ll want to move things around a bit so that we add some depth to the scene.

Step 4. Go back into the Scene tab and change the following GameObject’s Z indexes like so:

GameObject

Z Position

BackgroundImage

1

BackgroundMask

-0.25

ClickToContinue

-0.5

Player

-1

Title

-0.5

You should now see there is a difference between what you see in the Scene view (Object A, Left) and what you see in the Game tab preview (Object B, Right) due to the perspective camera and the new Z positions we just setup.

In the game, the objects closer to the camera such as the player, the title, and the “click to start” text are now larger. It’s important to keep in mind that you won’t see these perspective differences in the Scene tab so it’s best to do our layout work in the Game tab.

Step 5. Now we can start testing out how our camera will react as it changes position and rotation in preparation for adding the Dynamic Perspective logic. We’ll run the game and be manually changing the values of the camera on the fly.

Here you can see we are testing by modifying the X position and X,Y rotation values of the Main Camera to simulate our scene being moved all the way to the right-hand side of the screen.

It’s also important to note that we will use this technique to determine our minimum and maximum camera values of the scene inside of Unity itself. This is not something I advise doing on the hardware because moving the phone while trying to test it distorts the view. Instead, I recommend you test all the measurements in Unity. Before we move on, let’s make a few corrections. We’ll want to alter the Main Camera’s Z position to move it closer to the graphics and we’ll need to readjust the Field of View as well.

Step 6. While in the Game tab, you can preview the changes you just made. Change the Main Camera’s Z position to -4.2 to bring the camera in closer, and reset the Field of View to 67.2. This will center the screen better and help give us a better effect later on when we add in Dynamic Perspective. You’ll want to play around with the camera based on you own needs to find the ideal zoom level as well as distortion when the camera rotates based on the head tracking position.

You’ll notice that the perspective is a lot more dramatic. Now when the user is moving their head or the phone as the game is tracking their head position. Widening the Field of View and moving the Camera closer to the objects in the scene will create a little more distortion at the far ends of the screen helping emphasize the effect.

Step 7. Let’s make sure we stop the game, permanently make the Position Z and Field of View changes, and save the scene.

Correcting Layout for Perspective

Step 8. While our GameObjects look OK in their current position, we should make a few adjustments to ensure they stay in place as the camera moves around. To get started, make the following modifications:

GameObject

X Position

Y Position

BackgroundImage

0.44

0

BackgroundMask

-0.35

-3.25

ClickToContinue

1.8

-1.57

Player

-1.15

0

Title

1.6

-1.05

Now all of our GameObjects are aligned a little higher on the screen to account for the shift in perspective. In a production game, you would want to detect if the Dynamic Perspective API is available via HeadTrackingReceiver.isAvailable() and possibly move the camera down a bit to compensate for the higher shift in perspective. You can just lower the camera since the code we’ll add will automatically reset the camera for you, but we don’t want to yet.

At this point you can run the game, play around with the X and Y Positions, and see the rotations of the camera. This will give you a sense for how everything will look when we add in our Dynamic Perspective logic.

Setting Up the Amazon Head Tracking Asset Package

Step 9. Now we are ready to import the libraries that will enable us to add Dynamic Perspective logic to our splash screen. You’ll find the Unity asset files in the Fire Phone SDK. From inside of Unity, select the Asset drop down and pick Import Package then Custom Package.

Step 10. You’ll need to find the Fire Phone SDK Unity Asset Package from the SDK folder. Once you select it, you’ll be presented with the following screen.

Here we are just going to import everything in the package. While we’ll only be focusing on the AmazonHeadTracking Plugin, you can also add Fire phone’s Motion Gestures to your game as well to add in support for those APIs. Once installed, you will now have a plugin folder along with the source code and sample scenes you’ll need to test out all of the features of the Fire hardware in Unity.

 

Creating the Dynamic Perspective Logic

Step 11. Let’s create a new script called HeadTrackingCamera. We’ll be using C# for the Script. Once you have the script open, add a few properties to the top of the class.

public float movementScale = 5.0f;

private Vector3 newPosition;

Step 12. The first property will represent the multiplier we will use on the X and Y position we’ll receive from the Dynamic Perspective API. The newPosition property will store the updated X and Y values for the camera after we do our calculations on the raw Dynamic Perspective data. Now add the following to the Start() method:

newPosition = transform.position;

This will save our initial camera position, and, moving forward, we will modify the X and Y properties of this vector instead of creating a new one from scratch.

Step 13. In our Update() method we are going to need to test that the Dynamic Perspective API is working and that we can access its data so add the following:

void Update() {
if (HeadTrackingReceiver.isAvailable &&
(HeadTrackingReceiver.lastEvent != null && HeadTrackingReceiver.lastEvent.isTracking)) {
}
}

Here you’ll see that we can talk directly to the HeadTrackingReciever class and access its data. We’ll be testing if it’s available, that the last event isn’t null and that it is still tracking the user. We want this to shut down if it stops tracking the user’s head.

Step 14. Now we can add our position calculations. Add the following inside of the new conditional we just created:

newPosition.x = Mathf.Clamp(HeadTrackingReceiver.lastEvent.x * movementScale, -.7f, .5f);
newPosition.y = Mathf.Clamp(HeadTrackingReceiver.lastEvent.y * movementScale, -.2f, .5f);
transform.position = newPosition;

We are getting the last event’s X and Y values, multiplying it by the movementScale we set up at the top of the class and using a Clamp() to keep it within a certain range of values. I have figured out the optimal values for you based on how far the scene will look when at the edges of the screen, which should help keep our scene in the camera’s view later on when we add the rotation to the camera.

Step 15. Before we test, we’ll need to add this script and the HeadTrackingReciever, which samples for new data every update during the Unity game loop, to the camera.

Step 16. At this point you are ready to test your game on the Fire device. Make sure Unity is set to Android as your platform and do a Build and Run of the game.

When you run this for the first time, you may be asked to locate your Android SDK. Just point Unity to the root of the SDK folder. You may also get the following error:

 

If you haven’t already done this, you’ll need to change the Bundle Identifier. From the Build Settings menu, select Player Settings, then change the default value of the Bundle Identifier.

Also, while you are in the Settings for Android tab, change the rotation to Landscape Left.

Finally, save your Android build to its own folder in your project.

Once you have the Scene deployed, you should now be able test out the Dynamic Perspective.

Step 17. We’ll also need to add a few properties to the class to make this work:

public float smooth = 1.0F;
public float tiltAngle = 2.0F;

Step 18. After running the project on the phone, you may notice that the parallax effect isn’t very dramatic. While it’s a cool effect, we can greatly enhance it by simply modifying the rotation of the camera in addition to changing its position. Below where we set the new transform value, let’s add this code:

float tiltAroundX = HeadTrackingReceiver.lastEvent.x * tiltAngle;
float tiltAroundY = HeadTrackingReceiver.lastEvent.y * tiltAngle;
Quaternion target = Quaternion.Euler(tiltAroundX, tiltAroundY, 0);
transform.rotation = Quaternion.Slerp(transform.rotation, target, Time.deltaTime * smooth);

Step 19. Now if you re-run the project on the phone, the effect will be a little more dramatic since we are also rotating the camera to match the shift in X and Y position.

Conclusion

At this point, you now have a reusable script you can apply to your camera that takes advantage of Dynamic Perspective in your Unity games. You don’t have to limit this to just the splash screen; I’ve been playing around with adding it to my main game scenes as well wherever I can take advantage of subtle shifts in perspective. When done correctly, the Dynamic Perspective effect is incredibly powerful. Use it to show off parts of the scene that may have normally been blocked by other items in the foreground, or just as a subtle way to add a little more depth to your Unity scenes. I also suggest checking out the Motion Gesture examples included in the Head Tracking Asset Package to add peek and tilt events to your game as well for menus and even to control elements in the game itself.

Now Is the Time to Submit Your Apps for Fire

Create immersive apps that respond to the way a customer holds, views and moves the phone. We have updated Appstore Developer Select, Amazon Mobile Ads API, and Amazon Testing Services with more incentives:

  • Appstore Developer Select: Optimize your apps for Fire phone and get enhanced merchandising and 500,000 Amazon Coins incentives for your customers. Get the details here.
  • Amazon Mobile Ads API: Developers earn $6 for every thousand interstitial ads displayed across any supported device in August and September (up to one million impressions per app per month) when they distribute their apps on Fire phones and send the first ad request from a qualified app. Get the details here.
  • Amazon App Testing Service: Most Android apps just work on Fire mobile devices. Test your app's compatibility in 90 seconds by dragging and dropping your Android APK into our testing tool. Sign up for a free developer account to test your app's look and feel on devices and get the results within 6 hours. Test your app now.

Now is the time to submit your apps and games! Apps that are submitted by July 18 and approved will be in the Amazon Appstore when Fire ships on July 25.

Fire Developer Resources:

July 10, 2014

David Isbitski

With the launch of the Fire, Amazon’s first Android-based phone, you can now create experiences where customers interact in an entirely new way with your apps. With Dynamic Perspective, apps can have peek, tilt and zoom capabilities all based on customer head movements. You can also use the Firefly button to identify virtually anything and enable actions your customers can take based on what they identify. By enhancing or optimizing your apps for Fire, you have the opportunity to enable experiences that combine realistic visuals and bring new depth to what customers can do on a phone. And while you think about the new experiences you can offer your user, you can get the current version of you app running on Fire with little or no modification. Here are 10 tips to help you get your apps running on Fire phone today!

Tip 1 – Register for a Free Amazon Developer Account

Fire uses the Amazon Appstore exclusively, and we’ve streamlined the process to make it easy to submit your app. Registration is free, fast, has no annual subscription cost, and supports both free and paid apps. Once your Fire phone app is submitted you also have the option to distribute the apps across Kindle Fire, Fire TV and Android devices simply by selecting those device targets in the developer console. The boxes indicating your intent to publish on other devices will be pre-checked in the console. Most Fire apps will also work on Kindle Fire tablets and Android devices, so just keep those checked if you are not sure. To get started:

  1. Sign in or register for a free developer Amazon Apps & Games Developer Portal account. If you do not already have one, you will be prompted to create an account
  2. Submit your payment and tax information if you intend to sell a paid app or offer in app items for purchase.

Tip 2 – Download the Fire SDKs

Fire phone development APIs fall into two categories: Dynamic Perspective SDK and Firefly SDK. Both SDKs are available through the standard Android SDK Manager as a single add-on and support a variety of programming languages.

To download the add-on simply open the Android SDK Manager from a command line or from within Android Studio and do the following:

  1. Add the following user-defined site, in the Manage Add-on Sites dialog: https://s3.amazonaws.com/android-sdk-manager/redist/addon.xml
  2. Expand Android 4.2.2 (API 17) and click SDK Platform and Amazon Fire Phone SDK Addon.

Macintosh HD:Users:dave:Desktop:Screen Shot 2014-07-01 at 9.34.32 PM.png

  1. Accept license agreement and install the packages.
  2. Set your project up in Eclipse and specify Amazon Fire Phone SDK in the Compile With drop-down.

The SDK includes everything you need to get started including multiple sample projects and Android Studio gradle support.

You also have the option to download the Fire Phone SDK directly without installing the add-on here.

Tip 3 – Test Your APK compatibility with the Amazon Testing Service

Fire is based on the latest version of Fire OS 3.5, which is based on Android API level 17. Android app compatibility is supported on Fire OS, so if an app runs on Android it can run on Fire with little or no effort. Simply drag and drop your Android APK and receive feedback on your app's compatibility within 90 seconds. You will also have access to additional Fire phone test results that enable you to see how your app looks and performs on Fire phone. The test results are presented in 6 hours and include carousel, peek and tilt actions.

Checking APK compatibility and submitting can be done in just a few steps:

  1. Drag and drop your APK to the app-testing control here.
  2. If your app passes testing, you can submit it to the Amazon Appstore right away. If testing reveals any issues, you will see a list of issues to address. 

Tip 4 – Become Familiar with the Fire Phone Design Guidelines

Fire represents a huge leap forward in mobile user experiences. As a developer, you’ll want to design the best customer experience possible for this new platform. To help you achieve that, we’ve outlined the core design principles that will allow you to take advantage of Fire’s unique Dynamic Perspective features in our guide here.

The good news is that if you are an Android developer your app will work on Fire with little or no work, and as you will see, just a few modifications to your app’s user experience will let it better take advantage of all that the Fire SDK has to offer.

For additional best practices for designing Fire phone user experiences check out our blog post here.

Tip 5 - Add the Fire Phone Android Theme to Your App

The quickest optimization you can make is to set the application Theme in your Android app’s AndroidManifest.xml file. This updated Amazon theme will set app fonts, color pallet and skinned controls to match Fire phone’s design guidelines.

Simply set the android:theme argument to the application section of the Android Manifest to Theme.DeviceDefault, as introduced in Android 4.0, and your application will pick up the skinned controls that match Fire phone.

Tip 6 – Utilize the Fire Foundation Controls

The Fire Foundation Controls are included in the Dynamic Perspective SDK and give your app 2D controls designed and built for use with the device. These controls currently include SidePanel, HeaderNavigationBar, TabBar, ToolBar and MediaController. All of these controls can be implemented in three steps just as you would with any Android control.

Step 1: Prepare the Android Manifest
The Android manifest needs to be modified to include a <uses-library> tag to load the Foundation Controls library (in addition to setting the theme as mentioned in Tip 3).


 

Step 2. Place the control in your XML Layout file

In this example Android layout file we are referencing the new header navigation bar and utilizing two additional files. Strings.xml will contain the names of our menu items and header_menu.xml file defines the menu items for the HeaderNavigationBar's actions menu.

XML layout for HeaderNavigationBar inside of a RelativeLayout view:

Strings.xml containing menu item names:

Header_menu.xml containing action menu items:

Step 3. Implementing the Control

All of the APIs for Fire phone will be installed into your <Android_SDK>/sdk/add-ons/addon-amazon_fire_phone_sdk_addon-amazon-17 folder including the SDK samples. To access the controls you will need to reference them from your own app. For example, to implement the HeaderNavigationBar make sure you reference the amazon.widget.* package and implement the control. The following code shows how to inflate the XML layout into a view, obtain a reference to the HeaderNavigationBar, use the reference to set a click listener on the actions menu, and implement up navigation.

In the case of the HeaderNavigationBar we will also disable the Android title bar before inflating the layout. We can also programmatically change menu items by setting properties directly on the HeaderNavigationBar like so:

For more details on implementing Foundation Controls in your Android app check out our Implementing Foundation Controls for Fire phone guide here.

Tip 7 - Implement a Side Panel Layout

One easily identifiable layout characteristic of Amazon Fire apps is the Side Panel layout included as part of the Fire Foundation Controls. Implementing the Side Panel layout will go a long way to giving your app that Fire phone look and feel.

With this control, no matter what the current view in your app, a user can always access your menu or a context aware page just by executing a quick swipe or gesture.

For example, doing a quick right-flick of the phone (or swiping in from the left) can expose a navigation pane. You can also put a context-sensitive pane a flick away in the other direction. In the picture above, the middle content panel is a Music Store. The left panel is a navigation panel, and the right panel is context sensitive, and when the user is looking at music in the content panel, the right panel will show recommendations.

SidePanel Layout works very similar to the HeaderNavigationBar described above. You will need to reference the EAC library in your Android Manifest like above, reference the same amazon.widget library in your java code and then define the left, right and content panels in your XML layout file.

A full Side Panel sample project is included with the Fire SDK under the /Samples/SidePanels folder and you can get more details about implementing a Side Panel layout here

If you don't have a Fire phone you can also use the simulator included in the SDK to test your SidePanel implementations.

Tip 8 – Adding Depth and Perspective to Your Android App Interface

In addition to the 2D Foundation Controls, Dynamic Perspective includes a rich set of APIs and Controls to help developers incorporate peek, tilt and zoom capabilities within their apps while adding a sense of realistic depth and perspective. These controls work behind the scenes with Fire’s advanced camera and sensors to automatically adjust their appearance based on how your application is being viewed. These new UI Controls are part of the Euclid package included in the Fire phone SDK.

For the most part, Euclid controls are very similar to their Android and Foundation Controls counterparts. Euclid controls retain the name of the original base control, but with a "Z" prepended to the name. For example, a Button control becomes a ZButton control.

       

Figure 1- Example of Euclid Controls. From left to right: ZCheckbox, ZButton, ZSwitch and ZRadioButton

Euclid simplifies the process of adding 3D effects to your Android apps. Because most Euclid layout and widget classes are derived from either standard Android or Amazon Foundation Control classes, you are probably already familiar with the most common methods and attributes of Euclid controls and should be able to convert your app to use the new Dynamic Perspective UI with few code updates.

The following aspects of a control remain unchanged when you swap a stock Android control for its Euclid equivalent, such as changing a Button to a ZButton:

  • Click handler methods: User interaction is handled via your existing onClick() method or View.OnClickListener object.
  • Screen position methods: Layout in the X and Y planes follow the same rules as 2D widgets.
  • Layout methods: Euclid controls follow Android rules for scaling, sizing, and padding, and auto-resize based on layout parameters.
  • Support methods: Euclid controls often inherit Android widget support for testing, accessibility, and localization.

The biggest difference between Euclid and 2D widgets is how their visual assets are produced and rendered. These differences provide new behaviors but also set some limits on what you can change. Euclid widgets are artist-created textured mesh files, including collections of vertices, edges and faces that define the shape of 3D objects.

Although you can set the color of a 3D widget, you cannot add a border, set a custom background, or make changes in View.OnDraw(). However, 3D controls do provide the same access to behaviors such as animations and head tracking without additional code.

The following summary highlights the changes between 2D and 3D controls:

  • Layout parameters: 3D object layout parameters include depth in addition to height and width. While 2D Android layouts are a nested hierarchy of flat rectangles, 3D layouts are a nested hierarchy of rectangular boxes.
  • Delegate classes: All 3D methods are passed to delegate classes to handle 3D operations, such as layout and animation. You do not need to extend the delegate classes unless you want to modify the stock control animations or layout.
  • Missing or overridden class methods: Some 2D Android base class methods have been removed from the 3D controls because these methods are either not relevant to a 3D environment or have been replaced with true 3D paradigms. For example, stock Android controls support rotation using a faux 3D mode, whereas Euclid replaces these methods with a simplified 3D orientation method.
  • Draw method: Because they are not rendered dynamically, 3D controls do not directly use the Draw method. Instead, you must build a tree of transformations and execute a drawing command using ZSceneNode and ZRenderable. This retained approach better matches the model of the underlying 3D graphics library. Note that this change is transparent if you are using the stock 3D controls in the toolkit.
  • Unsupported base class attributes: Some 2D base class attributes are not supported in 3D, such as the Android faux shadow parameter. See the API reference documentation for information about specific control attributes.
  • 3D-specific methods and attributes: 3D controls have 3D-specific methods and attributes, such as the ability to supply layout attributes using orientation_Zin a linear layout or depthGravity.

For more information on implementing Euclid controls be sure to check out our Dynamic Perspective UI Migration Guide here. For suggestions on when to use the standard Android widgets, 2D controls and the new Euclid controls check out our comparison matrix here.

Tip 9 – Firefly SDK: Apps that Discover the World around You

With the Firefly SDK, developers can build apps that recognize real world objects - QR and bar codes, artwork, songs, movies and more - and let customers interact with them. Firefly combines Amazon's deep catalog of physical and digital content with multiple image, text and audio recognition technologies to quickly identify over 100 million movies, TV episodes, songs and products. It can also recognize URLs, email addresses and phone numbers. Customers simply press the Firefly button to discover helpful information and take action in seconds. You can use the Firefly SDK to supplement item identification or build actionable options for customers after an item is recognized. For example, iHeartRadio used the Firefly SDK’s built-in music recognizer and music database to identify a song playing. Then they built their own Firefly action to create a station based on the song Firefly recognized.

Integration with Firefly requires the creation of a plug in. You can get complete details on implementing a Firefly plugin on our developer portal here.

Tip 10 – New Developer Incentives for Fire Phone Apps

The immersive apps you create for Fire phone are also eligible for new developer promotions. We have updated Appstore Developer Select and Amazon Mobile Ads API with more incentives. 

  • Appstore Developer Select: Optimize your apps for Fire phone and get enhanced merchandising and 500,000 Amazon Coins incentives for your customers. Get the details here.
  • Amazon Mobile Ads API: Developers earn $6 for every thousand interstitial ads displayed across any supported device in August and September (up to one million impressions per app per month) when they distribute their apps on Fire phones and send the first ad request from a qualified app. Get the details here.

Now is the time to submit your apps and games! Apps that are submitted and approved by July 18 will be in the Amazon Appstore when Fire ships on July 25.

Be sure to check out these additional Fire phone developer resources:

-Dave (@TheDaveDev)

 

June 18, 2014

David Isbitski

Today in Seattle, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos unveiled Fire, the first phone designed by Amazon. Fire is the first and only smartphone with Dynamic Perspective and Firefly. Dynamic Perspective is an entirely new technology that responds to the way a customer holds, views and moves the phone. For example, Zillow is using the Dynamic Perspective SDK to create the ability to zoom in on pictures within their app by just moving the phone closer to the user. The revolutionary Firefly technology already recognizes movies, music and more and with the Firefly SDK developers can extend the use of the Firefly button to enable new actions their users can take based on what they can identify. As a developer, these new technologies enable you to create more immersive experiences in your apps and games that increase user engagement.

The Fire SDKs are available now, and make it easy for developers to take advantage of these features in their apps. These SDKs were designed to offer developers power and flexibility with pre-built controls, low level APIs, and complete UI frameworks. You can download both SDKs here.

How Developers Are Using Dynamic Perspective

Fire apps are built with the same familiar Android development environment you are used to. Fire provides a powerful set of hardware to bring your apps alive. With 2 gigabytes of RAM, a powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 Quad-core 2.2 GHz CPU and an Adreno 330 GPU, Fire will support the high performance game experiences customers crave. For detailed technical specifications of Fire, click here.

Zillow used the Dynamic Perspective SDK to integrate real-time information into their app’s user experience. In the Zillow app for Fire, customers can view new listings or nearby homes for sale and rent, right on the Fire carousel without having to open the Zillow app. In addition, Zillow brought a new photo experience to the device so users can use their head to zoom in on a bedroom or peek to see what's around the kitchen corner. “Real estate shopping is an inherently mobile experience so any chance we have to bring listings or new information to a home shopper while they're out on the go is a great thing,” said Jeremy Waxman, Vice President of Marketing and Mobile, Zillow. “Photos are incredibly impactful for home shoppers—it is the most common activity for users of our app. We are thrilled to be able to go one step beyond static images and offer our users the opportunity to zoom in on the photos and then peek around the room with the Dynamic Perspective SDK.”

Ezone.com, the creators of Snowspin and Crazy Snowboard, used the Dynamic Perspective SDK to allow a customer to navigate the endless runner game with just their head—no tapping on the screen necessary. Using head and hand movements, users can control direction and speed. Users can interact with games in a more immersive way – without their hands getting in the way of game play. Additionally, Ezone.com created a special flip jump in Snowspin currently exclusive to Fire customers with just a flick up of the head. “Porting our existing Android versions of Snow Spin and Crazy Snowboard to Fire couldn’t have been easier, and we were able to add new innovative game moves such as a double backflip with just the flick of your head, enabling even higher scores,” said Simon Edis, CEO of Ezone.com. “The Amazon team had all the tools ready to go, making it super easy for us to just drop them in our games and publish.”

CrowdStar used the Dynamic Perspective SDK to create the ability for Covet Fashion users to select their favorite fashion choices for their model. Using zoom and tilt, players can see details of outfits to vote on looks. “Dynamic Perspective is so innovative we’ve just begun to figure out how to take advantage of all the technology has to offer. The simplicity of the user interface and design around a one handed experience will really allow us full creativity as we look ahead in our portfolio of apps and games,” said Jefferey Tseng, CEO of Crowdstar. “Dynamic Perspective has unlocked capabilities we’ve always wanted to create in our game—incorporating zoom and pan in an incredibly natural way without having to touch the screen, is the first example.”

Firefly – Experiencing the World around You

Firefly understands your surroundings, instantly helping you to learn more, discover new things, and take action on the world around you. It can scan physical objects, identify them, and obtain related information about them. Everything from book covers, album covers, bar codes, QR codes, movies, television shows, songs and more. Developers can use the Firefly API to supplement item identification or build actionable options for customers after an item is recognized. For example, iHeartRadio used the Firefly SDK’s built-in music recognizer and music database to identify a song playing. Then they built their own Firefly action to create a station based on the song Firefly recognized.

Go beyond Touch with Shortcut Gestures

Because phones are often used with only one hand, Fire also offers one-handed shortcuts that go above and beyond touch. These shortcut gestures allow you to simply angle the device and “peek” into additional information that your apps can display on screen. For example, customer ratings in the Amazon Appstore instantly appear over each app’s icon when the device is tilted. Navigation is enhanced with gestures: moving back is as simple as flicking up on the screen with a finger, while tilting the device in either direction brings up two additional panels for navigation and contextual information. Gestures can even be integrated inside your games so that users can experience the game in a more intuitive way. Imagine moving a character on screen simply by titling the device instead of having to cover what’s on the screen with your finger.

Creating Multi-Dimensional Experiences inside Your Apps with the new SDKs

Fire enables new ways of interacting with your phone by simply rotating the device around X, Y and Z axes. These gestures were designed to be used with only a single hand, a common scenario when using a phone. We’ve created a framework that integrates directly with these gestures and Fire’s new sensors, making it a simple process to integrate within your own apps.

Fire SDKs and APIs

The underlying technology for Dynamic Perspective and Firefly is sophisticated, but Amazon makes it simple for developers to harness their capabilities. See a full breakdown of the SDKs and their contents here.

Dynamic Perspective SDK

The Dynamic Perspective SDK includes a series of APIs and Controls to help developers create peek, tilt and zoom capabilities within their app based on customer head movements, create multi-dimensional game play, or provide quick navigation menus by tilting the device to the left or right. These experiences are created through a variety of visual effects including adding shadows, depth and tracking head and motion gestures. For example, you could create an app that allows you to peek at how many pages are left in the book you are reading, or browse your apps as if you were flipping through a physical file drawer. Flat cartoonish icons and graphics could be replaced with realistic visuals that use lighting, shadows and motion to create an experience you would want to show off at every opportunity.

Firefly SDK

With the Firefly SDK, developers can build apps that recognize real world objects—music, movies and more—and let customers interact with them. As a developer you can create more immersive experiences that increase both engagement and the frequency of app use. The Firefly SDK comes with built-in recognizers and databases for products, music, movies, URLs, and websites, as well as built-in actions such as dialing a phone number, looking up an object on Amazon or going to a website. Developers can use the Firefly SDK to take advantage of the built-in recognizers, databases and actions.

Fire is Android Compatible

Fire is based on Fire OS so if an app runs on Android it can run on Fire with little to no work. For a developer who just wants to get started with Fire they can do a simple port, or they can use the Fire SDKs to easily integrate UI features such as shadows or hovering images within the app or game, or creating left and right panels based on Fire’s three-panel UI design.

Fire uses the same familiar Android development environment, and while Android Studio is fully supported IDE, you can also use Eclipse and other IDEs. Android Studio Gradle support is also supported for builds. An API simulator for the Side Panels and Carousel is included to test code on stock Android emulators and devices without needing a physical Fire device.

We know that many Android apps and games are built with various technologies so the Fire SDK includes support for those as well. Unity, HTML5 and C++ are all supported. For additional details on using third-party frameworks click here.

Now Is the Time to Submit Your Apps for Fire

By optimizing your apps for Fire, you have the opportunity to create compelling experiences that combine realistic visuals, with both depth and perspective allowing customers to use their smartphone in ways never done before. Starting today we are updating Appstore Developer Select offerings, Amazon Mobile Ads API, and Amazon Testing Service with special Fire incentives.

Amazon Developer Select: Amazon will offer 500,000 Amazon Coins ($5,000 value) for each of your qualifying paid apps or apps with in-app purchasing that meet the additional program requirements for Fire Phone. You can create campaigns via the Promotions Console to give these Coins away to consumers purchasing any of your paid apps or in-app items. For more details on the Amazon Developer Select program for Fire click here.

Amazon Mobile Ads API: Developers earn $6 for every thousand interstitial ads displayed across any supported device in August and September (up to one million impressions per app per month) when they distribute their apps on Fire phones and send the first ad request from a qualified app. For more details on the Amazon Mobile Ad Network Interstitial CPM Offer promotion click here.

Amazon App Testing Service: We have also expanded our testing tool to Fire. Developers can now test their Fire apps before submitting them to the Amazon Appstore. Developers simply drag and drop an app and most will receive feedback about their app’s compatibility within 90 seconds. Additionally, registered developers have access to additional Fire test results that check the app’s experience. These tests enable developers to see how an app looks and performs on an actual device sitting in an Amazon device lab.

With the launch of Fire, Amazon now offers a complete device and apps ecosystem spanning across tablet, phone and TV. Customers pay for your apps once and interact with the experiences you create across all their screens. As a developer, you only need to submit your app once and with few changes make it available to your customers across all Amazon devices. Now is the time to submit your apps and games!

Additional Fire Developer resources:

-Dave (@TheDaveDev)

 

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