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Next Generation Rich Applications

Posted by Sravan | March 6, 2009 .

The Amazon Windowshop gives a good overview of top selling books, movies, music and games without having to navigate around tediously. nycgo provides every little thing that you need to plan your trip to the New York City along with direction maps with estimated timings to travel around. The rich applications that we use today are centered around visualization. They strive to reach beyond eye candy to make it easy for the user to visualize lots of data and make decisions based on them.

One kind of rich applications which are still in their nascent stage but will soon take us one leap closer to science fiction are those centered around natural languages. Instead of pressing a series of verb-based buttons or filling a form with various parameters, the users simply list the set of actions they desire or specify all the data sought in a language natural to themselves. The application returns the results based on its understanding of these natural languages. For the applications to understand the same instructions when users simply say the out aloud I guess is still farther away.

A couple of days ago an Indian travel website launched a service where users can enquire about trains and book tickets through a chat window. This is an exact electronic replica of a passenger going to a ticket counter, enquiring about various trains in the route he or she seeks, and buying the chosen tickets. Amazing.

Cleartrip Train Chat

Mozilla Labs started a project called Ubiquity in August 2008, with a vision to connect the web with language, for the user to be able to tell the browser what he or she wants it to do. It is still in its alpha stage, but is already quite powerful. The Firefox awesome bar’s awesomeness has increased exponentially with this. Users can use available commands, discover new commands on the web, or create their own custom commands which the Ubiquity framework can process.

As my “Hello World” using Ubiquity, I wrote a simple gutenberg command which takes the title or author or subject and searches the Project Gutenberg online catalog. Commands are written in JavaScript, and I know squat about JavaScript. Creating simple commands using Ubiquity is that easy. But there are more complex use cases of Ubiquity. Watch the video below for an overview.

You must first install the Ubiquity plugin to be able to do any of this. Try Ubiquity with my gutenberg command and let me know how it does or does not work. You can subscribe to the command from github. [Usage: gutenberg <title> by <author> of <subject>]

Are there any other rich applications of this kind that you’ve come across so far?

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1 Comment so far
  1. Moxie  March 6, 2009 12:18 pm

    I think you caught the turning point to redefine what the “rich” means in RIA. The common wisdom about “rich” is more or less still stack with flashing effect and fancy UI. I believe, you are right, the richness relies more and more on simplicity and natural way of interactive between human and computers. In the hardware world Apple is the master of such richness. The netbook computer storm sucked the world about what small, less and simple means to business. The software should turn around and redefine the “rich” too.


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