The Jungle Book (2016)

The Jungle Book movie was an enchanting showcase of technology-meets-human experience. The live action/CGI depiction of the characters is a daunting task for a 105 minute movie when you are bringing an animated version alive on the big screen for the first time. Apart from the brilliant storytelling, there was some degree of fear and discomfort felt while watching The Jungle Book on the big screen versus a TV.

As I mentioned, since I was coming to the cinema from a TV experience of the animated version I was expecting to be enthralled by the cuteness of the characters. Shere Khan wasn’t looking so horrible in the animated version. Kaa was not so fearful and scary, in fact, she was Mowgli’s friend and mentor from reading the books. The beauty of Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book is that despite the inherent qualities of the ferocious animals they are still believable and adorable. No matter how beastly the behavior you could still love them with all your heart.

The only way in which Shere Khan could instill fear and dominate the animal kingdom was through his roaring voice. His horrid appearance went overboard in the movie. Or maybe it’s the traditional movie stereotype of making a bad person look monstrous too. Kaa’s entry was the scariest moment as she almost strangulates Mowgli with her coil. You know how it feels in 3D to have a snake look into your eyes that closely. Snakes are awful in appearance but not Kaa from the book and Disney’s cartoons.

In short – Bagheera was the hero of the movie, Baloo was cute, Raksha was amazing, the jungle was depicted quite nicely, King Louie was funny, and the bee stings on Mowgli disappeared sooner than I had expected in the next scene. Was that a blooper? Anyway, the movie has reignited my interest in the animated version and that’s what I’m looking forward to. Art is immortal.

Further Reading:
The Jungle Book (2016 film) – Wikipedia
The Jungle Book (2016) – Rotten Tomatoes
The Jungle Book (1894) collection of stories by Rudyard Kipling – Wikipedia
The Jungle Book (2016) official SuperBowl movie trailer – YouTube
Information on the Tiger species – WWF

Uncharted 4 – A Perspective

It’s the last installment in the Uncharted series of Nathan Drake’s treasure hunting adventures and gun fights, and this time, Naughty Dog has pushed the gameplay and the graphics beyond imagination. The hype was on a mammoth scale for the final farewell to one of gaming history’s most exciting franchises. By the way, this isn’t a review for Uncharted 4, it’s just my perspective on the gameplay and the graphics for the title. It also made me go for my first PS4 – the Limited Edition Uncharted 4 bundle.

I just finished Chapter 8, and there was plenty of energy, mind-boggling puzzles and enough stress for surviving in a fighting situation, an anticipated feature of the gameplay anyway. Collecting hidden treasures of course (and fretting over the missed ones usually) but I’ve somewhat become a pro at this one. Apart from the intense gun fights Uncharted 4 has added an exciting crouch-movement in stealth mode too. The stealth move was present in previous titles too but has greater significance in Uncharted 4. So when you are surrounded by tall grass you can remain undetected to a group of mercenaries and take them down quietly to avoid a full-fledged gun battle. Watch for the stealth meter as it fills from White (about to be detected) to Yellow (something suspicious and investigating) and finally Orange (you’re screwed, dude!).

Uncharted takes you on a virtual holiday around the world and I absolutely can’t wait to play the next chapters in Uncharted 4 to see how the adventure takes me to other locales — I know the Madagascar map is awesome from the promos. When it’s Uncharted it’s been a norm to play the title more than once to absorb the story and the gameplay.

I just wish that this isn’t the last title in the series but that seems likely. The Internet is talking about Naughty Dog’s willingness about the development of the Uncharted series with a different studio. A serious gamer once told me the series would continue but with a new character. I don’t want to speculate though I wish Sony doesn’t pull the trigger on one of its most successful titles.

Finally, I will post some Uncharted 4 game screen captures. Enjoy the vivid landscapes while it lasts. The graphics quality is just jaw-dropping.

Also, au revoir to Nathan Drake!

Uncharted 4-1

Uncharted 4-3

Uncharted 4-2Uncharted 4-5Uncharted 4-6Uncharted 4-7


Further Reading:
Could Uncharted 5 Actually Happen? Here’s What The Director Says
Naughty Dog Creative Director, Neil Druckmann, weighs his opinion on a possible fifth franchise title. Interesting read.
A Brain Dump of What I Worked on for Uncharted 4
Ming-Lun Chou worked on the programming of Uncharted 4 at Naughty Dog. This is a brilliant post on the behind-the-scenes of the game (to avoid any spoilers, I will read this after I complete the game). You can also see some game graphics in his blog post.

The Fun of Building A Lego

It’s been a dream to experiment with Lego. It brings pleasure for me to build something out of pieces of colourful plastic — ‘bricks’ as they are lovingly referred to by enthusiasts. So I picked up my first kit to begin with a majestic 578-bricks Fire Plane from Lego’s ‘Technic’ series.

With great help from my significant other, it took us just a day to complete the construction and by that, we exceeded our own expectations. Truth be told once I started the construction brick by brick there was no stopping. The exercise required time, focus, logic and tons of imagination. The manual was very straightforward with vivid visuals. Although I found a typo on the colour of the pins I was so much into engineering the plane that I figured out the right way.

It’s a fabulous product and you can see the structure details in the picture. The rudder, the flaps, and the elevators tilt up and down when a small lever is pushed (see the upright handle pointing up right in front of the tail-wing). The fan rotates when you move the plane, the engine looks so much real too (behind the fan, you can see the yellow piston). Below the fuselage there’s a small cargo hold for the ‘water’ consisting of blue button-shaped legos and controlled using a lever system again (the pearl head grey button on top of the cockpit). I must appreciate the design team at Lego for imagining the details of this plane, it must have been tedious work. I could see a lot of creativity-meets-architecture with solid product design strategy. This was just a beginning for more Lego adventures to come. So keep watching this space.

Lego Fire Plane

Lego Fire Plane built from 578-pieces.


The Best UX Design Articles of April 2016

A catalogue of some of my favourite and insightful UX articles published in April 2016.

A Checklist For Planning A UX Benchmark Study
An insightful article on the basics of benchmarking the UX of a website, app, or product, to support the health of the user-experience of your product.

Design Sprints for Branding
A lesson in product development from Google Venture’s (GV) design sprints, and why it makes great sense for the branding of the product itself.

Less Is Still More: The Importance Of The Minimalist Approach To Web Design
This article explains the importance of minimalism on websites, and how visual complexity affects a user’s perception of the site in milliseconds. It’s a great piece for creating a good first impression for your visitors.

The Product Design of IoT
Joe Johnston (VP, Experience Innovation at Universal Mind) talks about devising a holistic user experience for ‘Internet of things’ products in this amazing article.

Apple, The Original Human
Daniel Eckler outlines Apple’s legendary philosophy of incorporating human and emotional aspects in its product design with examples.

What the Past Five Years Have Taught Me About UX Design, Part 1
A first in a series of articles, Bob Hotard (Senior User Experience Designer at AT&T Digital Design & User Experience), reflects upon the UX trends relevant in 2020.

Keeping Life Meaningful: Designing the Senior Residence Experience
This article focuses on designing a better experience at senior residences.

What I Learned From the World’s Greatest Product Designers
InVision’s co-founder and CEO, Clark Varberg, shares the views of product designers from innovative companies in this insightful article.

Moving to a UX-Critical Culture
Baruch Sachs (Senior Director, User Experience, Pegasystems) provides his views on building a robust UX culture within project teams.

Articulating Design Decisions
A sample chapter from Tom Greever’s book Articulating Design Decisions published by O’Reilly Media.

Create a UX Measurement Plan
An insightful article on developing a user experience measurement plan, to advance the maturity of your UX practice.

Merging User Experience and Systems Engineering
In pursuit of ensuring a collaborative structure, an expert panel discusses the process of merging UX into a large company that usually approaches projects from a systems-engineering point of view.

Good Learning Design: Five Unique Challenges and Their Solutions
This article unravels the potential of developing a good learning experience in MOOCs and other learning resources, through examples of best practices.


Featured Image – by courtesy of ebayink / Tablet use 1 (Some Rights Reserved)

Managing Passwords With LastPass

A technology makes strident progress, managing online security — particularly account passwords becomes a clumsy job. Generating safer, stronger passwords is a different ball game altogether and has become somewhat of a norm. Till about a decade ago, social networks were spawning at a slower pace than today — there weren’t many, to be quite honest, and it was pretty easy managing account details (most importantly passwords). Then came the mobile revolution where startups generated ideas to revolutionize the industry, some of which metamorphosised into apps, and it became much tougher to choose stronger passwords which can be memorized. Creating an account and memorizing a password wasn’t such a tedious task but the past few years have seen a haphazard growth in the app accounts being created and it’s harder than ever to memorize anything in this information overload era. With online hacking becoming so rampantly brutal today, your accounts could be compromised within minutes. Losing your personal identity and be crestfallen for the rest of your lives is a terrible reality of our times.

Welcome password managers, and let’s stop making a fuss about password management. There are several options around, including LastPass which is a secure cloud-based password management platform. There are some features that make LastPass my preferred password management tools.

Auto-fill Password Fields
The LastPass autofill has several obvious benefits, most importantly, if the website was phishing information using another domain — remember that phished sites replicate the content and the design, not the domain name to trap unwary visitors, the autofill option does not work. That should sound an alarm bell to check the domain information. If your computer is infected with a malware that records keystrokes, having an autofill option negates any risk of information theft. The passwords are secured in an online vault and accessed through the browser extension or application.

Secure Password Vault
LastPass uses a secure online vault on the cloud to store personal data and allows access only through its extension/application installed in your browser. LastPass is generally available only when connected to the Internet but you can also access your data offline through the available extensions on desktop or mobile. Offline data can also be accessed through a stand-alone application called LastPass Pocket. If you are inclined to learn more about the technology behind how LastPass secures your data, here’s a nice article from the website to get you started.

Generate and Audit Password Security
LastPass has a nifty feature to rank your password security and it’s called the LastPass Security Challenge. It warns the user of a potential security breach if you have reused your password on multiple sites or if a website has been hacked and your credentials may have been compromised, it asks you to change your password urgently. Also, it’s a great tool to assess the overall health of your online security vis-a-vis passwords. As you comply with the suggested changes you can improve your security challenge score over a period of time. But ensure that you take this challenge periodically.

Auto-Change Passwords
LastPass can also auto change the password for any website which is listed in the security challenge. When you select this option, LastPass would launch the website, login into the account for you and change the password of the account for you. And the newly generated password is automatically saved in the vault. It’s that simple.

Secure Notes
Think of LastPass Secure Notes as a password-protected, digital notepad with access from anywhere. You can save sensitive information such as credit cards, bank account numbers, social security, other passwords, etc. It’s a great way to safely store information which you’d regularly use in your work or personal life.

And remember that a slew of 2FA features makes LastPass more secure than ever. And with its extensive support via extensions for Firefox, Chrome, and Safari, and through apps for Android and iOS, it makes LastPass one of the better password management tools around. It’s good enough to get you going on online security and password management! Give it a try.


Featured Image by courtesy of Christiaan Colen / Windows login screen (Some Rights Reserved)