Develop looks at a UI solution famed in the motor industry that's relevant for devs
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What is it?: Kanzi Studio is a tool for creating 2D and 3D UIs, powered by the Kanzi Engine
When the interactive entertainment industry’s academically-minded enthuse on the subject of gamification, dashboard displays in fuel-efficient cars underpinned by game theory are often thrust to the fore as a scintillating example of the concept’s potential to impact the real world.
Other than that, few developers spend much time pondering speedos and rev counters, unless, of course, they’re fashioning a driving game. The team at middleware outfit Rightware, however, are ever conscious of the technological parallels shared by motor vehicles and games consoles.
Their UI solution Kanzi has thrived in the car industry, and, increasingly, it is enjoying prevalence in the games business. Indeed, it seems that modern cliché about new cars needing IT support over mechanics might actually hold water.
Conceived to provide a versatile tool for creating UI, Kanzi consists of two core elements. The Kanzi Engine, as you might expect from its name, powers and underpins the UI environment, while Kanzi Studio lets developers harness various different UI components and the ‘Advanced Visualization Pipeline’ to ease their task of contructing interfaces.
In providing access to 2D and 3D GPU effects, Kanzi Studio lets users implement the likes of depth-of-field and shadow maps.
“Studio takes as input 2D and 3D files created in your favorite tool such as Photoshop or Autodesk 3ds Max,” explains Rightware vice president of developer programs Arto Ruotsalainen.
“In addition, one of the key features is attaching events within the Studio to UI components; and these events can be anything: coming from keyboard, mouse, touchscreen, camera, app logic; you name it.”
Also, applicable for creating fully embedded user interfaces, Kanzi Studio is designed to plug into existing frameworks as easily as possible, and can even be used to create stand-alone apps. And, insists Ruotsalainen, it is ideal for games makers.
“For games developers, the appealing point comes from the included features; a state-of-the-art graphics engine optimised for all the latest mobile hardware out there, the content pipeline and its UI framework,” he says.
“It can be used to create a full game by adding physics, sounds, networking, and artificial intelligence.”
And according to the team behind Kanzi, when compared to contemporary UI middleware Kanzi’s greatest asset is that it boasts a pipeline enhanced to use GPU acceleration, where both 2D and 3D go through the same OpenGL conduit.
Furthermore, all components built within Kanzi Studio exist in a 3D space, which can be used for laying out interfaces like item lists, for example to create an atypical spline so as to allow potentially unique user interactions.
“Also, we have patented technologies for optimising the UI and its visualisation, for things like high resolution displays where games need all the performance they can get, as it becomes really heavy for GPU to process huge amounts of pixels with effects," he says.
“One of our patented graphics technologies is able to detect the changes in the display and only update those ones – easily increasing performance many times. What we basically did was to enable users to easily bring all that static content out there to life and interactive on your mobile devices.”
Kanzi, by necessity, is also designed to free developers from many of the challenges of implementing quality UI on touchscreens, by offering customisable gesture inputs around concepts like swipe, multi-touch and other related device inputs such as cameras.
Finally, Kanzi’s design as a middleware for a wealth of industries, from automotive and games to smart TVs, means that as mediums and devices continue to amalgamate, it’s arguably a tool with much potential for those embracing even the most intimidating of platform-spanning projects.
“We believe that Kanzi is the tool that can help developers differentiate their products no matter what new and emerging market they are in, including entertainment, mobile, tablets, smart TVs and other embedded verticals,” concludes Ruotsalainen.
A range of licensing models currently exist, but for curious parties, a free 30-day trial is currently available at the Rightware’s site.