Portfolio A sampling of the apps, games and miscellaneous projects Rick Strom has worked on over his career.

Capture – a Shazam-like film companion app

Around 2015, I was asked by Circle of Confusion (the production company behind The Walking Dead television show on AMC) to build a companion app for a film they had made called Capture.

Capture was one of those projects that is simultaneously exhilarating and terrifying. One of the challenges of app development is trying to plan out the timeline and budget for a process that is absolutely full of unknowns. And some projects have many more unknowns than others.

In the case of the capture app, the task was to develop and app that was a fairly typical film companion app, including a trailer, some character bios, photo stills, plot description, and so on. So far, not many unknowns there.

But this app also needed to listen when it was opened, and recognize audio cues. When a particular audio clip from the film was recognized, it would trigger some event — an incoming text message, an incoming phone call, an audio clip, vibration, or a film clip would start playing full screen, for example.

Essentially, this was Shazam but for a specific set of movie clips.

The first step, naturally, in planning out a project like this is to figure out what the big challenges are, and start to look at how they might be solved.

On a project like this, there is obviously no way we are going to develop a proprietary algorithm for recognizing audio out in the wild. This is, coincidentally, an area I studied with some seriousness in graduate school — specifically recognizing patterns in audio clips, images, and other assorted media using a fuzzy algorithm (specifically, wavelets). It was not something that would be feasible to do from scratch for a film companion app, to say the least!

Fortunately, we were able to find and license a C library that did just what we needed. The library needed an Objective-C wrapper to be used in the iOS project, so that was step one in prototyping this app. Once that was done, the rest of the app could be built around our audio recognition engine, and we could then focus on processing the audio clips into data we could embed in the app and building the system that would allow us to trigger the various events that would occur when our recognition engine would fire off a notification that we had an audio match.

The result was one of the most satisfying apps to test — we spent hours playing clips from the film and watching our phones go crazy in response.

Capture is available for iOS — but of course, in order to fully experience it you need to also watch the film, which you can stream on Amazon.

If you need an app developed, reach out and let’s talk! You can contact me using the contact form on this site, via Skype at stromdotcom or by visiting my company website at https://glowdot.com.

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Focus – safe driving app for iOS and Android

Today my latest client project Focus was released in the Apple and Google Play app stores.

Focus is a safe driving app, which uses proprietary, state of the art speech to text technology to allow users to send and reply to text messages, make calls, send inter-app messages to other Focus users, and more. In addition, Focus leverages built-in text to speech technology to power a fully voice controlled user interface and read-back of messages, notes, and more.

Focus uses a proprietary blend of speech recognition systems — notably Siri, OpenEars, and Nuance. What makes it proprietary exactly? I built a simple AI system that determines the best library for the job, given the requirements of the user and the ambient sound conditions. As an example: matching speech against a list of known commands in a noisy car would require one combination of audio library and settings, whereas speech transcription in a quiet environment would be better suited using another combination. This degree of intelligent fine tuning resulted in a speech recognition app that outperformed the biggest names in voice recognition at release — an amazing feat considering the relatively small size of the team, and the constrained budget of a modest, bootstrapped startup.

But before that blending technology could be built, I had to build an iOS wrapper for the low level C code that makes up the Nuance speech framework. Nuance is an embedded speech recognition platform, not designed out of the box for high level use, as in an app like Focus. I essentially built the SDK a company like Nuance would normally provide to end users to use in client apps like Focus. This is no easy task, but luckily it’s something I have done before (as on the Capture app with the Audible Magic library). Tasks with a difficulty of this magnitude — which often come up well into the development process — are why it is absolutely critical that your development team is top notch.

If you need an app developed, reach out and let’s talk! You can contact me using the contact form on this site, via Skype at stromdotcom or by visiting my company website at https://glowdot.com.

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CBC Power and Politics

I built a very interesting real-time voting and feedback system for CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company) and their Power & Politics show.

This project was very different from my usual projects in several ways:

  • It was primarily a mobile web project, rather than a native app
  • It was built in Python — a language I had experience in, but which I had not used on a professional project before!
  • It was deployed on Google App Engine which was completely unfamiliar to me, as I usually use AWS or roll my own self-hosted solution

These specific technology choices were informed by CBC’s existing platform, all of which was mobile web based and hosted on Google App Engine. This was just one new piece of their existing infrastructure.

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The Dark Knight Rises – Social photo app

In order to help promote the Christopher Nolan film The Dark Knight Rises, I was asked by Warner Bros. to create a mobile, social photo experience based on events from the film.

This project was a great example of the challenges of building apps for marketing purposes. Typically these projects have huge ambitions, limited budgets, and very tight timelines. Indeed, the release date of the app is entirely dependent on the release date of the film, which leaves very little room for error! Fortunately I have a good amount of experience with projects like this.

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