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René Schulte on Pictures Lab WP7 Application

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Svetla Stoycheva
Svetla Stoycheva
Joined Sep 25, 2009
Articles:   25
Comments:   8
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0 comments   /   posted on Nov 18, 2010
Tags:   windows-phone-7 , pictures-lab , rené-schulte-
Categories:   White Papers , Interviews

While picking the WP7 apps to feature on SilverlightShow, PicturesLab impressed us with the host of advanced effects one may apply to the images on his phone. We meet René Schulte to find out more on the full set of functionalities packed in this application, and the challenges faced while developing it.

Q1. René - Please introduce yourself briefly and tell us more about the application you created - what are the key functionalities, major differences from other similar applications on the market, why do you think people would want to install this app on their WP7?

A. I’m a .Net, Silverlight and Windows Phone developer and Microsoft Silverlight MVP passionate about real-time computer graphics, physics, AI, and algorithms. I love C#, Shaders, Augmented Reality, and computer vision. I started the SLARToolkit, the WriteableBitmapEx, and the Matrix3DEx Silverlight open source projects, and I have a Silverlight website powered by real time soft body physics. I’m also a regular author for various magazines and Microsoft's Coding4Fun. Contact information can be found on my Silverlight website, my blog, or via Twitter.

My main Windows Phone app is called Pictures Lab and is meant to be the ultimate picture effects application for Windows Phone. If you like to take photos then this app is a perfect addition to your phone’s toolset. Or like msnbc.com wrote: "The app, a Swiss Army knife of photo tweaks".

Pictures Lab comes with more than 20 controllable and easy-to-use advanced effects like different vintage and hipster-like effects, Tilt Shift (miniature faking), Lomo, Soften, Auto Adjust, Sharpen, Comic, Bulge, B& W, Sepia and many more. Dynamic previews of the effects are shown in a list, making it possible to easily pick the right one. It is also possible to crop and rotate images. An enhanced picture can be saved to the phone’s pictures hub. The app performs the image processing on the original picture in its original resolution, thus making it also possible to print the image or use it as desktop wallpaper.

The complete feature list:

  • 21 advanced effects: Seven different vintage and hipster-like effects, Tilt Shift (miniature faking), Lomo, Soften, Auto Adjust, Sharpen, Comic, Bulge, B& W, Sepia, Saturate, Edge Detection, Night Vision, Negative and Bitmap.
  • Editable effect parameters with ready-to-use default values.
  • Crop and rotate.
  • Multi-touch manipulation for Tilt Shift and other effects where multi-touch is meaningful.
  • The app can save edited pictures with advanced effects applied in full resolution even on a device with 256 MB RAM. Thus making it also possible to print the image or use it as desktop wallpaper
  • Full Pictures Hub Extras integration.
  • The trial version includes the complete functionality and all the effects, only the save functionality is disabled.
  • Support for landscape and portrait orientation.
  • Effect list with dynamic previews and caching of the larger previews.
  • Flicking through the effects on the main page.
  • State preservation when the app is deactivated (tombstoning).
  • Localization for English and German.

Q2. What was the motivation behind creating this application? How did you get the idea?

A. It started with an article series for Coding4Fun about a picture effects application for Windows Phone. The Coding4Fun version was released for free on the Marketplace and is open source! I continued my work on this project, enhanced the effects and added more features and many more effects.

Q3. What were the main challenges you faced when moving from Silverlight in/out of the browser to the phone environment?

A. The limited resources. Processing pictures with advanced image effects at full resolution needs a lot of memory and CPU.

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Q4. Have you faced any performance challenges with PicturesLab? Was it hard to optimize your app so it may run smooth on the device?

A. Yes, the hardest challenge was to keep the memory consumption below the Windows Phone limit of 90 MB. I also did a lot of optimization to make the processing as fast as possible.

Q5. Have you already made profit from this application? Do you see WP7 as a good platform for making money out of it?

A. Microsoft doesn’t provide any statistics until February 2011. The first payout is also scheduled for February 2011. Many developers are not happy about this lack of essential statistics and we brought this to the attention of the right people several times.
The first batch of phones was sold out at many shops. This is promising and I hope the demand will continue. I think it’s possible to make a good amount of money with Windows Phone apps. You only need a good idea and good developer and designer skills.

Q6. How do you see the future of WP7, and applications for WP7?

A. I will continue my work with the platform and develop more applications. I wouldn’t do this if I had no trust in the success. Many blogs and advisory firms also see a bright future and estimate a growing market share in the next years.

Q7. What other ideas for next WP7 applications do you have?

A. Expect more features for Pictures Lab, like borders, frames, more effects and many more features. I will also develop another fun photo app and as soon as real-time camera access is available I’ll provide a version of my Augmented Reality library SLARToolkit.

Q8. What is your opinion on the recent announcement by Microsoft on the future of Silverlight and HTML5?

A. Silverlight is not dead and Microsoft is continuing the investment in Silverlight, not only for WP7 development. Silverlight will be the right choice for rich apps in the future, HTML5 for cross platform, non-rich apps.
Microsoft is hosting the Silverlight Firestarter event on 2nd December 2010. Scott Guthrie will be presenting the “Future of Silverlight” in his keynote. It’s streamed live and a must see if you’re interested in Silverlight’s future http://www.silverlight.net/news/events/firestarter/

Thanks, René, for revealing more on PcituresLab. We hope to meet again soon to discuss your next WP7 application!



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