The future of BlackBerry in the mobile space has come into question a lot lately. Research In Motion (RIM) has certainly seen better days, and the adequacy of their newly appointed CEO, Thorsten Heins (who replaced former co-CEOs Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie), was called into question. On top of stagnant sales, plummeting market share and stock prices, and internal turmoil, BlackBerry hopefuls were saddened to find that the Q1 2012 time frame given for BlackBerry 10 devices would be missed and they wouldn't see any next-gen BlackBerrys until at least Q3.
Once again, all eyes were on RIM this week as BlackBerry World 2012 kicked off on Monday. Our own Sydney Myers was on site relaying all of the goods. While there were no BlackBerry 10 devices announced or anything super exciting to come from the event, there were several golden nuggets to come from RIM.
We were given a glimpse into the Cascades, the new user interface created by none other that The Astonishing Tribe, a design company that was acquired by RIM in December of 2010. As Sydney explained,
"It's all about flow. By simply swiping from left to right, you can take a 'glance' at the previous app you were using. For example, if you're in your calendar and need to take a quick look at the email you were just reading, instead of completely switching back to that app and then back again to the calendar, you can just swipe the calendar window to the right a little and slide it back to the left when you're done."
We learned that RIM has put a lot of effort into their software keyboard, too, and that they're not totally abandoning their QWERTY keyboards either. (That would honestly be a tragedy.) The BlackBerry 10 keyboard looks a lot like the Windows Phone keyboard, but acts more like SwiftKey, as it learns the way you type, offers word predictions and suggestions and becomes personalized with time.
But of all the things shown off this week in Orlando, the most impressive thing, by far, was the camera software. The camera in BlackBerry 10 is "all about technology that allows you to never miss a moment." Or so they say. Among the many features, the one in particular that stuck out is a feature that allows you to alter an image after you take it. Say you take a group photo and a couple people blink when you take the picture. When reviewing the picture, simply tap on a section of the photo that needs to be fixed and move the soft slider around a ring and "rewind" time to a frame where the person's eyes were open. (Essentially, the camera takes a burst of images and allows the user to select the best parts to stitch together to make the best overall picture, similar to how HDR mode works on the iPhone, except this deals with specific regions of the photo instead of exposure levels.)
During the camera demo, not much was said about the technology, other than the fact that it would be a standard BlackBerry 10 feature. But Jordan Crook of TechCrunch (and many more people, I'm sure) noticed that this software was remarkably similar to Scalado's camera software. Earlier today, Patti McKague, Sr. Manager, Public Relations at Research In Motion told TechCrunch that they are, in fact, using Scalado's technology in BlackBerry 10.
Who is Scalado, you ask? They're a software company that focuses on photography and different camera softwares. They have a plethora of camera use cases on their site. But, specifically, they have a few that are mind-blowing. One, for instance, is the Rewind feature that Research In Motion demoed earlier this week. In the picture above, you can see a picture taken with an HTC phone. In the picture at the top of this page, you can see the effect as it is being applied to the same picture. Another Scalado feature is Remove, where you can snap a picture and remove people from the image during the photo review.
It's all pretty impressive stuff. (To see demos of Scalado's camera software, look here.) But what's more important and noteworthy here is that this isn't RIM's technology – it's only licensed. And, in the picture above, you see their software working on an HTC-made Android device in a dramatization. We know that, deep down, QNX and BlackBerry 10 aren't all that different from Android, so there's reason to believe this software could either be adapted to work on Android or it already works on Android and Scalado is waiting for a manufacturer to license their software.
Don't get me wrong, burst mode, best-shot mode and facial recognition in TouchWiz Nature UX and ImageSense are fantastic. So is simultaneous video and image capture. But Rewind and Remove are incredible! And manufacturers need to hurry up and partner with Scalado! I'm baffled as to why no one has before now!
I'm a stickler for awesome smartphone cameras. And, of course, technology like this won't warrant better image sensors or anything, but it is too awesome not to have. What do you think, readers? Is Scalado's technology something you'd like to see built-in to your phone's software? Is it gimmicky? Or would this be something you would seriously like to see in your phone? Which OEM, aside from RIM, should pick up Scalado?