Updated on March 28th to reflect changes in PixLive release 6.0
Vidinoti has implemented an AR CMS tool called PixLive. PixLive differentiates itself from the very beginning by the fact that Image based Augmented Reality is only part of the platform. In addition to Image based AR, PixLive also implements Beacons and GPS Points. Although not covered in this review, Beacons and GPS Points are location-based triggers that allow you to offer very contextual information to end-users: in other words, you can link specific content to specific locations and a user can access that content when they are in the range of one of these triggers.
PixLive is the most complex AR CMS in this review, bringing with it many features and consequently a little more of a learning curve. The editing interface is referred to as PixLive Maker and the Scanner is referred to as PixLive Player.
The PixLive Maker works with the concepts of Content and Annotations.
To create Content for Image AR, simply click on the Image AR button. PixLive will then walk you through a four-step process to create the AR Content. One drawback of the interface at this point, however, is that if you want to move back a step you cannot. Corrections you want to make to previous steps will have to wait until you’ve completed the final step.
The first step is to upload your Content. You can either drag-and-drop your PDF, JPG or PNG image, or use your system’s file browser.
What`s nice about how this is done is that PixLive is one of the very few Easy AR CMS tools that not only tells you upfront what the resolution requirements for the images are (most others require a trial and error approach), they also have “Image Quality Guidelines” clearly visible at the same point. Making relevant information available at the right location shows that Vidinoti has given more thought to their interface than just the mechanics. That said, I think it would be very desirable if they were to left justify the images in their guide to improve readability.
Once you’ve uploaded your Content, PixLive moves to the 2nd step, Region Selection, which allows you to adjust the region of the image that will be used. For PDF files, PixLive Maker will create a region around the place you click on and the size will be optimized to match the area covered by a standard phone camera, at a typical reading distance. Once you’ve selected the desired region, you will be moved to the 3rd step, where you will need to provide a name and, optionally, a description and some Tags. Tags can be used for the classification and synchronization of content. Be careful when defining the Content Name, as PixLive allows you to use existing names without warning.
What I very much appreciate about PixLive is that it did not convert the City and Tree Images from Portrait to Landscape. Many other tools tested didn’t behave so gracefully.
After you define your Tags, if you decide to use them, you are brought to the 4th and final step – “Content Creation”. Instead of being thrown directly into the Editor, you will need to initiate it by clicking an image in the center of the screen.
What PixLive does in the editor gives one the feeling that there are two distinct development teams at work on the tool. The reason I say this is that throughout the process, up to this point, everything has been in English. However, the OS of my computer and browser are German, and apparently, the Editor picks this up and presents me with a German language interface. This isn’t a big deal, but if there is going to be localization I would like to choose that from my account interface and not have it forced upon me by the tool.
Additionally, the editor has a “Save and quit” button, but no Cancel button. A Cancel button would be nice, as this would save time and system overhead when you are just reviewing Content and not editing it.
The Editor breaks things down into a “Scene View” and a “Scenario”. When you add Annotations to your Content, you are in the Scene View. If you add Annotation elements that are Interactive, then you will be able to define a Scenario in which multiple Scenes are created with unique Annotation elements that can be displayed and acted upon. Interactive elements are the Button Image, the Scratch Image, the Scratch & Win Image, the Text Button and the Timer.
If you need to change out your Content at any point after it is initially created, this can be done by accessing the Content List and clicking on the Content’s name.
You will then be presented a detailed view of the Content and some scanning statistics. At the top of the usage information you have six buttons which can be used to manage the Content
- Change Image
The Share option allows you to send a link of the Content and costs you one Credit.
Scenes and Scenarios
Because Scenes and Scenarios are unique to PixLive, I’ll spend a little more time to explain them.
In the example below, I have added an Image Button to the Scene on the left, which automatically created a second Scene copying all other non-interactive elements from the first Scene.
When working on an interactive element, you can also define if the button goes to a new or existing scene, and you can animate the transition with a desired duration.
If you want to, you can have branching with different interactive elements which will open up separate Scenes. We can quickly see a small difficulty, in that I have used the same button with different colors for two separate Scenes and there is no way to know, other than inspecting the interactive element, which button points to which scene. It would be nice if the coloring and rotation of the element were to be carried over to the Scenario display.
This problem is resolved if you use your own images instead of the pre-defined icons. You can always change the image or icon later in the design process, if you wish.
When it comes to Annotations for the Content, you can have:
- Image Button
- Image Carousel
- Scratch and win
- Open Web page
- Open PDF
- Text Button
- 3D Models
- 360 Panorama
- Facebook share button
- Twitter tweet button
Content is limited to 128MB per Annotation.
When adding an Image, you are given the opportunity to use either a pre-defined image or to upload your own. If you use a pre-defined image, you can use a color wheel to determine its color, with a default of white.
The Image Button does the same as the Image, however, it also ties the Image to a new Scene.
Text & Text Buttons
The Text and Text Buttons act just like the Image and Image Button. You are allowed to change the background color of the button and are given a few common formatting options for the text, such as font, size, bold, underline, etc. One nice feature – if you change the background color, this then becomes the default value for the next Text field.
An Image Carousel is what you would expect – a series of images that can be scrolled through. PixLive deviates from other tools here also, as it requires you to use an Interactive element to make a new Scene and then apply the Image Carousel to that Scene.
For whatever reason, PixLive requires at least three images for the carousel. Most other platforms only require two. There is also the ability to add a text line to the image, but for some reason this is only possible if the image is shown full screen. Currently, there is no transition timer between images, but this can be accomplished by using the Timer and several Scenes.
The Scratch option is currently unique to PixLive. It gives you the ability to create a surface that can be scratched to reveal an image underneath. You can control the size of your user’s scratch, as well as at what point the revealed image becomes clickable, as a % of total image visibility.
Scratch & Win
The Scratch & Win option is similar to the Scratch option, but it gives you a third image that can be displayed when the user has won. Whether the user wins or not is simply a random selection, however, you can define their odds of winning. Additionally, you can control whether or not a user can win multiple times. In addition, you can define a maximum number of winners which can be useful if you plan to use this feature to distribute some expensive prizes. More details are available via the PixLive on-line help.
PixLive allows you to have an audio Annotation. Unfortunately, neither the interface, the on-line help, nor error messages give you any clue about what formats are supported. I gave MP3 a shot simply because it is a very common format, and it worked. Upon follow up with Vidinoti they confirmed that MP3 is the only supported audio format. It would be great if PixLive would document this.
Video works fine, however, only supports MP4 format if you upload, and I am finding no documentation indicating the size limits. Otherwise, you can reference an external URL, such as a YouTube link. Although you can define the video to be transparent, you cannot configure the opacity. Details about the recommended formats can be found by clicking on the Help button.
Web & PDF
Opening a web site or PDF is where PixLive also deviates from how others operate. On most tools, opening a web site is performed creating either a button or text field and linking a URL to it. With PixLive, you would actually create a new Scene with a pathway to it, and the Scene would be fully overtaken by the URL. Below is an example where I created an Interactive Text field and applied it to URL to the new Scene.
While this is not complex, I don’t find it intuitive.
Opening a PDF operates similar to opening a web site. You need to create an interactive element that leads to a new Scene and then apply the PDF to the new Scene. Similar to the Video option, a PDF can either be uploaded or you can link to an external resource, and I found no indication of file size limitations when uploading the PDF.
Facebook & Twitter
The Facebook and Twitter buttons work as you would expect. Simply supply a URL and the standard data. You can even customize the button display texts. With Twitter, PixLive is kind enough to keep track of your text length and ensure that you don’t exceed 140 characters.
PixLive is one of the few tools tested with which I was able to make a 3D model without any problems. Formats supported are:
- Collada (.dae)
- 3DS Max (.3ds)
- Wavefront OBJ (.obj)
- Stereolitography (.stl)
Another very unique and nice feature is that you can manipulate the model once it is displayed, moving it with a single-finger drag, and resizing & rotating it with two finger pinching. Be careful with your model, however, as manipulating the model on the small screen of a phone is clearly more of a challenge than on a pad. One note about the uploading of your 3D model – if you abort the upload it will cancel the upload dialog, but the upload will continue until it is finished.
Also unique to PixLive is the ability to have a 360° Panorama supporting both Cubic and Spherical forms. For details on these formats, I suggest you have a look at the on-line documentation link provided in the 360° Panorama dialog. Like Web Pages and PDF Files, the 360° Panorama takes over the page completely, so you will need to first create an Interactive Annotation to push to a new Scene.
The Timer is pretty much what one would expect. It is activated when the Scene is first displayed and upon completion it will transition to a new Scene.
PixLive Maker allows you to preview the Content by clicking on the Content name from the Content list and then clicking on the magnifying glass at the bottom right of the image. Just remember to restart the scanner before you scan the Content.
The PixLive Player has some of the best recognition of all tools tested. When you start scanning you are given a very clearly defined frame to position the image in. Once scanned, you can point away from the Content and the Content with Annotations is displayed. As well, scanning does not time out.
Unfortunately, as with many other scanners tested, you’ll need to restart the PixLive Player if your Content or Annotations change.
PixLive has basic reporting capabilities. Under a Statistics tab you can see the clicks per Content, broken down on a per-day basis. There is also a graph for Top Content and Top Markets.
PixLive leaves very little room for any errors to be made. When a URL is requested, the default text clearly shows the http:// prefix. However, even when this prefix is left off, the URL works perfectly.
Demo Account Limitations
- 5 Contents
- Publication limited to 24 hours
What’s to like
- The PixLive interface is quick, clean and intuitive
- Allows Annotation rotation
- Very unique array of Annotation options
- Good error handling and edit checking
- Good use of help buttons specific to UI functions
- City and Tree images were not converted from Portrait to Landscape
- Excellent recognition. Was not confused by the Tree images
What’s not to like
- On-line help is incomplete, mixes languages and is full of spelling and grammatical errors, however, wasn’t usually needed
- The interface localizes for you automatically. I would rather that I control the language.
- No “Undo” capability in the Editor
- No scan quality indicator
- No Media Library access
- Scanner has to restart to recognize changes to previously scanned content