First Look: How the technology behind TATs apps will be implemented on the PlayBook & made accessible to 3rd party developers!

By Kevin Michaluk on 4 May 2011 10:59 am EDT

Sneak Peek at the BlackBerry PlayBook NDK that will allow developers to tap into powerful effects via TAT's engine

During BlackBerry World 2011 we had the opportunity to sit down with Chris Smith, Sr. Director of the BlackBerry Development Platform, and Rasmus and Karl from the The Astonishing Tribe, to get a look at how RIM plans to utilize TAT's creativity on the PlayBook AND ALSO make the technology that enables the creativity available to 3rd party developers via the PlayBook's Native Development Kit so they too can create PlayBook apps with stellar effects in minimal time. Be sure to watch the video above to get filled in on all the details and see some basic demonstrations of how developers will be able to benefit from TAT. 

If you're not familiar with The Astonishing Tribe (TAT), they are known worldwide as being the leading gurus of user interface design and we've seen plenty of examples of their creativity in app demos that show off just mind blowing effects (see examples). To allow them to turn their ideas into reality quickly, TAT developed a proprietary engine that allows them to pump out these effects quickly. With the engine built, they can do with minimal lines of code what it would take a developer an insane amount of code to accomplish.

RIM acquired TAT in December 2010 and since then the team has been working exclusively on bringing their tools and design talents to BlackBerry. Though they arrived at RIM with the PlayBook project well underway, we've already seen some instances on the PlayBook's OS and apps where TAT's technology has been put to work. Within the Pictures app, TAT technology enables the fade out transition between photos and smooth scrolling when sliding through. TAT technology is in the calculator app as well as the newly-released Scrapbook app that features a ton of animations and a super smooth experience. We can defintiely expect to see a lot more TAT influence come to the PlayBook's OS and native apps in the months ahead.

Beyond the OS and native apps getting the PlayBook treatment, RIM plans to make much of TAT's engine for creating these powerful effects available to third party developers via their NDK. Instead of developers having to code these effects for themselves, they will be built into the NDK so that developers can easily utilize them (vs. coding they more simply just have to control the parameters). The NDK is still evolving so we're not sure yet as to exactly how many TAT effects will be there for developers to use, but it definitely appears RIM wants to make it easy for native developers to make apps as cool as those we've seen from TAT. In our demo we were shown an accelerometer-controlled 3D contact list effect as well as a news app with smooth popups and a spinning globe effect that was just awesome.

Again, be sure to check out the video above for more details and keep it locked to CrackBerry - hopefully we'll have more updates here over the weeks and months ahead as we get close to BlackBerry DevCon in the fall. All in all, this is really great news for PlayBook developers and just awesome news for PlayBook owners. 

Reader comments

First Look: How the technology behind TATs apps will be implemented on the PlayBook & made accessible to 3rd party developers!


I could tell TAT has something to do with the calculator. I like how easy it is to pick out their work from everyone else, amazing.

TAT Cascades UI framework is the IP of Tat and it is XML based framework. I was hoping RIM to integrate it into their new platform and I am glad they are doing it right here right now

Love the contacts demo! This is totally the kind of stuff RIM needs - and fast. I agree with the previous comment - I have a hunch TAT has had something to do with calculator, voicenote, etc on the pb

RIM is getting there, it just takes time... soon we'll be whipping our phones out to show others. Great acquisition for RIM.

I'm not even going to begin to act like I understand the "developer speak" or how they do what they do BUT I know that contact app they showed looked SWEET & if that's just a hint of what TAT is able to put out there for other developers to run with I'm just glad I'm planning on the 64GB Playbook because I see A LOT of stuff going on mine when I get it that's for sure. AWESOME.

Perhaps this explains why this stuff was not ready by launch. Bad publicity can be good publicity though. Lack of PIM apps was such a negative focal point that if the suite that gets delivered in a software update is of this caliber, will probably get significantly more attention than if they had been there from the start.

Great performance, and even if i think about the new 9900, where you surely use this stuff, too, it would be great. Again a very fluid performance like the other apps TAT was showing (remember the old vid with the nice 3D-effects on that HD-screen)

But be aware - in a short period of time, you can just make your playbook to your play-book. ;-)

Wow, this is very cool. Integration of these animations and graphical elements into native and third party apps will certainly make the Playbook a contender if these examples are any indication of what's to come.

Yes, you are right, but this shows RIM are no fools but all the drones that google has producing Android devices can we say the same???

Good on RIM!!!

Agreed. TAT and QNX were some of the most powerful acquisitions by RIM. Both sorely underestimated by investors unfortunately.

The part that scares me is looking at the TAT website... they completely stopped posting blogs or updates on their products/work in progress/innovations, except for a single post a month after the acquisition by a RIM employee (not TAT) saying they are seeking developers, and added some job postings.

This could mean either TAT will be expanding at a fast rate, or a bunch of their top developers have jumped ship and they need replacements. They've had a lot of existing contracts with other companies at the time of the acquisition (such as Texas Instruments).

Two things to remember about TAT are that they loved Android/open source environments, and second, they loved/were very proud of their Swedish roots. Don't know how they'd like a foreign acquisition to be honest. The folks from Sweden and Norway are amazing coders, probably the last place on earth to still have a valid demoscene.

The part that scares me even more is seeing that the demo stuff they are showing off on the Playbook were actually old Android demos that were ported over. The only thing I've really seen that were developed specifically for the PB are the choppy weather-app demo, and the calculator app. Not much given how quickly apps can be made using their tools, and the 5 month timeframe they've had.

I understand why TAT was not given creative control of the Playbook UI... the TAT acquisition happened in December and Teknision has already been contracted/working on the interface for a good 6 months prior to that. I do still love what Teknision has done with the interface but would've loved if some TAT-animation/concepts were integrated as well. As it is right now there is a bit of an inconsistency in the UI... the calculator app for example is obviously not consistent with the rest of the UI.

I do wonder how much more powerful the UI would've been if it wasn't Flash based but instead OpenGL 3D.

In either case, I hope TAT gets a little more transparent with their projects and is allowed to continue running as a separate entity, but provide more creativity to the Playbook, QNX Car, and future Blackberries. Even better, I would love to see the Blackberry remain as a candybar device with a physical keyboard, but a sub-brand created which is touch-screen only to compete head to head with the iPhone and Android touchUI devices. And I would love to see this sub-brand given to TAT to provide the entire user experience on. The sub-brand would be targetted towards consumers, not business folks.

This stuff is looking great!
I hope rim let's tat run wild and do more stuff for BB and playbook. Looks very promissing.

Funny how there are not haters coming into this thread. When you've got a winner you've got a winner, and TAT is that!

Look what they can do with a simple contact list - imagine if they could RE-IMAGINE an app like BBM? the possibilities are endless!

The 1st demo reminds me of "life with playstation" on the ps3,and the contacts demonstration is a step in the right direction,33 contacts is looking real good