Nokia Create Winner Showcase: Rob Irving and Car Starter win more

By kevinSharp

December 20, 2013   Comments


Rob Irving is the creator of Car Starter, the Windows Phone dashboard application that continues to impress Nokia Create competition judges. Car Starter took top prize in Nokia Create Mini Mission 5 – Big Screen for the attention to design Rob paid when optimizing for 1080p screens. He also won top honors in Mini Mission 4 , which challenged developers to add elements from Nokia Music (now Nokia MixRadio) to their existing apps. We had another chat with Rob to find out more…

rob-irvingTell us a little about yourself. Who are you and what do you do? 

I’ve been a professional software developer for the past 6 years. I work for ALK Technologies on the CoPilot GPS navigation app. When I’m not writing code I like to ski, rock climb and play with my two kids.

How did you get into developing? What do you enjoy the most?

I studied Computer Engineering in college and always found the Computer Science classes the most interesting during my studies, so when I graduated I pursued a career in software development. I love being able to create something new, watch it go from an idea to an app that hundreds or thousands of users will enjoy.

Tell us a little about your winning app. What does Car Starter do?

Car Starter is a ‘dashboard app’ — it has a driver-friendly UI to access key features from your phone while you’re behind the wheel. The most notable features of the app are voice commands that allow you to play music from your Xbox music library or Nokia Mixes!

How did you decide on this idea? What inspired it?

I have a long commute to work so I listen to a lot of music and podcasts while I’m driving. I wanted an easier way to start playing some music when the podcast I was listening to finished halfway through my drive. There weren’t many other ‘dashboard apps’ in the store at the time and I had an interest in trying something new with the Windows Phone Speech Recognizer API

Tell us about the update that you did for the Mini Mission. How did you optimise your app for the Big Screen and how was the experience?

To add support for the large screen devices like the Lumia 1520 I decided to add more buttons to the dashboard interface. So instead of 4 main buttons, you’ll get 5. And instead of having 3 settings, app, and weather tiles a Lumia 1520 user will get 4.

I also changed font and button sizes, and switched some images from PNG to Vector-based graphics to make sure everything looked good on the larger display.

Why did you choose this Mini Mission?

I thought about what the app would look like on a big screen display, Car Starter already had a driver-friendly interface with lots of large buttons. But everything would be too big if I let things just scale up naturally. So making these changes seemed like it would benefit my users.

How are you finding the Nokia Create contest so far?

I’ve been blown away by the Nokia Create contest. I was really not expecting to win one of the competitions, let alone two.

I’m also just glad I invested the time in making these updates to my app, it’s a much better app then what I originally published to the store thanks to the incentives of the Nokia Create challenges.

You are now a finalist for the Grand Prize. Which of the Grand Prize winner prizes are you the most excited about?

Going to Barcelona for MWC would be amazing! My wife and I have not been able to go on a real vacation since our honeymoon 6 years ago, so a trip to Barcelona for two would be perfect.

Have you entered any other Nokia Create Missions? 

Yes, I did submit Car Starter for the Maps & Places Master mission.

Why did you choose Windows Phone?

I’ve always been a fan of Microsoft technologies. As a developer I love Visual Studio and as a consumer I’m a fan of Xbox and Zune.

One dev. tool you couldn’t live without?

Visual Studio. I could not imagine doing my job without it.