Tag Archives: 10 Questions

10 Questions with Roland Smeenk

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Roland Smeenk belongs to a species of coders variously known as creative technologists, new media developers, creative designers, etc. As with human civilization, there came a time when coders were expected to settle down in one place and learn to cultivate their code repositories while also effectively implementing division of labor and managerial techniques in order to get us where we are today.

But there are always the hunter-gatherers like Roland who insist on traveling unworn paths, who resist division of labor and want to learn everything for themselves. They stand athwart history, it is true, but they are also the innovators who determine what history will become.

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Roland wrote and published the HoloLens Shader Pack to the Unity Asset Store. This lets you have a range of configurable scanning effects like the ones you’ve probably seen in Microsoft’s official HoloLens demo reels – plus a lot more. It’s one of the earliest HoloLens related tools in the Asset Store and an essential component for anyone working on professional MR applications.

 

What movie has left the most lasting impression on you?
Minority Report, because it envisioned future digital interfaces that are already technically feasible these days. From a human factors standpoint most of them are not what you would want in a system that requires efficient manipulation of data. However from an esthetics standpoint they provide a great inspiration for making interactive installations.

What is the earliest video game you remember playing?
I remember playing Pong on my uncle’s television back in the seventies, but that was only one afternoon. It lasted until the eighties before my father bought an Apple IIe personal computer. I played only a few games on that system with it’s monochrome screen. One game that impressed me was “Dung Beetles”, because of the audio sample “We’ve gotcha” that was coming from a speaker that normally only produced simple beeps.

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think?
I believe there’s a mix of people and experiences that influence your way of thinking in different areas. So what comes to mind are my parents, wife, friends, former colleagues, people I follow online and authors of books I read, all in different areas.

When was the last time you changed your mind about something?
Three questions ago.

What’s a programming skill people assume you have but that you are terrible at?
I don’t know what people are assuming about my programming skills. They are probably better than my mechanical engineering skills that I earned my master’s degree for many moons ago.

What inspires you to learn?
There’s a lot of ground to be explored in mixing the digital and the real world in interesting new ways. And this goes well beyond the use of HoloLens. For interactive experiences it often starts by drawing inspiration from sci-fi movies, music videos, games, artworks and new technology, but I also like a good story as a starting point. This eventually leads to what I need to learn. Lately these are often areas where no software is involved.

What do you need to believe in order to get through the day?
That the things I create will touch people in a positive way.

What’s a view that you hold but can’t defend?
That there is no life after death. At least this reminds me to live life to the fullest.

What will the future killer Mixed Reality app do?
There will not be one killer app, but instead it will be a ubiquitous ecosystem that understands us and helps us do all kinds of everyday tasks. This will give us more free time to spend with family and friends and frees our minds for other things.

What book have you recommended the most?
The design of everyday things by Donald Norman.

10 Questions with Sky Zhou

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Sky Zhou is a HoloLens developer who has spent the past year exploring some of the most difficult MR development problems such as storing and retrieving spatial maps and the ins-and-outs of the locatable camera coordinate system. He recently tested out his Room Scanner with help from members of the HoloDevelopers slack group. You can signup to try the public beta now.

If his name sounds familiar, you may be remembering his earlier work on a Pokemon fighting app for the HoloLens.

 

What movie has left the most lasting impression on you?
I have two, The Matrix and Inception; both pose philosophical questions about the nature of existence and reality.

In addition, I like The Matrix for its vision of the future, in terms of the possibility of simulating a world with computer programs and its depiction of the power and danger of AI. I like Inception for its crafty metaphoric story about story telling itself as an art form. HoloLens brought us a giant step closer to the visions of simulated 3D world and alternate realities like dreams. Mixed reality will be a great art form for storytelling.

What is the earliest video game you remember playing?
I didn’t have much play time on video games when I was little. I can remember glympses of super mario, street fighters, and ninja turtles. However, I remember very well the first computer game I played. It was an RPG based on the Romance of Three Kingdoms. I enjoyed the game and the story so much. I wish I can build something like that in mixed reality with HoloLens.

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think?
Laozi, an ancient Chinese philosopher from 600 BC. It’s hard to explain all his deep thinking here and my interpretation might be flawed. However, if I have to narrow down the idea: things are observed and defined by us, and they can be observed and defined in many other ways. Therefore, nothing has to be absolute and we need not attach ourselves to extremes defined by us. Once you see that, you can always reach a balance, a compromise, or a feasible solution.  It really helps me keep an open mind to this world. The concept of mixed reality could help us understand this fine point. Many different observations and representations can be made in the same physical space, depending on what apps you are running and seeing through the HoloLens, so we can all agree that we don’t always get the same perspective and the same information, and therefore we end up forming different conclusions and decisions.

When was the last time you changed your mind about something?
In general, I change my mind based on additional information and evidence. For example, I used to think Microsoft was a lazy non-innovative company that puts no effort into making another great product and is just milking profit from its Windows and Office software. However, the first public demo of HoloLens in January 2015 blew my mind and completely changed how I see Microsoft.

What’s a programming skill people assume you have but that you are terrible at?
People assume I have some fixed programming skills in some languages, but what I really have is the ability to solve problems, by doing research and experimenting. In this regard, I owe many thanks to the awesome developer community around HoloLens and windows mixed reality.

What inspires you to learn?
1. Problems! I love to apply knowledge to solve problems. It pushes me to learn new things and often lead to even more new knowledge. For example, the frame rate was poor on my first demo of photo-textured room scanning on HoloLens. In order to improve performance on this app, I learned how to use compute shaders.

2. Community. With a great community around HoloLens, you feel you are not alone in this crazy endeavor, and there are people who value what you do. Other developers’ awesome demos also inspire me to do more myself. The feedback I get is the most valuable for alerting me to problems and pushing me to make my apps better. For example, when I saw 3 comments about poor frame rate on my Youtube channel, I knew I had to figure out a way to address it.

What do you need to believe in order to get through the day?
There is another problem to solve and a new thing to learn! Plus my HoloLens is still working!

What’s a view that you hold but can’t defend?
I hold a view that Microsoft got it right this time, with their innovative approach to mixed reality. I can see consumer and business adoption at a massive scale because this technology truly brings amazing utility never seen before, once certain limitations are worked out (such as price, field of view, weight, full gesture recognition, etc.). Windows Mixed Reality is like an extension of Windows with all the familiarities from the existing flat desktop, but in 3D space. This familiarity in non-gaming uses of PCs makes it much more attractive to consumers and businesses.

What will the future killer Mixed Reality app do?
It depends on what pain it kills. Different people experience different pains. For example, a common pain is a long commute time. One possible solution is that company offices can be significantly reduced in size and most people work from home or anywhere they choose. Many large companies are currently heading in this direction already. Besides using mixed reality tools for creative 3D art work, an immersive virtual home office could improve focus, and shared experiences with the holo-presence of colleagues could improve teamwork and collaborations. Thus, the effectiveness and efficiency of working from home can be improved.

The ultimate dream of mixed reality is that you have 3D digital information and holograms overlay on top of a real physical environment no matter where you go and users can interact with them in shared experiences. Think of Pokémon Go plus Google street view, but with useful and relevant information wherever and whenever you need them. This requires much finer mapping—finer than Google street view currently provides—to your desk, your fridge, your car, and even yourself. This idea is not original to me: Ori Inbar wrote a great article recently about it and termed it “the AR Cloud.” When that happens, in essence we will have also created a massive interactive virtual world like the Matrix.

What book have you recommended the most?
Angels and Demons, by Dan Brown; Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert M. Pirsig.

10 Questions with Stephen Hodgson

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Stephen is an immersive experiences developer at Valorem. He is also a moderator and the most prolific contributor to the HoloToolkit (now the Mixed Reality Toolkit). If there has been a change to the toolkit over the past year that improved your developer experience, Stephen probably made it. Moreover, he does this in his free time.

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I spent an evening online with him about two weeks ago fixing an issue with automatic builds for Visual Studio 2017 and spent much of that time wondering how one person could maintain so much knowledge about such a large and complex code base. He is the centurion at the gate, finding satisfaction when our Mixed Reality projects go well and happy when he can provide tools to make our development easier. The next time you successfully deliver a project, please consider sending Stephen a thank you.

 

What movie has left the most lasting impression on you?
Arrival was pretty interesting. I really find time travel and their paradoxes quite fascinating. The looping nature of the alien language and the connection to the movies main theme really helped drive the action. I also loved how the movie started at both the beginning and end. I enjoy many movies that range across different genres, from sci-fi to action.

What is the earliest video game you remember playing?
Chrono Cross by Square Enix is definitely the one I remember most vividly, but I’m pretty sure the first video game I ever played was the original Mario game on the Nintendo.

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think?
This one is pretty difficult to answer. I’m not sure if any one person had a huge impact on why I think the way I do. I’ve always been off in my own thoughts thinking about how light, electromagnetism, and matter work together—oh and also the paradoxes of time travel, haha.

When was the last time you changed your mind about something?
I feel like I change my mind a lot. Generally, I like to approach things from many different angles and evaluate them to see whichever option is the best, and even then I’m likely to make an adjustment down the line. When it matters, I try to corner myself into making a decision that I can’t back out of.

What’s a programming skill people assume you have but that you are terrible at?
Professionally I like to stay pretty honest about my abilities and accept work that fits my skill level while still challenging me to grow. I definitely feel like I need to get stronger in networking and understanding the lower level languages a bit more, although the need for memory management is no longer a requirement, it’s nice to know exactly why a function or class works the way it does.

What inspires you to learn?
Leaning is a part of life, and is essential to survival. On that note, I’ve always liked the notion that the only way to learn is to make mistakes. I’ve always found it frustrating when people can’t admit they’re wrong about something, because they are admitting they don’t make mistakes, which in turn leads me to believe that they’re incapable of learning new ideas.

What do you need to believe in order to get through the day?
Tomorrow never comes. I usually don’t think about the end of the day until it arrives, and by then I’m already planning tomorrow.

What’s a view that you hold but can’t defend?
Not sure how to answer this one. I usually don’t hold a view that can’t stand on its own.

What will the future killer Mixed Reality app do?
The whole idea of mixed reality apps is to bring the virtual into the real world. There’s been a big push recently about how the internet will dramatically change after the association with a physical space and it’s virtual space—like a webpage or other virtual element—can be brought together to create a meaningful productive space.

What book have you recommended the most?
I haven’t read an actual book in quite a while, but growing up I was definitely a bookworm. Now I read code all day. If I had to recommend reading, it’s the new APIs and change logs from Unity, Windows 10 SDK, and the Mixed Reality Toolkit for Unity.

10 Questions with Nate Turley

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Nate is a multimedia engineer currently freelancing in New York City. He is also a good friend going back to our time together at Razorfish Emerging Experiences where we worked side-by-side pushing the envelope on interactive installation projects with Surface tables, IoT, Kinect, tablets, phones, VR, and several devices we hacked together ourselves.

Over a year ago, while most people playing with HoloLens were still finding their way around the Unity IDE, Nate was exploring how to build artistic effects for the HoloLens using DirectX and seeing how hard he could push the HoloLens GPU. Since then, he’s been working on various HoloLens and HTC Vive projects to earn his bread while pursuing his ultimate goal of creating cool interactive experiences involving music, lighting, technology, dance and people. He’s someone I’ve always admired as much for the clarity of his artistic vision as for his technical prowess.

 

What movie has left the most lasting impression on you?
I’ve never been able to sit still long enough to gain a real appreciation for movies. I only watch movies on airplanes these days. Fight Club had a pretty big impact on me, though. I first saw it at a very impressionable age and there always seems to be relevant scenes popping into my head.

What is the earliest video game you remember playing?
It’s hard for me to place… I grew up with an engineer for a Dad and surrounded by techy folks. I remember playing tennis on VirtualBoy. We had some early atari system as well. I also had a Macintosh SE as my first computer (older than me) that I used to play this weird 2.5D pong game called Shufflepuck Café.

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think?
I’m influenced by many people in my life. I believe you should try to glean something from everyone you admire and respect. I’ve had many great mentors along the way (including James).

My parents, of course, taught me a ton about how to live and reach my goals. My Dad taught me everything I know about computers. When I was young we’d go on long drives together and he’d be telling me about how CPU caches work. It was wild. My Mom has been an artist for many years and she’s always encouraged me to keep my artistic side alive.

For one I’ve never met, I’d pick Aldous Huxley. I discovered his writing at a time when I needed some direction in my life pretty badly. He has a way of capturing the intangible nature of the human experience with words better than any other writer I know, and it’s helped shape the way I consider my place in the world more than anyone else.

When was the last time you changed your mind about something?
I’m a Gemini, I do it constantly.  Recently I changed my opinion of mobile AR. I thought it didn’t have much of a future. Gotta give it up to Apple and all the cool things people are making with ARKit. Pretty excited now.

What’s a skill people assume you have but that you are terrible at?
I’m not very good at math, and I don’t really enjoy it. I failed Calculus II. Almost twice. I like making stuff with math though. Right now I’m working with chaotic systems to create natural movement and that is fun, but the analytical stuff isn’t for me.

What inspires you to learn?
I think it’s really essential to what it means to be human. Plus I get bored easily. I always need to feel like I’m pushing some edge in one aspect or another. I feel very blessed that I’ve essentially made a career out of learning new things.

What do you need to believe in order to get through the day?
This too shall pass.

What’s a view that you hold but can’t defend?
Brunch culture was systemically created as a means of controlling the populace.

What will the future killer Mixed Reality app do?
It will make talking about reality in terms of virtual, mixed. Our language will gradually phase out making any distinction between real and virtual. It’s funny how much time people spend debating what is AR/MR/VR. We need to move beyond that kind of thinking.

What book have you recommended the most?
I recommend different books to different people. I don’t think I have a one size fits all answer, so I’m going for the audience here.

I’ve gotta say Neuromancer. It’s a must read for anyone in this field. Gibson literally wrote the book on our present and future in regards to the internet, mixed reality, and artificial intelligence. Oh, and he did it on a typewriter in the 80s.

10 Questions with Kevin Collins

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Kevin is a Director at Microsoft who builds proofs of concepts for their most innovative technologies such as the HoloLens. He guided the HoloLens / Lowe’s collaboration which provides a much copied template for retail solutions using AR.

For those of you familiar with Bill Buxton’s book Sketching User Experiences – especially the sections about the design of the Active Desk – there is an easy analogy to draw here. Kevin’s role is to sketch and prototype the future before the future arrives.

 

What movie has left the most lasting impression on you?
The Matrix.

What is the earliest video game you remember playing?
Asteroids.

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think?
My father.

When was the last time you changed your mind about something?
Last week.

What’s a skill people assume you have but that you are terrible at?
How about dislike doing?  Project management.

What inspires you to learn?
The challenge.

What do you need to believe in order to get through the day?
#HowNotIf .

What’s a view that you hold but can’t defend?
Christianity.

What will the future killer Mixed Reality app do?
Personal assistant – everything you need without having to find it.

What book have you recommended the most?
The Shack / If you don’t know where you are going you will wind up someplace else.

10 Questions with Michael Washington

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Michael Washington, a decade-long Microsoft MVP out of Southern California, created one of the first blogs devoted to HoloLens development in 2016 called, conveniently, hololenshelpwebsite.  In those first few months after the HoloLens was released, he addressed many of the scenarios we are still struggling with today such as capturing room meshes and communicating between devices. I still don’t completely understand how he figured so much out about the inner workings of the HoloLens development platform in such a short period of time.

Besides his incredible work, though, what I find most fascinating about Michael’s relationship with the HoloLens is that he has moved on. While many of the rest of us early adopters are waiting to see how augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, and x-reality all shake out – and amid conflicting and confusing news stories from companies like Meta and Magic Leap – Michael actually sold his HoloLens to help pay for a new car and is patiently waiting for the HoloLens 2 to come out. In the meantime, he has written a book, Azure Machine Learning for the Non-Data Scientist, and is digging deep into AI.

While most of the profiles in this series are about people currently doing development work around the HoloLens, I wanted to profile Michael because he also represents a significant portion of our ecosystem. He hasn’t abandoned the technology, but he has put a pin in it for now despite having invested a significant amount of time in it at one point. It’s worth remembering that the HoloLens device is pretty expensive (about the price of a family vacation or a used car), and the barrier to entry was substantial for developers who just wanted to get their hands on it to learn how to make holographic apps.

 

What movie has left the most lasting impression on you?
Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood) – It is a simple movie but actually deep and complex. They set off to do this simple thing to make some money. Along the way they run into “people” who have fears and motivations. They have to make hard decisions. It is an allegory for every software project I have ever worked on

What is the earliest video game you remember playing?
Asteroids on a table top in a hotel lobby.

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think?
The Dalai Lama. Want to be happy, let go of attachments and expectations and have acceptance.

When was the last time you changed your mind about something?
I didn’t think it was important to have transgenders in the military until they threatened to take that away. Now I think it is important .

What’s a skill people assume you have but that you are terrible at?
SQL queries. I still use the designer even to do simple joins.

What inspires you to learn?
Knowing that I can use that knowledge to make people’s lives better.

What do you need to believe in order to get through the day?
That having acceptance of all things at all times will relieve all suffering.

What’s a view that you hold but can’t defend?
That having acceptance of all things at all times will relieve all suffering

What will the future killer Mixed Reality app do?
It will allow me to answer my emails while driving.

What book have you recommended the most?
Super Powereds. This guy is one of the best writers alive.

10 Questions with Amanda Lange

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Evangelist. Game developer. Cosplayer. Amanda is the real deal.

Amanda is a technical evangelist for Microsoft based out of Philadephia. She is one of the people on the ground helping developers learn to make apps for the HoloLens and MR Devices at hackathons, dev day events, and workshops. Unlike most evangelists, she comes to the role with broad experience in the game development world. In other words, she doesn’t just talk the talk. She’s probably one of the few blue badges at Microsoft who can walk you through the process of rigging a 3D model for animation.

 

What movie has left the most lasting impression on you?
Toy Story. For being the first CG movie and also just creating a world that gets in your head sometimes.

Second place would probably be The Little Mermaid. I am a total nut for Disney, and I have so much Ariel stuff.

What is the earliest video game you remember playing?
Coding in BASIC on a Classic TI-99. I was particularly obsessed with a game called “Beginning Grammar” that taught parts of speech and so forth on that machine.

We also had Frogger on the old wood-panel Atari.

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think?
It’s probably generic to say my parents, but, it’s honest. They encouraged my young curiosity.

When was the last time you changed your mind about something?
I was going to cosplay Widowmaker (Overwatch) at PAX West, but it’s already August now and there’s no way I’ll get all that done in time. So I’m going to have to put that off and come up with another plan. I’m working on a few things I think will be done but nothing that complicated!

What’s a programming skill people assume you have but that you are terrible at?
I’m not great at modern web. I miss the days when CSS was going to solve all our problems… Now there’s so many different ways to do it. If I had to make a web site today from the top, I’d probably be stuck with indecision at how to approach it, before in the end I just ended up throwing up another WordPress.

What inspires you to learn?
Seeing results and quick improvement. Good feedback, either from a mentor or being able to see clear progress in my own work.

What do you need to believe in order to get through the day?
Mostly I need the love and support of my husband, which I have.

I need to believe that the long term projects I’m working on will turn into something good eventually. Or I wouldn’t bother doing them.

But I also need to believe that it’s all right to give up or try a different approach when something isn’t working, and that the occasional failure is fine if you learn something from it.

What’s a view that you hold but can’t defend?
That’s a tough one. I have a lot of Unpopular Nerd Opinions, but I can always explain my reasoning.

I think pineapple on pizza is pretty tasty.  A lot of my friends seem to disagree on this.

I also love movies and art that some people think are bad. Bad movie night was always a bonding pastime between me and my dad.

What will the future killer Mixed Reality app do?
Be so seamlessly integrated with regular reality that you don’t think about it anymore as something novel.

What book have you recommended the most?
Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. Especially for any woman who might be scared of lifting weights.

10 Questions with Michael Gourlay

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Michael is a former game developer for Electronic Arts with a physics PhD from the University of Colorado Boulder who now works as a principle dev lead in the HoloLens group. He also led the teams that worked on spatial mapping and inside-out-tracking for the HoloLens.

He is an amazing speaker about topics related to AR and VR. I should probably admit, at this point, that I actually listen to bootleg recordings of some of his talks. It isn’t that he’s saying anything proprietary so much as that, even when his talks aren’t officially recorded, some of us in the HoloLens dev community make a point of recording his public talks anyways and pass them around because – as I mentioned – he’s an amazingly knowledgeable and thought provoking speaker.

Even if you don’t have access to the Gourlay bootleg tapes (2016-2017),  there are plenty of talks available online that you should definitely peruse in order to start understanding how Michael views the world and the role that AR technology like the HoloLens plays within it:

Here are Michael’s answers to the 10 Questions.

 

What movie has left the most lasting impression on you?
Miller’s Crossing. Among its many themes, one of my favorites is that no matter how calculating you might be, you can’t always explain your actions. I spend a lot of time strategizing but ultimately I make decisions based on intuition.

What is the earliest video game you remember playing?
Space Invaders, in a cabinet at a pizza restaurant in Florida.  I have a massive collection of Atari 2600 games from the 1970’s. I keep it because it reminds me how I got started doing what I do.

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think?
A person very special to me, MFT, who has taught me the value in being deeply and genuinely curious about people.

When was the last time you changed your mind about something?
I change my mind so frequently I don’t keep track; I keep my mind in a superposition of multiple decisions and the weights of each possibility shift as new information and insights arrive, which is constantly, even while I sleep and shower.

What’s a skill people assume you have but that you are terrible at?
People might assume that I have confidence and know what I’m talking about because I tend to make declarative statements that might sound like claims about a fact of this world.  But those statements are often just me thinking out loud while I’m imagining a world where that statement is the case.  I live in my head, in a world with many possibilities but when I speak, I pluck out and verbalize some hypothetical version to try it on for size. I might, immediately after hearing myself say something out loud, decide it’s wrong.

What inspires you to learn?
Curiosity about the way the world works, and a desire to tinker with that.  I also love being able to transfer what I’ve learned.  I feel like learning is difficult for me and that I remember the snags I encountered, which sometimes makes me able to explain ideas to people who are also not subject-matter experts, because I can dodge the same snags.  I love to dabble in lots of knowledge areas.

What do you need to believe in order to get through the day?
My motivation comes from believing my actions help people achieve more together.  I value bringing people together and helping them making impact on others. Ironically sometimes I do that by working solo to make tools meant for others, who think differently from me, to use.

What’s a view that you hold but can’t defend?
I feel like I say almost daily, that I’m making a claim I can’t defend, but my intuition tells me it might be the case.  I start there, form hypotheses, then ideally gather a preponderance data and test the hypotheses.  But all cost is opportunity so often I have to make decisions based on a paucity of data.

A recurring indefensible view is that cooperation permits more value than does competition, borders impede progress and people who seek to bridge distances between persons are better than people who defend territories.  But the world seems to run on competition so I feel lonely trying to espouse that view.

What will the future killer Mixed Reality app do?
Virtual companions will reside in your brain, talking to you telepathically in your own voice.  Today’s mixed reality platforms are a stepping stone to a fusion of humans and computers where we blur the lines between thought, computation, exotic sensors and retrieval of salient information.  The ultimate augmentation will be to your inner monologue.

What book have you recommended the most?
Understanding Comics. It’s about how to communicate with a continuum of images spanning abstract (words) to concrete (pictures), and about how we complete stories when information is omitted.  Comics permit a kind of universal story-telling language that requires only very low technology (cave paintings, ink on paper) but which modern technology (e.g. the web) effortlessly enhances.

10 Questions with Chad Carter

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Chad is a kindred spirit. Like me, when he saw the early demos for the HoloLens he decided that that was what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He purchased a HoloLens with his own money, learned to develop on it and then started mentoring others to create their own HoloLens products and services, building on his background as a game developer.

You can see his articles, tutorials, and code samples on the website chadcarter.net. He also runs a mixed reality master class series at learnhololens.com where he provides group and individualized lessons. I also highly recommend his HoloPaintball app. You can learn a lot just by downloading the source code and working your way through it. 

I ran into Chad at a Holo-hackathon a few months back and, in a moment of exhaustion and depression after 24 hours of being awake, asked him what he thought was keeping the AR and VR industries from taking off. He considered my question for a beat, then looked me squarely in the eyes and said, “James, we need to build better apps.” Maybe it was the tiredness, but it hit me like an ask what you can do for your country moment. It’s a piece of advice I’ve kept close ever since.

 

What movie has left the most lasting impression on you?
The 13th Floor – the synopsis is “A computer scientist running a virtual reality simulation of 1937 becomes the primary suspect when his colleague and mentor is murdered.”

I almost chose the Matrix, but I actually saw this one first and it blew me away. (They both came out in 1999.)

I don’t want to spoil it, but it sort of goes along the lines of Elon Musk thinking we could actually be in a simulation ourselves…

What is the earliest video game you remember playing?
This one is hard … it would have to have been on the Atari 2600. Probably was Combat or Pong. My favorite was Circus Atari though. I played pinball machines before then, but that’s not exactly a video game.

The one that made the biggest difference though was Police Quest from Sierra. I made a post where I talked about it the game I was thankful for because it was when I figured out that you could type commands into a computer and it would do what you asked. This was my introduction to programming – even though it wasn’t exactly programming…

I really loved all of Sierra’s “Quest” games…

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think?
What a difficult question… several come to mind, but I’ll have to go with my parents. In particular, my dad and his work ethic is something that influenced me greatly.

When was the last time you changed your mind about something?
About 3 questions ago…

What’s a programming skill people assume you have but that you are terrible at?
Advanced math. I should have this skill, but I let the engines do the heavy lifting for me…

What inspires you to learn?
Input… More Input…

I never liked reading when I was a kid. In fact, I don’t think I really could read very well until middle school. It was the Infocom games like Deadline and Witness that really helped me with reading comprehension.

Being in the technology field has just fueled the desire to learn with the ever-changing landscape.

I made the mistake of thinking that Windows 3.1 was a fad.

“Why would anyone want to use a mouse?”

When Windows 95 came out, I had a lot of catching up to do. The Windows message pump was a beast for me to understand originally. After being that far behind, I decided I wouldn’t do that again.

Of course, that has resulted in learning a lot of things that didn’t last very long. (I’m looking at you Zune…)

But it is also one of the reasons why I jumped onto the HoloLens journey as soon as it was announced.

And it is because of it that I’ve been able to teach other developers as they are moving along their own HoloLens development journey.

What do you need to believe in order to get through the day?
I don’t have a problem making it through the day. I’m unsure which one of my world views has made it that way, but I’ll go with a core belief that affects all of my other ones. That is the belief that the Bible is true.

What’s a view that you hold but can’t defend?
Windows Phone / Windows Mobile is a superior product over the other phones…

I can’t defend it because of … apps … but I really do love the OS. I also really liked the Zune too…

What will the future killer Mixed Reality app do?
If I knew this, I’d create it. 🙂

I think that before too terribly long we will be able to use these devices in such a way that monitors will become a thing of the past. When we use these devices like we do our smart phones where it is always with us and we use it for everything, monitors will become obsolete for the most part.

It is really crazy to think about how much computing will change in the very near future.

Although, I’m a little concerned about AI to be honest. I mean, I, Robot.

What book have you recommended the most?
That would have to be John Sonmez’s Soft Skills book. There are so many topics in the book and he has several chapters devoted to learning, productivity and even finances.

10 Questions with Neeraj Wadhwa

neeraj

Neeraj is one of those key enablers within the mixed reality ecosystem whom you’ve probably never heard of. He is a Senior Development Lead at Microsoft and is the guy responsible for curating the HoloToolkit—the set of open source modules we all use to get anything done when developing for the HoloLens. He came to the HoloLens team after working on the Xbox Kinect and Kinect for Windows.

He goes about his work quietly and without fanfare, seeing his role as one of nurturing the community behind the scenes rather than trying to stand out within it. Today, however, we’re going to put the limelight on him for a change. Here are Neeraj’s answers to the 10 Questions:

What movie has left the most lasting impression on you?
I am a huge movie and TV buff and have very eclectic tastes. It would be super hard for me to pick one. There are so many Indian movies that have inspired my sensibilities and emotions. Some international cinema that influenced me a lot while growing up include Lord of the Rings, the Harry Potter series, The Matrix and all the Julia Roberts films. Clearly, I am most in love with the fantasy genre.

What is the earliest video game you remember playing?
Mario Brothers, Contra, Dangerous Dave are some of my earliest gaming memories. Wow. Seems like forever ago. My cousins and I used to compete over the summer holidays.

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think?
My parents, especially my mom, shaped the core of me; but my wife has made me the adult and man I am today. I truly get inspired by so many qualities in them. Both my parents instilled in me the value of not just hard work but smart work, aiming high and dreaming big, respecting others and cultivating love for family. The most important lesson my father always repeats to me is that ‘failure is ok’ and however the odds may be stacked against you, persevere and you will get through it. Don’t give up.

My wife taught me to value diversity in thinking and approach, making the most of what resources are available, adapting to change, resilience and patience.

I would be nowhere without these north stars in my life.

When was the last time you changed your mind about something?
I like to believe I’m a strong-minded and strong-willed person but when presented with a good reason for a different cause, I absolutely change my mind about it.
I am super fickle about matters in my personal life, though, like daily chores etc.

What’s a programming skill people assume you have but that you are terrible at?
JavaScript. At one point in life I tried to learn it when I was working on Windows Runtime but gave up on it. It might be nice to pick it up again once our new baby is older and I have more time.

What inspires you to learn?
Not knowing the answer to something and wanting to solve it is the greatest motivator for me. When I see others around me do remarkable things, it inspires me to better myself.

What do you need to believe in order to get through the day?
Come what may, I can handle it.

Be so prepared that I can handle anything that I did not prepare for.

What’s a view that you hold but can’t defend?
That the wizarding world exists and I can do magic. BAM! I know spells. 🙂

Faith is something very personal and to each his own—but I don’t like defending those beliefs. If it makes me stronger and better, I roll with it.

What will the future killer Mixed Reality app do?
Seamlessly work across device categories and technologies. Imagine realities truly mixing with not just my HoloLens or immersive headset but encompassing my IoT devices, phones, watches, cars etc. My experiences, choices, data being truly mobile and adapting with the environment I’m in. Screens should not block or determine my experience!

AI is awesome and will hugely help here.

What book have you recommended the most?
Again, hard to pick just one but some good ones are: Crucial Conversations (Kerry Patterson), Outliers (Malcolm Gladwell) and live a little, go read the Harry Potter series. It really does bring forth so many awesome lessons in life.