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.

HoloLens and MR Device Dev Advisory

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[Update 10/17/17: I’m currently doing HoloLens development with VS 2017 v5.3.3, Unity 2017.1.2f1, MRTK 2017.1.2, and W10 17010. (This is one version of Windows 10 past what is recommended.) Unity 2017.2 for WMR development. There’s a new release of Visual Studio 2017 5.4 that I haven’t installed, yet. I am using Unity 2017.3.0 beta 5 for WebGL work.]

[Update 9/8/17: I’m currently having success in HoloLens development with Visual Studio 2017 (15.3.3), Unity 2017.1.0p5 (x64), SDK 14393, and HTK v1.2017.1.1 . This allows me to deploy Release builds, Unity C# Projects, and lets me debug remotely (my breakpoints are getting hit) from the regular File | Build Settings window. From the HoloToolkit Build and Deploy window, checking Unity C# Project throws an error. (To work around this, I am using two different deployment folders, one for debugging and one for non-debugging deployments.) I don’t think it matters, but I’m on Windows 10 insider build 16281. Will update if anything changes.]

[Update 9/7/17: Unity 2017.2.0b10 is definitely no go for HoloLens development. It just tries to run from the tile window and then goes black screen. Probably necessary for Immersive MR development, though.]

Sometimes it’s hard to know when to move forward and when to go backwards. If you are developing with Microsoft Mixed Reality products today (by which I mean on or around September 5th, 2017) you may need to do both.

Because common tools consisting of Visual Studio, Unity 3D and the open source Mixed Reality Toolkit (formerly the HoloToolkit) are used for both, and because we are at a point where multiple tools are being released at a rapid rate, conflicts are bound to happen, unfortunately.

For HoloLens development, it is best to roll back to the last working version of the tools you had. If you aren’t sure what those were, then I’d recommend using Visual Studio 2015 update 3, Unity 3D 5.6.3 patch 2 and HoloToolkit 1.5.8.0.

For immersive mixed reality, you want the latest of everything. As of today, that means Unity 2017.2.0b10 (and then b11 when that comes out). You will need Visual Studio 2017 update 3 (15.3) and finally you will need to be on the latest Windows Insider Build of Windows 10 from the fast ring (for instance build 16281, which has some very nice updates to the MR Portal).

These are the versions I could get working consistently. Other combinations, for HoloLens development, could potentially raise the following issues (though your mileage may vary – if so, please let me know in the comments):

  • unable to create Master builds, dev or release okay
  • apps deploy successfully but crash before the splash screen
  • unable to use remote debugging on your deployed app – get a dll missing error or “Please ensure that target device has developer mode enabled” error
  • IL weaving issues (this occurs for Visual Studio update 3 (15.3.3) and is fixed in patch 2017.1.0p5 as well as 5.6.3.0p2 (if you are using Visual Studio 2015 update 3)
  • Unable to create Unity C# Project builds (for debugging)

MR development with the wrong tool combination has raised some of these issues, such as the C# Project builds and IL weaving. In addition, there may be clipping issues if you don’t have the latest tools.

buildsetting

Note: You don’t really need Visual Studio 2017 for HoloLens development. Use VS 2015, instead. You only require VS 2017 if you are developing for Windows SDK 10.0.15063 or above. The HoloLens device, however, still runs on windows build 14393. When you export your solution from Unity, just be sure to change the UWP SDK property in Build Settings from its default value “Latest installed” to “10.0.14393.0”.

Note 2: You cannot currently publish your immersive MR app to the Windows Store. Just hold tight for now. It’s being worked out.

Quick recap: for now, you need different tool versions for HoloLens and Immersive MR Headset development. Use older tools for HoloLens but the latest and greatest for MR Headsets.

I will try to keep this updated as facts on the ground change.

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.

Streaming and Recording VR Tracking Data

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Jasper Brekelmans is already pretty famous for creating Brekel Pro Tools, which turns the sensor streams from various 3D cameras, including the Kinect, into useful 3D data that can be used for 3D animations, visual effects and general research. OpenVR Recorder expands on this capability by also ingesting high quality data used for tracking virtual reality devices like the Oculus Rift and the HTC Vive.

The original Kinect, introduced in 2010, created a small revolution in the 3D sensor industry. It helped to drive down the price of 3D tracking and inspired new research into time-of-flight, structured light pattern and marker-based techniques that dramatically improved the accuracy with which we capture and understand 3D space. In turn, this has driven innovation in the area of interpreting 3D spaces using 2D cameras – which goes into solutions like Apple’s ARToolkit.

Though it may not be immediately evident, the current developments in VR and AR are built on top of these leaps and bounds in 3D sensor technology. The HoloLens uses it for position tracking and spatial mapping. The HoloLens solution is going into the SLAM-based position tracking tech for the Mixed Reality Headsets from HP and Acer. At the same time, VR tech from Oculus and HTC are constantly streaming 3D data in order to provide accurate tracking of both the user and handheld controllers.

capture

Since this data is already flowing through the air around you when you are in VR space, there must be a way to capture it, right? That’s what Jasper Brekelmans has done with his new tool, OpenVR Recorder.

If you’re already working with the Kinect for visual effects, motion capture, or research, then this new software should be included as an essential part of your tool chest. There’s even a free trial available.

10 Questions with Neeraj Wadhwa

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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.

10 Questions with Tim Huckaby

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Tim Huckaby is a mover and shaker in the Microsoft consulting world. He can tell you stories about the early days at Microsoft, where he was a product development lead for many years, as well as stories about the near-future technologies he is working on. Besides being a Microsoft MVP, he is also an RD (Richard Campbell describes him as an “RD’s RD”), a body of business leaders who provide independent feedback to Microsoft leadership about technology trends and strategic direction. In that role, Tim has been a forceful advocate for Microsoft’s transformative technologies like the Surface, Kinect, Perceptive Pixel, and now HoloLens, Mixed Reality Headsets and the Cognitive Toolkit (CNTK), Microsoft’s deep-learning AI stack.

Tim is the chairman and founder of Interknowlogy and Actus Interactive Software. They do interactive work across multiple industries, but the piece you will probably be most familiar with is the CNN Electoral Map touch screen used by John King.

Tim is also an avid fly fisherman.

 

What movie has left the most lasting impression on you?
All those comedies before we got “politically correct”: Animal House, Caddy Shack, Austin Power’s Goldmember, Arthur (with Dudley Moore and Liza Minnelli), Spaceballs, Blazing Saddles… I could go on and on. I’m all about humor. Life without humor just isn’t life. When we get so serious about software that we lose humor then we are plain losing. I try not to be that guy. And it’s hard sometimes. The CEO job can be a lonely one.

I know you were probably looking for something more thought provoking but, really, the human race is insignificant without humor. The absolute smartest humans I know are also some of the funniest.

What is the earliest video game you remember playing?
Well, I’m 55 years old. I go back to pong. In fact, my younger brother Tom and I were so competitive in Pong we’d get in fist fights and screaming matches over it. It drove my parents nuts; constantly grounded from Pong.

But, my most fond memories were of Choplifter. I built myself a black market apple 2+ in my teens. I illegally downloaded Choplifter from a BBS (this is before the internet) and played that game for hours on end. It was so creative and the graphics were spectacular. So ahead of it’s time. And, of course, in college I used to hack on a few games. I’d put my roommates into the games to make them giggle. Good times.

One of my fellow founding members of the RD program, Don Awalt, was the guy that built Castle Wolfenstein. A truly brilliant guy. He’s retired now. He told me that the biggest engineering challenge in that game was the sound bytes… remember the German guards in the game saying, “Achtung!” ? Well, games back then didn’t have sound. The OS’s didn’t have sound APIs. He had to build all that in software.

Who is the person who has most influenced the way you think?
I love the process of aggregating role models though a lifetime. I have a lot of them; People who have helped me so much through the years. But, in all honesty the most influential person in my life is the exact same as most people: my dad. My dad was an English Teacher and super smart and wildly eloquent. He spoke a version of English that is long gone. His command of the English Language was impressive and his knowledge was extensive. I lost him almost 3 years ago. In today’s terms my dad would be called a “bleeding heart liberal”. He was a loud, eloquent voice for social and environmental causes. “Selfish” were the people that he despised the most…..well, those and racists. He would not stand for racism in any form; even in humor. And that is saying something for someone born in 1937. Sacrifice was what my dad taught me the most about, though. and how you are always rewarded by sacrifice. My youngest brother, Kevin, was a totally normal kid until at age 3 he started having grand mal seizures…the onslaught of epilepsy. It was terrifying. Still is. And the disease back then was so not understood…it took a toll and severely handicapped my brother. Today my brother would be totally normal because of technology. My parents know what sacrifice is because of 50 years of my brother Kevin. I am the man I am today because of witnessing that lifetime of sacrifice. My independence, fear management, confidence, etc. comes from being there and still continues to this day.

When was the last time you changed your mind about something?
I pride myself on a statement I always say at work, “I could be wrong; I often am.” I have surrounded myself with such brilliant and talented people. Not all of them; but they are typically younger than me and have awesome ideas. Many of the ideas are contradictory to mine. And I’m wrong a lot. Of course if you have been married as long as I have, 28 years, you get used to being wrong a lot.

My favorite story about changing my mind on something I thought was a terrible idea was a number of years ago at InterKnowlogy. The technical side of the management team came to me all excited about this great new idea, “RECESS” (Research and experimental coding to enhance software skills). The idea was simply a creative stab at a formal R&D program. But, InterKnowlogy is a service company. So to make a long story short they did their pitch to me, all excited, and a little bit of “asshole tim” came out. I said, “So, every week for 4 hours you want to pull engineers out of revenue so they can play with technology toys.” I immediately saw the look in their faces that I had made a management mistake. So, I backed up and was more professional about it. But, I still thought it was a terrible idea. But, I agreed we’d try it. and, of course, I was totally wrong. Best program ever. Pulling engineers out of revenue each week for 4 hours has produced so much innovation, so much IP, so much camaraderie. We do the high tech stuff we do (3d, gesture, holographic, etc.) because of RECESS. Awesome program…that I was totally wrong about.

What’s a skill people assume you have but that you are terrible at?
Well, I wouldn’t say I’m terrible at it, but most people assume I’m a god-like programmer. I truly am not. And I really never was. I used to be a good programmer, but I was always forced into a dev lead position or a PM position or an architect position in my career. And the dev lead doesn’t get to slay code like all the brilliant people that work for you. These brilliant people here at InterKnowlogy run circles around me in terms of programming. In fact, I haven’t written production code in years. I can still build a mean demo and recently built a proof of concept in computer vision that is going viral within msft. I can’t go into details because it’s currently slated as the flagship demo for Satya Nadella’s keynote at ignite. It’s jaw dropping awesome. my new found love for the last couple years is computer vision.

What inspires you to learn?
Can I turn that question around a bit? The older I get the more inspired I am to learn…about everything…..especially science. I barely watch tv for entertainment anymore. It pisses my wife off because I tend to mostly watch documentaries or television I can learn from. I feel like growing up in college and then in the software industry I got so enamored with software that I missed out on a lot of the world. I was so sheltered in the software community for so long. The business part of the business was a welcome respite when I got older. But, it was not enough. It took me until my mid 30s to discover nature and science. And now I’m obsessed with it. I have been told that I have obsessive personality traits; not obsessive/compulsive. When I am interested in something I go all in. I started fly fishing in my early 30s…and read everything I could about it without actually doing it. I still do. Now, I write, guide and tie professionally in the fly fishing industry. It’s a sickness. I know more about the bugs that trout eat than any other human you know.

What do you need to believe in order to get through the day?
I don’t think that is the right question for me. I don’t “get through the day”; the day simply is not long enough for me. Typically, my day ends with me saying this to myself: “my god it’s dark and I’m exhausted and I have to sleep because I can’t wait to do this all over again tomorrow.”

What’s a view that you hold but can’t defend?
My political views….especially that I’m a bleeding heart liberal…people think I am, but, I really am not. Nor am I a conservative; nor am I a libertarian. And now I feel I find myself more and more conflicted on issues. So, really I am a mish mash of what I believe are the best parts of all sides. Which means sometimes I catch myself in a hypocritical political view.

Also I believe the big bet on Unity has huge risks … risks that can be overcome by brilliant engineering and brilliant business….and Moore’s law….

What will the future killer Mixed Reality app do?
It’s funny you ask this. About six months ago I was doing an industry keynote (as opposed to a developer keynote) and saying things like, “…imagine a world where…” I tend to use that strategy in keynotes: show a killer demo and then talk about how and why it’s going to be better in the future. I strongly believe the future of entertainment….especially movies…lies in mixed reality. Imagine a world where you are sitting in a movie theatre yet totally immersed and actually interactively part of the movie. That is the killer MR app: Interactive holographic in the Movie theatre. We’ll couple in the AI for vocal interaction… If we can figure out some tactile reinforcement even through haptic methods … oh man, what entertainment that would be. Couple in some Virtual Olfaction and that is a world I want to live in. Let’s face it. No matter what Hollywood says they just are not making the money they did a few years ago yet spending at a much bigger rate. Getting people into the theatres is a huge problem. Millennials actually prefer watching movies on their computers. It’s an interesting challenge. Well, Imagination Park entertainment caught wind of my comments and contacted me. I was honored. These are the brilliantly creative Hollywood people with Oscars. They put me on their advisory board and it went quickly. Now, we just completed the most exciting joint venture in IK history. There has been plenty of press already… and I can’t disclose the roadmap just yet. But it is going to be jaw dropping awesome.

What book have you recommended the most?
It has nothing to do with technology; software as you well know is not my only love. This book has everything to do with another one of my loves: running and endurance sports. It’s called, Born to Run. Actually now that I look it up the actual title is: Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. It goes from science to this amazing tribe of Mexican Indians, The Tarahumara, who live in Copper Canyon, Mexico—pretty much hell and desolate and devoid of almost everything—where they thrive, and back to science. Everyone should read this book. It’s riveting. And it’s all true.

timhuckaby

What question did James fail to ask you but you really wanted him to ask?

Tim what are you currently most proud of?

Well, my current joke is that after a career of writing 3 books, hundreds of magazine articles and probably over 500 published works in the technology industry I have never been more proud than of writing a regular column for California Fly Fisher Magazine called, “Fly Fishers who backpack.” 🙂

Authentically Virtual