sarah-kohl-silicon-valley-SF-developer-week-2917

This was my first time attending the Developer Week Conference and I’ll be honest, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I attended a handful of talks and walked around the show floor and was overall pleasantly surprised.

I should start off saying that I’ve always found virtual reality (VR) to be a bit too gimmicky. Often applications that are released are focused around video games. While that may be fun I’ve never understood why Silicon Valley has been so in love with the technology until now.

Two specific events at this show helped me to make the jump from VR skeptic to VR advocate. The first was encountering a company on the trade show floor called Primitive.io. A few of my friends from 42 had seen me walking by and asked if I wanted to see how code could be visualized in VR. I scoffed and gave a general overview of my opinion on VR. Thankfully Avik Das, the CTO of Primitive, was standing nearby and jumped into the conversation.

What I didn’t grasp right away was that this wasn’t a gimmick for someone to pretend to code in the matrix, the software being developed was intended to help solve a problem for almost any tech company. If you’re unfamiliar with programming or even managing programmers I’ll explain briefly.

When a company is reaching that key growth phase where things are taking off there are always too few programmers and too much work. This means companies have to hire on more programmers, but it takes some time for each programmer to read and understand the company’s codebase. This results in all kinds of delays and communication issues and the problems don’t stop there. Long-term issues like maintaining documentation, updating old code, and debugging new code all require at least one person to build a comprehensive understanding of all the code and its functionality in their head.

What Primitive.io is doing is taking that information out of the head of that one architect and moving into a virtual space so that it can be understood and reviewed by anyone. I’d even say a technically savvy non-programmer could get a handle on the workings of their company code using this tool. I truly think that John Voorhee’s and his team are onto something very cool and would highly recommend any technical manager or team lead to try this out.

The second event at Developer Week that really changed my mind about VR was a talk by David Holz. I had heard about a product his company, Leap Motion, had created years ago. It was a camera that pointed down at a desk and could read your hand movements. This product was the talk of the town at my alma matter Rochester Institute of Technology. The college shares a campus with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and a number of students and alumni were interested in the applications of the technology for American Sign Language.
Anyway, fast forward to the talk at Developer Week, the company has come a long way. They demonstrated their VR headset add-on that can read hand movements and then map them into a VR world. These virtual appendages can then be used as controllers in the virtual world to manipulate objects, open menus, and change the environment.

It was amazing to watch, but even more interesting was the lecture itself. David gave an easy-to-digest history of VR headset development as well as shared a number of his predictions and opinions related to the industry.

Overall I was glad to have attended the conference and get a peak into the minds of so many intelligent people. As much as I love to talk up the great state of New York, I have to admit, this was a truly San Francisco event. I’m not sure there is anywhere else you’d be able to find so many brilliant projects in one room. I look forward to seeing what all of these companies are able to do in the next few years!