Draw & Code have recently returned from a trip to the Augmented World Expo in sunny California where we exhibited our latest immersive technology prototypes. The event in Santa Clara was a revelation for our intrepid away-team of John, Andy and Heidi who got to explore a beautiful part of the world and meet some fascinating people who help make Silicon Valley the centre of the tech world.
After attending a similar augmented reality show in London last year, we decided to take the plunge and exhibit our wares over in Silicon Valley itself at AWE, opting to create an app that would showcase our augmented skills. We explored three themes: augmented reality gaming, enhanced interactive art and immersive architecture. The feedback from the show itself was overwhelmingly positive. It seems that colourful content stuck out a mile at a show that was more about hardware and software. We’re proud of the finished product, which should be available to download soon, but in the meantime you’ll just have to get a sneak peak in the video above.
Our studio apartment in San Francisco was on the corner of a busy street, but we saw precious little of it as we put the finishing touches to our Draw & Code app, powered by a diet of Mexican food and astounding coffee from Philz and Bluebottle. When we weren’t feverishly drawing and coding we could be found enjoying a tipple at Trickdog, Foreign Cinema and we even let our hair down with a trip to hang out with the younglings at a Hudson Mohawke gig. This was all good fun, but there were two more spontaneous moments of relaxation that will live in the memory a lot longer. The first came when a carnival arrived on our doorstep complete with drummers, dancers and low riding cars.
The second diversion from our work came after a hectic day’s coding, when we figured that a change of scene would do us good. We hailed a cab using Uber, which was timely as down the road Google were revealing their new driverless car while cabbies on the East Coast protested. Google’s koala-esque creation is surely a natural partner for Uber; expect the combination of the two to shape the cities of the future. However, one thing that an automated car will never give you is a Russian driver who takes you to buy drinks and then drops you off at his favourite spot in the city; a spot of grass that allows you a spectacular vista across the bay. Bliss.
The expo itself was a fantastic experience. We saw some great tech from familiar favourites like Sphero and Microsoft’s Kinect v2, to the mildly unsettling woman who ‘attended’ the show as a robot. You’ll have to watch the video above to understand…
While the hardware was impressive, a lot of this gear will become ubiquitous. What really struck us about attending a tech event in Silicon Valley was not the machines, it was the people. There was an attitude exuded by just about everybody that you rarely see elsewhere. It is a place that lives for the future, relentlessly trying to shape the world around us. Being around people like that is infectious. The technology they create is not the main attraction of Silicon Valley.
Having said that, we still begged and pleaded Structure IO for one of their depth cameras for the iPad, but to no avail. True depth cameras will be vital to fulfilling the promise of augmented reality; it opens up even more possibilities than ever. But how would we get our hands on mobile depth cameras? It turned out that it would not be at AWE itself, but it would be in a bar down the road. A chance encounter with Dave Lorenzini from ARC, a man who was instrumental with Google Earth’s predecessor Keyhole, resulted in a demo of Google’s Project Tango. So it turned out that some of the best kit was actually in somebody’s pocket rather than on display! Now we know what to ask Father Christmas for!
Dave was but one of a bulging roster of inspiring people that we met on our travels. Another memorable character was Kim Schmidt who was dripping with both tech and personality. On our final few nights in San Fran we spent time with people from Facebook, Google, Square, LinkedIn and Leap Frog, along with the CEO of Soluis; a Scottish company at the top of their game and spreading their wings!
It was a whirlwind eight days that flew by, although Andy is originally from this part of the world so he and Heidi are staying longer to visit some old haunts. Lucky devils.