Emerging Experiences, The HoloLens, and .NET Developers

Natural User Interface expert Tim Huckaby gave a glimpse of some of the more interesting challenges developer face with computing becoming more "natural," including how to control computers beyond the devices themselves. That was the message at his keynote talk at Visual Studio Live! in Boston.

While the name InterKnowlogy may not be as familiar as other software company names, nearly everyone has used or come in contact with InterKnowlogy solutions -- especially if you've ever ordered a fast food cheeseburger, watched election results on television or bought a pair of jeans. Tim Huckaby is the chairman and founder of InterKnowlogy, Actus Interactive Software and VSBLTY.

"You may not know us," he said, "but you've used our software." Huckaby's companies have built software for such renowned organizations as NASA, Levis, Raytheon, Coca-Cola, ABC, and NBC.

Huckaby led the general session keynote presentation at the Boston Visual Studio Live! on Wednesday, June 15. "What are emerging experiences? Emerging experiences are all about 'more personal' computing, as Satya Nadella says (emphasizing the 'more personal')," says Huckaby.

Then he led into his keynote presentation. "We're going to talk about everything cool—the HoloLens and 3D cameras. 'More personal' is the term wrapped around all these devices. All this hardware is supposed to make our lives better. We now have a NUI -- a natural user interface," he said. This could even lead to thought controlled computers and technology he explained. "Imagine a paralyzed person thinking their way to steering their wheelchair."

Huckaby recalled Moore's Law, which is essentially a prediction that every two years, we would be able to accommodate twice as many transistors on a circuit board. Huckaby explains it's not so much a law as a prediction. Gordon E. Moore, the law's namesake, went on to found Intel.

Looking at another graph of Moore's Law, Huckaby made some interesting observations about the rate of change. "Computers are currently calculating at the speed of small animals," he said. "By 2020, they'll be calculating at the same rate as a human brain. That's crazy, scary interesting." This rapidly increasing hardware speed equates to rapidly increasing processing speed, which facilitates great leaps in software capability.

"So we've built software to sell you cheeseburgers, we've built software for cancer research, but Windows and .NET also run the presidential elections," said Huckaby. His teams built the electronic dashboards that ran the Iowa presidential caucuses in Iowa last January. "That was the first time the election was completely electronic."

Huckaby and his team also built portal dashboards to show emerging results of previous presidential and senatorial elections, including the "smartwall" that CNN used. Then Huckaby handed the presentation over to Danny Warren, a senior software engineer at InterKnowlogy, one of Huckaby's companies.

"The caucuses don't have straightforward, specific business rules," said Warren. "We relied on Xamarin and a couple of DLLs representing the shared logic. We developed those rules just once, and knew it would work on other platforms. We didn't have to rewrite the business logic. We just did a call into it."

Huckaby and his teams are now working on software to display the live results of the conventions. This brought up a point Huckaby made about reliability and SLAs.

"There's always some type of SLA on apps. Triple nines means you're down about three days a quarter," he said. Upon realizing a XAML issue that resulted in memory leakage, he told CNN executives he would have it fixed during a commercial break. CNN then informed him they do not take commercial breaks during election coverage, so he had to fix it immediately during the live broadcast.

Huckaby then moved on to a demo session on 3D cameras, and the software developed to display and analyze the video capture.

"3D cameras do amazing stuff, and they're only about $150," he said. He displayed the Kinect for Windows and Leap Motion cameras. The cameras can be extremely accurate for facial recognition, he said, which makes them well-suited for security types of applications.

Huckaby put on a HoloLens, and had his colleague Warren demonstrate software that was showing what Huckaby saw, meaning the assembled crowd with the addition of a floating spaceman and ballerina. Huckaby was able to move and manipulate the 3D holograms and show them to the audience live as he did so. The video signal was indeed live, but had a one- or two-second delay.

The next Visual Studio Live! event happens in Redmond, WA at Microsoft Headquarters later this summer from August 8-12. For more information, go to:

About the Author

Lafe Low has been a technology editor and writer for more than 25 years. Most recently, he was the editor in chief of TechNet magazine. He has also held various editorial positions with Redmond magazine, CIO magazine and InfoWorld. He also launched his own magazine entitled Explore New England, and has published four editions of his guidebook The Best in Tent Camping: New England.

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