If you are planning to attend this year’s ARM TechCon (November 10-12, 2015 at Santa Clara Convention Center), you are in for a real treat with keynote speaker Colt McAnlis. Having acquired quite a following on YouTube, McAnlis promises to challenge our perceptions and offer his unique view of the world we live in. I had the opportunity to interview him in advance of his keynote, where we loosely covered the growth of the wearable and IoT markets as well as some of the key technical hurdles that remain.
By way of background, McAnlis is a developer advocate at Google focusing on performance and compression. Before that, he was a graphics programmer in the games industry working at Blizzard, Microsoft (Ensemble), and Petroglyph. He’s been an adjunct professor at SMU Guildhall, a UDACITY instructor, and a co-author of the book HTML5 Game Development Insights .
EDN: So, your title at Google is “developer advocate,” what does that mean?
McAnlis: I’m the person that the engineering team yells at when developers aren’t building applications the ‘right way,’ and the person that developers yell at when the platform/tools don’t work the way they want/expect. Basically, I spend half my time educating developers on the best ways to use the platform, and the other half of my time educating our internal teams on the best ways to improve the platform for our developers. It’s like being caught between a rock and a hard place where each one is covered in broken glass and has a taste for human flesh. The majority of my time I am focusing on application performance and data compression. These are two topics that are very close to my heart in terms of importance, and also topics that the majority of developers don’t fully understand.
EDN: Why did you get into engineering/programming?
McAnlis: Video games, actually. Video games were a massive part of my early life, and by the time I reached my teenage years, there wasn’t anything else I wanted to do more than make games for a living (I think I made the official decision at the age of 12). This was a fantastic ambition for my education; it gave me a long-term goal, and a pragmatic attitude towards my early engineering education. It also made all of my computer science teachers hate me. There wasn’t a single lecture or lesson that went by, where I didn’t question the validity of the techniques, based on how useful they are to developing video games. To all my educators: For all the stress I caused you, I’m truly sorry (but seriously, update your speaker notes).
EDN: Do consumers really care about IoT? Aren’t they just more interested in why that smartwatch is so ugly, big, expensive, etc.? How can designers stay ahead of consumer expectations?
McAnlis: Like most technological adoption, the average consumer won’t start caring about the technology in-particular; rather they will care about how it starts influencing their daily lives. Until then, it’s pretty easy to see that the early adoption trend for IoT will be huge in the manufacturing / retail space, which is where most consumers will first be exposed to the concepts. This is the classic IoT scenario, where a consumer can walk up to a movie poster, and when they glance at their phone, all the show-times are listed already. It’s that type of interface between the location-aware content and human device, which should get consumers interested in these types of things. Once their primary device starts humming along with useful communications to the device-world around them, it’ll start making more sense. There might even be some point in the future that purchasing decisions will be made based upon if something is IoT enabled or not (like your Pop-Tart box, because it always seems like you have infinite Pop-Tarts, or just an empty box in your cupboard…. we need to fix this….).
And designers really don’t have to change much. The goal of every technological adoption is straightforward: Be as useful as possible to the most people possible.