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MIX 2011–Day 2 Recap: Kinect and Mango

Day 2 of MIX 2011 is over, and a lot has happened. Today we saw presentations from Joe Belfiore, Scott Guthrie, and Dan Fernandez, each one of them demonstrating some awesome technology. We heard that Windows Phone “Mango” development tools would be available next month, Kinect for Windows SDK some time in the Spring, and John Papa demonstrated some forthcoming Silverlight 5 features, including Data binding support in debug mode within Visual Studio.

The most exciting feature announced, for me at least, was the XNA and Silverlight integration. They didn’t elaborate on it much during the keynote, but it should allow XNA developers to build easy UX Experiences within their games, or allow Silverlight developers to deliver high quality 3D Content in their projects. I’ll be going to another session today on the topic, and will bring more details when I can.

The first session I went to yesterday was What’s Coming Next to the Windows Phone Application Platform. This session covered a full list of everything we saw in the Keynote, giving itemized lists detailing what we would be seeing in Mango. They didn’t go too far in depth, but the pointed us in the directions of the sessions that would be relevant to our interests.

I moved onto a lunch session, which was unique in that it addressed the issue of a lack of Women in Technology. The session was led by Lynn Langit, Sr. Developer Evangelist for Microsoft, and Thomas Mueller, who works extensively with databases. The lunch session was interesting because it had attendees building Lego models that represented issues related to Women in Technology.

After that, I moved down to the Connect area to speak with Clint Rutkas about his Kinect driven chair. They had two of the chairs set up in the Coding4Fun area, one functioning and the other taken a part for people to look at the internal guts of the chair. I’m sure that many people are interested in building something something like this, and the instructions on how to do so will be available on Coding4Fun when the Kinect SDK goes public.

The next session I attended  was Windows Phone Architecture: Deep Dive. It was a rather interesting, informative session, where the speaker, Istvan Cseri, delivered information about all the changes coming quite in depth. He spoke about the new Gyroscopes, the new chipset, and other hardware and software updates we will see in Mango. If you’re into the deep details of the Windows Phone platform, I highly recommend you take a look at the streamed version on the MIX Website.

The final session of the day that I attended was Multitasking in the Next Version of Windows Phone: Part 1. This was a slide intensive talk where they went over how multitasking in Mango is going to work, and what we as developers have to do to take advantage of the rich new feature set related to Multitasking. He broke down the four basic types of Multitasking and gave a brief demo of them. The second part will be today, and is a much more code-intensive session.

I’ll have more information related to the third day of the conference, covering each session I attended and giving more technical details hopefully.

Until next time,
Patrick Godwin

MIX 2011– Day 2 Keynote Announcements

It’s been another great keynote here at MIX 2011, with great announcements from both the Windows Phone team, the Silverlight team, and the team that developed the Kinect for Windows SDK. Let’s go ahead and breakdown the keynote announcements.

For the Windows Phone announcements, Joe Belfiore took the stage to announce the updates made for the Windows Phone developer experience. They announced new features related to “Mango”, such as the ability for application multitasking and fast application switching, deeper integration with phone features so apps can better use Live Tiles, and access to different sensors, such as the camera and Motion Sensor, to build augmented reality experiences. The tools for these features will be available to developers soon.

They then announced some forthcoming apps, which should be available in the next version of Windows Phone. These apps included Skype, Spotify, Layar, Qantas, Kik Messenger, and Amazon Shopping for Windows Phone 7.

Up next was  the Kinect for Windows SDK, which was presented using demos  of Microsoft research’s WorldWide telescope, as well as a PC game called “Wall Panic”, which utilized the Kinect Sensor through the new Kinect for Windows SDK. Clint Rutkas, owner of the successful Coding4Fun blog on Channel9, was a part of this section of the keynote. To learn more about the Kinect for Windows SDK, and to sign up to be notified of the beta release, take a look here.

Finally, the Silverlight team, set to demonstrate some of the new features present in the Silverlight 5 beta, which is available for developers now. They demonstrated a new XNA-based form of 3D Virtualization on Silverlight, and showed never before seen HD video from the U.S. Navy Blue Angels using Silverlight 5. More information is available here.

Overall the Day 2 keynote was very interesting, and contained plenty of great bits for developers to use and expand upon. Take a look throughout the day on Twitter for the latest information related to the MIX event.

Until Next Time,
Patrick Godwin

MIX 2011–Day 1 Wrap Up

All I can say is wow. MIX is an extraordinary conference with lots of great information and breakthrough sessions related to XNA, Windows Phone, and other great technologies. After the keynote addresses, people made their way from the ballroom to different breakout sessions.

Before attending my first session, I took a look around The Commons, an area where development teams from all around the convention had booths set up to demo their technologies. I stopped by the Windows Azure booth,  the Windows Phone 7 booth, the ReSharper booth, and the Internet Explorer booth. One of the main reasons to visit these booths? Swag, and lots of it. T-Shirts, buttons, and all sorts of other goodies were handed out for free, so it’s a nice touch.

From there I moved to my first breakout session, which was presented by Rob Miles, a professor of computer science from the United Kingdom. He demonstrated XNA 4.0 in the context of Windows Phone, and gave quite an amusing presentation. His demoes from his presentation are available over at his blog.

After this session, I went with Kenny Spade, an Academic Developer Evangelist for Microsoft, to the lunch room to meet with a Microsoft Student Partner who was present at the event. I introduced myself to Jennipha-Lauren Nielsen, and hope to continue to work with her throughout this event.

After that I relaxed for about an hour in The Connect room, learning about Netduino, a microprocessor running on the .NET Micro Framework. If you’re interested in learning more about Netduino, take a look here. I also caught up with Clint Rutkas, of Coding4Fun, sat with Dennis Delimarsky and I for a bit, just trying to find some time to relax before heading back to the busy events.

The last event I sat in on was a session related to the Rx extensions for .NET, more specifically how they apply to Windows Phone. Jim Wooley, owner of ThinqLinq.com, showed some cool demos on how to move your current applications to a model that uses the observer pattern, using the Reactive extensions for Windows Phone 7. For more information related to his presentation, check this out.

That’s a rough breakdown of my first day at MIX. Remember to continue to follow my blog, as well as my Twitter and the #MicrosoftSI hashtag for the latest information related to the Microsoft Student Insiders at MIX 2011.

Until Next Time,
Patrick Godwin

Full Disclosure:
My trip to the event, as well as my badge and all other expenses were paid for by Microsoft as a part of the Student Insider program.

MIX2011 Day 1 Keynote–Announcements

There is a lot going on here at MIX11, from awesome breakthrough speakers to the announcements at the keynotes. Today’s keynote showed some awesome announcements.

First of all, Dean Hachamovitch, VP of Internet Explorer, announced availability of the Internet Explorer 10 Platform Preview. Dean was quoted as saying “Internet Explorer 10 will push the boundaries of what developers can do on the Web even further.”.

Internet Explorer 10 will push the limits, improving support for HTML5 as well as hardware acceleration, first shown in Internet Explorer 9. Internet Explorer 10 adds new features, such as CSS3 Gradients on background images and CSS3 Flexible Box Layout. You can download the Internet Explorer 10 Platform Preview here, and can expect code refreshes every 12 weeks.

During the keynote Microsoft demoed how technologies like HTML5 and IE9 can be used to deliver a richer and more beautiful experience on the web, using Foursquare as the platform, providing visualizations of how the users gather. You can take a look at the foursquare demos here.

Dean Hachamovitch took the stage again to demonstrate how Microsoft is committed to web standards. Hey showed projects from the HTML5 Labs site, a group of early prototypes of the specifications from W3C. Check it out here.

Microsoft also talked about the Orchard project, a free CMS built using ASP.NET. Orchard 1.1 is available today, along with many new modules from Amazon, UserVoice, and DISQUS. They also announced an ASP.NET MVC3 Tools Update, with support for Entity Framework 4.1, which includes Code First Support, as well as HTML5 markup support

MIX11–Keynote Day 1

The Microsoft Student Insiders are covering the MIX 2011 Keynotes live. Take a look at the live blog below:

<a href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=c624e8830f” _mce_href=”http://www.coveritlive.com/mobile.php/option=com_mobile/task=viewaltcast/altcast_code=c624e8830f”>MIX 2011 Microsoft Keynote Day 1</a>

2011 US Imagine Cup Finals–Winners Announced

The winners for the Imagine Cup competition have been announced! All of these students worked hard all day to get where they are, and their hard work is being recognized. The rankings are as follows:

Software Design:

  1. Note-Taker
  2. LifeLens
  3. UCA Ursus
  4. TTHV

Game Design – XNA (Xbox/Windows):

  1. Bloom
  2. Plump Pixel
  3. Righteous Noodle
  4. XozGaming

Game Design – Mobile (Phone/Zune):

  1. Big Impact Bear
  2. AAMP
  3. Mintus
  4. EDO

Congratulations to everyone who worked hard in the competition to get this far. Everyone has worked hard to change the world, and it shouldn’t stop here. I’ve had a great time covering the event with Microsoft Student Insiders, and hope you enjoyed reading my coverage. Look out over the next few days for my coverage of the MIX Conference.

Until next time,
Patrick Godwin

2011 US Imagine Cup Finals–Keynote Speakers

After a long day of presentations and conversing with students, everyone has gathered on the presentation rooms of The Mixer to hear the Keynote speakers talk about the Imagine Cup and innovation in general. Before the keynote, I happened to catch up with Chris Pirillo, a blogger and social media guru, for a quick interview:

Special thanks to Ryan Bucinell for filming the interview

Alison Watson started off the event, talking about her history with computing and with Microsoft. She mentioned some interesting figures, one standing out to me the most. This figure was “4 devices per person”. That’s four devices for developers to write on, per person, on average. That’s a lot of market to cover.

Then she welcomed Bill Buxton, principal researcher for Microsoft Research to the stage. He talked about technology in the “Humancentric view”, an idea that technology needs to disappear as our interactions with it become more natural. He spoke of “Technology as a cultural asset”, and the idea of technology as “neither good nor bad; nor is it neutral."

He talked about smartphones, calling them “half-smartphones”,  talking about how the phone needs to change to make a smartphone truly smart. He talked about how Technology isn’t inherently good or bad, it depends on the context in which we use it. He talked about judging technology, the way we review it, and the way we interact with it.

Before the keynote, I caught Mr. Buxton for a minute or two to ask him a quick question:

Special Thanks to Ryan Bucinell for filming the interview

 

After Buxton, Mark Hindsbo introduced Jane McGonigal took the stage for her keynote, entitled “The Future is an Epic Win", about why games can change the world. She talks about how she believes that game design will help change the world. One of her goals is to have a game designer nominated for Nobel Peace Prize by 2023.

She talked about how people think of games as a way to escape reality, and how that is changing. Her book, Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World, discusses this idea in depth. She speaks of games as “unnecessary obstacles that we volunteer to tackle”. This should allow us to make games to help us tackle the worlds biggest problems, like the students in the Imagine Cup Game Design competitions.

Games are designed to take a skill we never use and make ourselves better at it, a form of hard work for those who play them. She talked about how we use games to challenge ourselves when we don’t feel challenged, how it satisfies a human desire to solve a problem. She talked about Kinect as a way for people to dance as an unnecessary obstacle, as in Dance Central, even when they aren’t willing to dance, just because we like the hard work.

Listening to Ms. McGonigal talk was inspiring. It allowed me to look at gaming in a different light, thinking of it as a way to address problems. She talked about them as how they are changing the way we do thinks, and the way we think of problems. I enjoyed listening to her a got, and I urge anyone who’s interested in game design to pick up her book.

I had a great time listening to these amazing keynotes, and I hope I gave you a good description of what the event was like, and how awesome our keynotes were.

Thanks for reading,
Patrick Godwin

2011 US Imagine Cup Finals–Final Day Presentations

Today’s the last day of the 2011 US Imagine Cup Finals, and the teams are doing there best to make their way to the title of top team in the United States. If you’ve been following my blog at all this weekend, you’d know that I am currently following XozGaming, a high school game development team from San Fransisco who developed a Real Time Strategy game focused on combating infectious disease around the world.

XozGaming was the first team up in the XNA Game Design track today, giving a full presentation of their game. the demoed the game Strain, showing all of their game play features, from the RTS aspects to the Mini Games built into the game.

I actually got to sit down with XozGaming after last night’s announcement to discuss what it’s like to be the first high school to advance this far in the US Competition:

(Please excuse the shaky quality of the video. I don’t have the steadiest of hands)

After XozGaming’s presentation, three more teams took the Game Design stage, demoing all of their games for the judges. Team Bloom was the second team to present, demonstrating “Spero”, which comes from the latin word for Hope. Check out more about Team Bloom at their website, BloomStudios.org.

Up next was Plump Pixel, with their game Green World, a game that focuses on building population while using environmentally friendly technology. The game focused on researching technology and expanding your city. They also reward the player by using trophies and other positive reinforcement when the player does something effective.

The last team to present in the XNA track was team Righteous Noodle, a game development team building a game focused on solving issues related to poverty. Their game used a natural disaster, a tsunami, to show how poverty takes shape in many different ways. The goal of the game is to rebuild a destroyed village, upgrading it and promoting health and sustainability.

There have been some great teams presenting today, and it will be hard for the judges to choose a clear winner. Remember to follow me on Twitter, and to use the #ICUS hashtag for all tweets related to the competition. Also read up on Microsoft Tech Student’s Facebook and Twitter feed, and read Alfred Thompson’s blog.

Later on I will post about the keynote and the winners. Until then,
Patrick Godwin

2011 US Imagine Cup Finalists Announced

The stage is set and the teams were announced by Senior Vice President of DPE, S. “Soma” Somasegar. The top four teams from each track of the 2011 US Imagine Cup will be competing tomorrow on Microsoft’s campus for a chance at the top spot. Some great projects have been demoed so far, but now the ones that stood out the most are going to duke it out. The teams are as follows:

Software Design:

  • TTHV
  • Uca Ursus
  • Lifelens
  • Note-Taker

Game Design – Mobile:

  • Big Impact Bear
  • EDO
  • Team AAMP
  • Team Mintrus

Game Design – XNA:

  • Bloom
  • Plump Pixel
  • Righteous Noodle
  • XozGaming

Good luck to all the teams tomorrow, and congratulations to every team who worked hard to make it up to this point. You all have amazing projects and bright futures.

Until tomorrow,
Patrick Godwin

2011 US Imagine Cup–Day 2: XozGaming

Yesterday was a busy day all around. Students were up into the late hours of the morning adding the finishing touches to their Imagine Cup projects, working hard to make sure they had everything ready for their presentations. One such team was XozGaming, a team I introduced to you in yesterday’s blog post.

I sat down with XozGaming to get a feel of how they were feeling before the presentation, and to watch them prepare in their green room. They had been up to 3:00 AM adding finishing touches to their game and presentation, in hopes of moving onto the final round on Monday, April 11th.

During their presentation I learned a bit about their goals for their Imagine Cup project, Strain. The hope was to inspire players to try and change the way infectious disease is handled in the world, and teach users about ways to avoid being infected by diseases when outbreaks do occur.

After watching them run their presentation, they ran off to the Presentation Room to demo for the judges. I was unaware that I could have watched the presentation, so I sat around waiting for them to return. After giving their presentation, they felt pretty positive about the reaction.

They felt the judges received their project very well, and understood the point they were trying to convey. The Q&A portion of the presentation felt rather informal, like a conversation, as opposed to being a clarification session. The judges posed a few questions about technical details as well as how XozGaming could expand the project in the future.

When I asked XozGaming what their plans were now that their first presentation was over, they replied “Sleep and Homework”

After sitting around with XozGaming for a good bit of time, I went on the Downtown Seattle Experience portion of the event, which was a tour of different parts of Seattle. We started off at Pike Place Market, having an hour and a half to wander about freely. We then hoped on a bus and went over to GameWorks, a sort of Dave and Buster’s type restaurant in downtown Seattle.

After a nice dinner with the teams, we moved from GameWorks to the Space Needle, a cornerstone of any Seattle experience. From the Space Needle, we went to a small venue downtown called The Vera Project and heard a band called Land of Pines and watched them perform. The night wrapped up at about 9:00, when Ryan Bucinell and I returned to the Westin for some rest.

To get an idea of what the competitors thought about yesterday, check out the video below:

 

Remember to follow #ICUS, @imaginecup, and read up on the Microsoft Tech Student Facebook and Twitter feeds for the most current news about the event. Alfred Thompson, a Microsoft ADE, is also covering the event on his blog. Also look out for the #MicrosoftSI tag on Twitter to find the most up to date info from the Microsoft Student Insider team.

Look at this blog later today for an announcement about the top teams that will be competing tomorrow.

Until later,
Patrick Godwin

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