Tech Soft 3D Blog

Beyond 3D Podcast: The Future of Software Development, Trends in AR/VR and Collaboration

Posted by Tyler Barnes on Mar 19, 2020 1:42:33 PM

In this episode of Beyond 3D we talk with Tommy Gaessler, one of the top 25 most influential developer advocates for 2019, and a developer advocate at Zoom. We talk about the current state of software development, opportunities and challenges, and where things are going with trends such as AR/VR.

Listen to this episode:

 

Learn more about Tommy at tommygaessler.com

To reach us at Tech Soft 3D, visit www.techsoft3d.com/company/

To read the full podcast transcript, see below. 

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Angela Simoes:

Welcome everybody to another episode of Beyond 3D. My name is Angela and we are here with a special guest, Tommy Gaessler, who is a develop advocate for Zoom Video Communications, but was also named one of the industry's most influential developer advocates. So we're really happy to have you here with us today, Tommy. Thanks for joining us.

Tommy Gaessler:

Thanks for having me, Angela.

Angela Simoes:

And we have Gavin Bridgeman who is the CTO of Tech Soft 3D. So welcome Gavin.

Gavin Bridgemen:

Thank you Angela. Happy to be here.

Angela Simoes:

To get started, Tommy, why don't you tell us a little bit about yourself and your story and how you became a developer advocate.

Tommy Gaessler:

Sure. So growing up I always loved building things, especially Legos. And then I got into Minecraft, which are basically virtual Legos. And then all my friends wanted to be able to play Minecraft together. In the early days you couldn't do that easily. So I figured out how to make a server so we could all play together, and then that got me into coding because it was coding the server. So then I was like, "Wow, what can you code? What can you not code?" So I started learning how to code and building websites and games and other things. And then going to high school, I went to a college prep high school, and on the first day they told us 99% of you will go to the most prestigious universities and get master's degrees. And 1% of you will go and play Major League Baseball, drafted right out of high school.

Tommy Gaessler:

So I was like, "Okay, this is interesting. Where do I fit in this gap?" At the time I played baseball, but I didn't see myself going to the majors. So I continued my love-

Angela Simoes:

No pressure or anything.

Tommy Gaessler:

Yeah, right. I continued my love for computers. I took all the computer classes and the programming classes that Regis offered, and then here comes senior year and I haven't done any college applications yet, and my college counselor calls me into her office. She's like, "Tommy, you've been avoiding me. Why haven't we talked about what college you're going to?" This and that, and then I dropped the bomb. I said, "I'm actually not going to college. I'm going to pursue coding." So instead of going to college, I did a six month coding school called Galvanize here in Denver, and in six months became a full stack software developer, instead of going to college for four years. And my counselor actually approved. She didn't kick me out. She was very happy and excited that there was this new path that was emerging.

Tommy Gaessler:

So I did that a month after I graduated high school, started Galvanize. I realized there's going to be no more summer breaks. There's going to be no more vacations. It's going to be a sprint from here on out, and then finish Galvanize strong. Within a month of finishing Galvanize, I was 19 years old. I got it a full time software development job with a startup as employee three at company called Apostrophe. Worked there for two and a half years. Also got to go through that Techstars Boulder Accelerator program with them. And Techstars Boulder is basically startup school, one of the best startup schools. Kind of like Y Combinator. So I got to go to coding school and startup school instead of college. So I got a pretty good education I'd say. And then was recruited to join Zoom as a developer advocate. So that's my kind of past 10 years, and it's been a a fun ride so far.

Angela Simoes:

So I just want to say, I think it's amazing that you had the confidence to move forward with your decision. "I'm not going to college and I'm going to do this coding thing because it's ... I think most kids would sort of follow the pressures of teachers and parents. So kudos to you. That's really great.

Tommy Gaessler:

Thanks.

Angela Simoes:

You gave the example of how you created a server for your friends to play Minecraft at first and so I can imagine that's part of what got you excited. But why was coding so appealing to you?

Tommy Gaessler:

Basically the thought of taking any idea I can think of or any startup idea, app idea, game idea and being able to bring it to life and have it live on the internet, have it live in an app store and have anyone in the world use it. That just was amazing to me. So I wanted to be able to have the skills to do that.

Angela Simoes:

Very cool. Yeah, it is ... Being able to have a global impact at such a young age is a very cool thing. And so now you're at Zoom and what are you focusing on and what is your role as a developer advocate?

Tommy Gaessler:

Yep. So Zoom has a suite of APIs and SDKs. We allow developers and companies to use Zoom video chat, phone, to integrate with their products and their websites. So say you're a healthcare company and you want to have tele-health meetings with your patients. Instead of building a whole video platform which would cost a ton of money, a ton of time, having to maintain it and scale it, you could just Zoom video in your app with a few lines of code and it's practically free. So the job of a developer advocate is to make that whole integration process as easy as possible. Whether that be with developers support, documentation, speaking and promoting our APIs, building sample apps, and then NPM packages and such, to me just make it a seamless process.

Angela Simoes:

Very cool. So you work with developers all over the world then.

Tommy Gaessler:

Yes, all over.

Angela Simoes:

So folks that are looking to integrate ... That's ... And as you are working with these developers globally, do you get a chance to see kind of what's happening in software development overall and what would be some of the most exciting things you've seen lately?

Tommy Gaessler:

I think the coolest thing I've seen is the access to information and opportunities that weren't available before. For example, stock trading. Use to have to have a stock broker to make trades. Not everyone could do it. But now you can download an app for free and invest for free. There's ... You can learn anything for free. You can learn how to code for free. And then relative to Zoom I'm seeing all the cool ways you can integrate our APIs in any APIs. Every application nowadays talks to almost every other type of application you could think of, whether that be communications platform to e-commerce to education, healthcare. So seeing that world become more accessible is amazing.

Angela Simoes:

Yeah. And we see a lot of that also with Techsoft. And Gavin, you had some thoughts on this too about where software is going.

Gavin Bridgemen:

Yeah. I think there's a lot of stuff that's going on. I think one part that's really interesting, and Tommy kind of touched upon it, is what are becoming the set of foundational tools that you can use to build an application. Tommy was talking about Zoom being a platform that people are building solutions on top of. But I think that's one really interesting part when we look at software development in general is the tools are available to you that really make your job a lot easier. If you look at some of the kind of interesting things that are coming along at a very low level, you have what Apple and Google are doing with their iOS and Android platforms with augmented reality SDK is extremely powerful. Software solutions are using hardware built into the mobile device and solving some of the hardest problems of augmented reality. Or if you look at Electron, an application that allows you to take a kind of web technology stack and and build a desktop applications. Slack is built on it, and made then very easy to go from it ostensibly a web application and make a desktop application on it.

Gavin Bridgemen:

And then you kind of go into the realm of what these platforms are doing. Tommy's talking about Zoom as as a platform, but you can also look at AWS and Azura, which previously were just computing up on the cloud, now you're starting to see Azura has a very powerful IOT component to it. So I think that's one part that's really interesting today, and you're kind of starting to see software developers are really people who plug things together, and you're seeing a lot of people who are software developers, they are actually not classically solving hard problems. They're generally plugging things together. So I think that's one part that's really interesting and exciting. I think that's given the reason why you have a lot of people coming into the software world, that suddenly it's not as intimidating, and you have a lot of these component technologies that are solving the foundational problems.

Gavin Bridgemen:

I think another area that's really interesting is all around machine learning and what that's enabling you to do. And infinite computing starts ... Computers are good at answering very binary questions, multiplying big numbers. Essentially they're massive logic gates that you need a yes or a no at the end. And machine learning is ... What that's resulting in is some more of the fuzzy problems, and allowing us to solve some the more fuzzy problems. And it's essentially building up digital intuition, and so that as an area, as a core computer scientist, that's another really, really interesting area. So there's a lot of stuff that's making software development easier with these components, but also some of the hardest problems still have to be solved. And machine learning is still is starting to be really interesting technology that's going to enable us to solve some of those harder problems.

Tommy Gaessler:

Yeah, great points Gavin.

Angela Simoes:

So you made an interesting point Gavin, about how more people are getting into software development, and essentially that the role of the software developer has changed over time. Can you expand a little bit about on that, and Tommy, I'd love to hear your thoughts as well about how the role has changed and also we ... Tech Soft, we work a lot with manufacturing companies, companies in architecture, engineering, construction. They may or may not have an internal software development team. So how do you see sort of that evolving as well, where you have companies that are wanting to create an ARVR application or wanting to create a mobile app or wanting to create an IOT app. And so with ... There's I guess the question, do you have an internal team do it, do you have an external team do it? And then with the role of software developers changing, how has that made things easier or harder for companies to make that decision?

Gavin Bridgemen:

Yeah, I can make that initial run. I'd be interested in Tommy's opinions. I think one thing that's really interesting, if you look back 20-30 years ago, most people who are writing software were computer scientists and they were solving ... It was difficult to write software 20-30 years ago. There's still a lot of hard problems in computer science, and if you think of something like natural language recognition, even all these problems around language and even augmented reality and the image processing that needs to go, there are still computer scientists solving some really hard problems. But the bulk of people today who are writing software are not computer scientists. They're more these computer architects. And really you can get a scalable database off the shelf. You can buy one. Oracle will gladly sell you one. Or there's open source relational database that you can get for free. So these tools go hand in hand with people being able to outsource things, because if you have tools then they're documented and it's not such a scary proposition. And to be open in your ... Having a software development team in ... Whether it be Eastern Europe or Asia or India, where they're using standard set of tool set and plugging, joining these things together. So I think this tool set has really made it a lot easier for companies to outsource software development.

Tommy Gaessler:

I agree.

Angela Simoes:

And so let's talk about ARVR specifically for a little bit because I know you're ... That's an area that you focus on Tommy. Correct?

Tommy Gaessler:

A little bit, yeah.

Angela Simoes:

Tech Soft, we also have some toolkits that enable people to bring in CAD data directly into ARVR applications. So Tommy, talk a little bit about some of the work you're doing there, and then I would love to have the two of you talk about what are some of the challenges when it comes to ARVR applications, where do you see things going in the next year, couple of years, that sort of thing.

Tommy Gaessler:

Right. So at Zoom we have virtual backgrounds, and Gavin and I are using them right now. And we just released virtual video backgrounds, and this all happens without a green screen. So as I'm moving around, it's using computer vision and augmented reality to understand where my face is, and then where to show the photo and where then to show my face, and not showing the background at all. So I think that is just fascinating that that's possible. Especially being in a meeting with people around the world and having the meeting worked flawlessly. And there's so many fun things you can do with that. It's such a hard thing to develop, you could say. But it just makes it, the the meeting experience, much more fun.

Tommy Gaessler:

And then the part I'm working on are the SDKs and supporting and helping developers use our SDKs. So basically any idea you have with video, it's really up to the developer. We want to give you tools to be able to accomplish that. Whether that's AR, whether that's having meetings in VR, it's all possible using our SDKs, and using the existing core Zoom functionality. And then they do their secret sauce, they add us, and then boom, there's a really cool application.

Tommy Gaessler:

And then some fun words from our CEO, Eric Yuan. He says that the vision for zoom in 2035 is to be able to speak in a certain language and then the people on the meeting that don't understand that language, the language is translated on the fly and then you hear it. Not like readings a transcript, but you're actually hearing the person speak your native language. And then also to have an environment where we can shake hands through a meeting, or hug through a meeting or share a cup of a coffee. So, well see. We'll see if we get there. And that's going to take a lot of smart people to figure that out.

Angela Simoes:

Gavin, thoughts?

Gavin Bridgemen:

Yeah. I think it's ... This augmented reality technology, we're obviously in the engineering world where there's this interesting trend that's been going on, which is IOT essentially. So people have these digital assets that they invest a lot of energy into. They are really the exact model that gets manufactured. But historically it stayed in the engineering department. So once you finish the design process, essentially that was the end of the use of that model. What you're starting to find now, that model is very useful if you want to do work instructions, for example, for repairing something. Or if you wanted to monitor things live.

Gavin Bridgemen:

So I'll get to augmented reality, but the internet of things and IOT sensors have been allowing you to essentially connect the physical world to the digital assets. And then the engineering world, you have something called the digital twin. And all that means is that the digital model is being augmented by physical data through IOT. So this, for example, might be the position of a robot on a factory floor. It could be the number of units a particular machine is creating. IOT can feed all that information to the digital model. So you start really seeing virtually what's happening in the physical world.

Gavin Bridgemen:

The part that augmented reality is really interesting is augmented reality allows you to take those digital assets and put them back into the physical world. And Tommy, phase one of where we are with augmented reality today is some of the problems that Tommy was talking about. For example, putting a live video stream and augmenting it with digital content. And if you look at Pokemon Go, that was kind of about you essentially putting a digital asset into the live video world.

Gavin Bridgemen:

Where AR hasn't taken off in the engineering world is what people want to do was walk into a building, and let's say that data through IOT is connected to the actual digital model, but that doesn't even need to be the case. You have a digital asset of a building, you want to walk in, you want to see where the structural supports are and look through the walls. Well, right now with augmented reality, there's an alignment problem that needs to be solved that has still not been solved yet. So in that augmented reality, once they solve that alignment issue and that's what the AR kit and AR core are trying to do, I really believe you're going to see this explosion of the value of augmented reality. And I think it's going to be driven by the engineering world because there's suddenly going to be able to go in and with your mobile phone essentially have an x-ray view of your builder. And if there's IOT data there, you're going to be able to see real information around what's happening to that object. And if something is broken, you're going to be able to essentially get work instructions put directly in front of your eyes of how that thing will be repaired.

Gavin Bridgemen:

So the augmented reality stuff is really, really exciting in the engineering world. And because we've had this huge investment in the digital assets, that's mainly being driven from pre manufacturing, it's easier to design digitally. It's easier to do some wind flow analysis on a digital model, and there's this new area which these digital assets will be able to get used in the real world once augmented reality kind of gets to that next level. So it's really exciting stuff.

Tommy Gaessler:

So what do you think is going to be harder engineering wise? The hardware part or the software part? So the x-ray camera that can take in the video, or the software that processes it and then displays the augmented part?

Gavin Bridgemen:

I think it's going to be that first part, it's that alignment problem. They're going to have the digital model already and then you're going to walk in and through a combination of the GPS information, that gives you a rough approximation of where you are. They then need to do image recognition within the room and start saying, "Oh, here's where our up is, here's where our down is, here's what the plane is." And then they've got to fit that 3-D model to that scene. So I think at that early stage, once they have all the alignments stuffed on, then displaying it will be fine because you're seeing that already with the display when you see Pokemon Go or these kinds of things. Or if you look at some of these 3D models that they're displaying in augmented reality, they're pretty substantial.

Angela Simoes:

So what do you ... First, I'm wondering if you're comfortable making a sort of prediction Gavin on when you think the alignment will happen. Will we see that happen in the next year, three years, five years? [crosstalk 00:20:42] explosion?

Gavin Bridgemen:

You hear these big comments by Tim Cook, saying that augmented reality is going to be as impactful as the iPhone was. And they talk about that in the next five years. So I think they've got to solve it in next five years. If you look now on your iPhone, they have a digital measuring tool which works quite well, and that's kind of start getting into that area because there's a scaling issue that needs to be figured out there. And they've started doing that. So I would say in the next five years.

Gavin Bridgemen:

That's certainly what the Hollow Lands ... If you kind of hear ... Read behind the [inaudible 00:21:17], in the augmented reality world, a lot of people think about Hollow Lands, but really do it ... The stuff that's driving that space right now is Apple and the phones are. But if you look at what Hollow Lands talk about, they talk about professional use case scenarios, and the manufacturing one is one of the key ones. So I think the next five years.

Angela Simoes:

That sounds reasonable. Things progress so rapidly anyway. It could be sooner, but five years is a safe bet. You mentioned the AR kit, the AR core. So let's talk just a couple of minutes about SDKs in general in our last few minutes of the podcast. So Tommy, I know that in your work you're actually helping to create APIs for other developers to use, but is there ... Are there APIs or SDKs that you use in your work as well?

Tommy Gaessler:

I'd say FinTech APIs are ... You can't live without them. For example, we have a feature where you can set up a Zoom webinar and then integrate with PayPal to make the webinar a paid webinar. And that wouldn't be possible without the PayPal API. And In Stripe is also a leader in that FinTech API space, making it few lines of code and then you can accept payments on any platform. Web, native. So that's, that's amazing to me. And then even something as simple as embedding a YouTube video, if you were just to put that video file on your website and then throw it up, it wouldn't have good performance. It wouldn't have good scalability, it would cost a ton of money. But having that video live in YouTube and having there a streaming technology and then simply embedding a few lines of code in your app and having the video run perfectly is amazing to me. And every developer can benefit from SDKs and APIs because it saves them time, it saves them money, it saves them headache. And the maintenance that goes with doing something hard like that.

Angela Simoes:

And I'm curious, this isn't something that we talked about before, but because it makes things easier and faster, have you ever come across developers that have tried to get into a new area of development? Maybe something that they hadn't studied or worked on before, but because they have access to SDKs and other tools, they were able get up and running sooner? Or maybe if you don't know anybody that's done that is ... Do you think that's something that's doable? I'm just curious. So developers aren't stuck doing one thing, right?

Tommy Gaessler:

Right. I think it expands a developer's tool set to kind of be able to implement the language of APIs, because then there's nothing they can't do. So say you're a freelance developer and a client comes to you and says, "Hey, I want to build a website that I have videos behind a login and then you have to pay a subscription, monthly fee." If the developer just did that coding out of the box it would take a year or more. But they could use [op zero 00:00:24:30] to handle login, they could use YouTube for the videos, and then they could use Stripe for the payments. So it makes developers more powerful and more valuable, and expands their offering by them just knowing how to make a few API requests.

Angela Simoes:

Gavin, have you experienced that with any Tech Soft partners where they maybe had a specialty, they focused in one area but then started to adopt SDKs to expand?

Gavin Bridgemen:

Yeah, I would say it's the dominant way in which things are done in the engineering software. Components have been widely in use in this space for many, many years. And it started with someone in mathematical engines that are used within these [inaudible 00:25:16] systems are very complicated pieces of software. And early on there were some tools at libraries out there that did it. So Parasolid was one of the early ones. ASIS was another one. Open Cascade was an open source one. So from early on there's been a widespread use of tools.

Gavin Bridgemen:

So really when we look at ... You look at people in the engineering software market, you might be an expert at fluid simulation. And so you do an amazing job of making sure that people optimize turbine blade design. Well in order to do turbine blade design you need to be able to read in that turbine in the first place, and you need to be able to display it. You need to do some mathematical querying of the surfaces, and there's all tools out to solve those problems. So a lot of these ... They're very much specialists and they naturally ... I think a specialist naturally goes and looks for tools that solve these other areas. So I would say in the engineering space, it's the norm rather than the exception for people to be using tools.

Angela Simoes:

Got it. Makes sense. Well gentlemen, we have reached our time, and so I think this has been a really interesting, great conversation. Hopefully our listeners have enjoyed it as well. Tommy, thank you for your time. Really enjoyed having you on the podcast.

Tommy Gaessler:

Thanks. It was a blast.

Angela Simoes:

And Gavin, thank you.

Gavin Bridgemen:

Thank you. My pleasure. As always.

Angela Simoes:

And for those of you who have not subscribed to Beyond 3D, please hit that subscribe button and share it with your fellow tech colleagues and anyone that you think would be interested in this topic. And until next time, everybody have a wonderful day.

Tommy Gaessler:

See you.

Gavin Bridgemen:

Thank you.

Angela Simoes:

Thank you.

Angela Simoes:

Thank you for joining us on the Beyond 3D podcast, hosted by Tech Soft 3D. Be sure to subscribe on iTunes and leave us a review. Or subscribe on SoundCloud. To listen to past episodes or learn more about Tech Soft 3D, visit www.techsoft3D.com/blog. Send us comments and suggestions at info@techsoft3D.com. Thanks again for listening, and we hope you'll join us again on the next episode of Beyond 3D.

 

Topics: Cloud, Big Data, 3D, AI, AR/VR

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