Tom Ortega II

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I Get Spatial Computing, Really

In Uncategorized on October 7, 2019 at 9:08 am

Early Adopter

I buy the Magic Leap One device when it is announced. I have zero interest in the Hololens nor very little interest in the Vive/Oculus stuff either. AR is where I think it’s going to be and the ML1 seems better suited for that.

First mistake number one: Thinking the term spatial computing is just Magic Leap’s proprietary way of saying Augmented Reality. It’s not, it’s really not. That is key and you should take the time to realize that.

Therefore, I get my ML1 and think of it as an AR device. I try all the apps and still don’t quite have the switch flip. I still see it as AR and think of concepts in the AR space.

Magic Leap Con

I go to Magic Leap Con a month after getting my device. I attend sessions and the closest I get to understanding spatial computing as a thing is from the WETA talks. It doesn’t really click though and since most of my concepts are business and not entertainment focused, their sage advice sorta goes in one ear and out the other. To be clear, this is not their fault. It is entirely mine.

I walk away from Magic Leap Con with a feeling that something special is going to happen, but I really don’t see how to join in the revolution since I’m not understanding what their revolution is.

My kids and parents try the ML1 during this time. While entertaining, the device never really catches on. Part of this I think is more the nature of it being a creator device vs finished consumer product, plus some of it is the lack of software library. Again, both to be expected, but a part of me wants them to “get it” to help me “get it”.

Oculus Quest

Fast forward to May of 2019, Oculus launches the Quest. I pick one up because I like the untetheredness of the system. My kids take an immediate liking to it, because it’s a finished product with a robust library.

My 6 year old daughter plays on the Quest with her friends and cousins all the time. The same goes for my teenage sons. The key though is that the Quest is an entertainment device to them, not a productivity device. Though seeing them embrace the headset is what’s key to this story.

AT&T/Magic Leap B2B Hackathon

The moment of clarity for spatial computing hits during a small, little hackathon in Plano, Texas at the end of September. Now, I’m a veteran of hackathons. It’s typically where Team Omega Ortega gets to shine. However, we typically shine because we know the tech inside out as we enter the hackathon and focus solely on the problem. This time is different. We don’t know the tech or how we are going to build our solution.

The hackathon is very well done on quite a number of fronts. It reminds me of the golden age of hackathons, which I put in the 2013 to 2014 timeframe. What makes it great:

  1. Corporate representation: the folks from AT&T and Magic Leap are top notch. Seriously. In the golden age, you often had CTO/CIOs from the sponsoring company at the hackathons with their direct reports there to help guide your ideas. AT&T folks were instrumental by giving candid feedback to our mediocre first concept, and helping us hone and lock down a far better second concept. Without them, without their help on the idea, all the technical help would’ve been a waste of time.
  2. Technical representation: This event is interesting because it’s a dual headline, AT&T AND Magic Leap. The Magic Leap team is also on point, I feel even more so than at Leap Con. Last year, I just didn’t get the impression that the team was there to sit down with devs and get them coding, stop roadblocks as they learned, etc. There was a whole conference going on and lots of people to talk to. Here though, the team runs a workshop and then constantly follows up helping throughout the event. Whenever we are stuck, it is no more than 5 minutes before we are unstuck with the Magic Leap team’s help. When you only have 36 hours to go from idea to demo, every minute counts and having immediate help is not just “nice to have”. It’s downright required. The Magic Leap team knows not just their platform, but also Unity, a 3rd party tool.
  3. Biz Dev: Both companies have biz dev people there. Hearing them talk about things, hearing what they need, hearing them extrapolate on what the future holds, all that is priceless. To hear how these large corporations see the future, to be able to tell yourself, “I can implement this component of that concept” is something I’ve never had at a hackathon.

Sidenote: I’m a native kinda guy. That’s why I bypassed Java and the JVM in the 2000s and went for more web platform specific languages. On the mobile side of the house, I am a native SDK fan, especially in the iOS world: UIKit, ARKit, SpriteKit, SceneKit, etc. I have avoided Unity like the plague, because I threw it into the same camp as Java. Instead though, Unity is more like Flash when the platform was the web. Unity’s platform is more about making it fun to build your idea and get it on the platform you’re aiming for. It’s striving for a lot more than just “Write once, run anywhere”. That was a big aha moment for me as well. In all honesty, I like Unity and look forward to using it more and more moving forward.

Catching the Vision vs Providing the Vision

Typically, when we go to hackathons and in particular to the ones we’ve won, we present our vision of what the sponsoring company should do/build. The companies are adrift and seeking something to anchor themselves too. That’s how we’re used to working. We’re used to providing the vision.

At this hackathon though, the tables turn. Everyone there catches the vision from both AT&T and Magic Leap. The amazing thing about this is that there is no huge presentation, no canned “Let us explain what spatial computing is so you can get it.” They don’t try to beat some concept into us. Instead, they toss out some concepts, provide devices to play with and the support to let us catch the vision as they see it.

The winners from the hackathon prove just how successful that plan was. I’m not sure how many people there, AT&T, Magic Leap and participants included, know just how singular the event is. When I heard the teams talk after awards, it’s not “Oh well, that was fun, time to go back to life as normal.” It’s definitely more like, “Oh who cares if we won, we’re doing this. We’re building this. We’re gonna change the landscape.”

It’s like that legend about how everyone who bought the first Velvet Underground album started a band. I think the same will be said of this event. Many a companies will be birthed from this event. One or two might succeed, while most will fail. Those that fail will morph into other companies with other spatial computing ideas, but no one in attendance I think will ever go back to thinking of computing in the “normal” sense.

Stepping into the Future vs Building for Ubiquity

Josh Littlefield of Magic Leap holds the honor of bringing about one of the few turning points of my professional life. The first was the guy from Disney (whose name I never got) that told me I was a consultant and that if I didn’t charge appropriately, I was stupid so I started charging consultant prices. The next was when I made my first iPhone app and the thrill I experienced as I “touched” my software creations for the first time. The third is my conversation with Josh.

All my life, I’ve looked at various new technologies as they are announced. Most of the time, I pass em with a “meh” type attitude. Those I do fall for, I fall for deeply and think, “Once this is everywhere, what would that allow me to build?” I then think up an idea and try to implement it. For about 2 decades, I’ve done that and for 2 decades, I’ve been frustrated as I’ve been 5 to 10 years too early for every idea of mine.

What I never thought of and what Josh helped me see with a clarity so singular that it shook me to my core was this:

“Your idea is like step 3 of 3, once the technology is everywhere. However, right now, companies need help with step 1. They want to get to step 3, but they can’t just take the leap of faith there. They can’t because their customers need help getting there just as much as they do. You need to show them step 1, you need to help them move in the direction so that you can eventually implement and sell your step 3.”

Read that again. If you build anything for the future, I cannot stress how profound those seemingly simple statements are. So much frustration in my life has been around “Why don’t people get this? Why don’t companies understand this is how things will be?” Then time passes and when I’m proven right, I throw my hands up and say, “See! Why didn’t you listen?”

The problem there is that I am the issue. I am the problem. I don’t take the time to give steps. I don’t take the time to break my concept down further and further into digestible bite size pieces. Instead, I want to jam (or at times, slam) the whole enchilada into their mouth to chew and swallow in one go. (The hilarious thing there is I take small bites and chew notoriously long! ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ )

At the event, Josh also hints at some other ideas about spatial computing that just never crossed my simple mind. These hints open up pathways and trails to a future I had not imagined; I can see things clearly now but, more importantly, cannot unsee the future I’ve now glimpsed.

Final Thoughts

It’s the combination of all these things that makes that last weekend in September a huge turning point for me. It’s rare in life that we get to experience these turning points. Being involved with technology professionally helps you encounter many different types of tech, but accordingly you get to see which ones have legs and which ones don’t. The joy I receive from these turning points is what keeps me in tech. It’s the fuel that feeds my soul’s burning passion for building the future.

One of the best parts of turning points is how not only does excitement return, but your vision expands to provide you with at least another decade or two worth of ideas. You then have to start the process of filtering and, what I just learned, simplifying those ideas so that you can implement. Atop of that, I still have ideas for the mobile space that I need to wrap up before moving on permanently to spatial computing. Ideas that still may benefit from the step process I just learned.

What can I say? It’s a great time to be alive and I love my job now more so than ever before! If you want to bring some of this enthusiasm into your organization, you can by reaching out to my team at Omega Ortega. I can’t wait to show you what I have in mind, especially since Magic Leap announced the new Concepts section of their store.

On Being Special

In Uncategorized on September 3, 2016 at 9:55 am

http://theoatmeal.com/comics/unhappy

This describes me in high school & college. I used to be obsessively creative. I often wrote several poems a day or several short stories a week or labored over a drawing for hours on end for days and days. I would listen to people talk at school noting how many topics were covered and what the sentences were that switched the topics. I’d put headphones on with no music so I could get really close to strangers and listen to the cadence of their conversations, to note how the were blunt or dancing around a topic, and their word choice. I remember having this huge capacity to love and since no girl wanted me to love them, I directed all that emotion and energy into creative works.

Traveling soon replaced creative energy. Seeing how other people lived around the world became a past time for me. I still love to watch people when I travel. I love to pick out the tourists from the natives as I depart a plane and walk around a city.

I guess I’ve always felt connected to the world without actually being connected to it.

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My first iPhone app – A Flex app port naturally! :)

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2009 at 2:54 pm

Fair readers of this blog may recall my Tic-Tac-Toe posts from awhile back.  The gist of the posts was this: I wanted to learn game dev, so I built a Tic-Tac-Toe game in Flex.  The plan was to start with really poorly written mxml files and then gradually improve them to more advanced AS3 files.  You can play the finished game here.  Now it was a lot of hardcoded logic, poor design, etc, but the point was to get something working pronto.

I pulled that game up the other day because my son and I like to play Tic-Tac-Toe on paper.  After a few minutes of playing online, my 5-year old threw down the gauntlet, “Dad, can I play this on the iPod [touch]?”  Never to be one to step away from a challenge, I said, “Not this one.  I’ll have to make a new one just for the iPod.”  To which he replied, “Okay, let me know when it’s done.”

That’s the thing about kids.  They don’t know, nor do they care, about how hard something is.  They just want to know when the final product is done, whether that be a baby brother or an iPod Touch game. Read the rest of this entry »

Bloggers vs News Agencies: -1 for News Agencies

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2009 at 9:27 pm

This one will be short. Over the years, bloggers have received grief about not being professional enough. This grief has come from big news agencies. I’ll agree, at times, bloggers do have a more lax feel to their posts. They may not have editors like news firms have, but their passion more than makes up for it.

HOWEVER, big news agencies are now losing credence in my mind these days. The drivel that is coming from them is frustrating.  I’m not talking about content either.  I’m talking about grammar.  It’s the one area where “professional” journalism is supposed to shine.  Sadly, more and more, it is not.  Here are three examples from the Reuters News Agency:

#1 Berkshire net sinks; Buffett says economy in shambles:

“Though the path has not been smooth, our economic system has worked extraordinarily well over time,” [Buffet] said. “It has unleashed human potential as no other system has, and it will continue to do so. America’s best days lie ahead.

Berkshire generates about half its results from insurance, including auto insurer Geico Corp, but operates more than 70 businesses that offer such things as carpeting, ice cream, paint, real estate services and underwear.

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Leaving the Valley, Geeks and Workday for the Desert, Family and my Startup

In 360Conferences, 360Flex, Business, Community, eBay, flex training, Kids, Silicon Valley Living, silvafug, Uncategorized on January 9, 2009 at 10:58 am

Yup, you read that right.  It’s been a wonderful 3+ years in Silicon Valley, but it’s time to head to the desert of Queen Creek, Arizona.  I jump started my career here.  It’s funny to say that because I moved here when I was 30!  But these past 3 years did more for my professional life than my previous 12 years of working in Southern California.

There are two reasons I’m moving.  One is sappy and is detailed on this post over on my spiritual blog.

The other is related to my day-to-day activities.  In these tough economic times, I feel lucky and sad at the same time.  Some out there do not have a job or are stuck in a deadend job.  I, on the other hand, have two great opportunities in my life.

The first is my employer for the past year and a half, Workday.  Many people come to the Valley in search of that great startup to join.  Workday definitely fits the bill.  The people are incredibly talented and the work is some of the most challenging out there.  My team is one of the best I’ve ever worked for.  (If you want to join the Workday UI team, drop me a note and your resume/cv at tom.ortega@gmail.com) Read the rest of this entry »

Flex code (read: my Tic-Tac-Toe game) on my Playstation 3!

In Flash*Flex*AS, Playstation3, Programming, Technology and Software, Uncategorized, Video Games on December 3, 2008 at 10:08 am

You fair readers of my blog may remember a post from waaaaaay back in the day entitled Playstation 3.  In it, I talk about being excited to run Flex Apps on my PS3.  Sadly, my pretty HD console only ran Flash Player 7, so Flex was not an option.  At MAX, I saw a big fat PS3 image and was hoping that Kevin Lynch would say, “Flash Player 9 is now on the Playstation 3!”  He didn’t so I assumed it wasn’t yet.  Then Renaun posted this!  Adobe has issues about making noise sometimes.  How did the blogosphere not light up on this news?  Well, maybe it did, but I somehow missed it.

Naturally, I went and did what the PS3 was meant to do: Play a game!  In this case, it was my very own Tic-Tac-Toe game.  Check it out!

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Secret Matrix Footage Reveals the Truth about AIR

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2007 at 10:16 am

I get a phone call late last night. The voice sounds distant. I hear talk of Zion and of Neo. I try to ask what they are talking about, but the voice just says. “Visit the site. See the truth.”

I quickly run to my computer and pull it up. My eyes are open. I can see now. We must share the message with the world. We must let the truth be known.

See for yourself. Spread the word. Freedom is in the AIR.

< Sorry, you get the blue pill (i.e. the vid was pulled) />

The software-formerly-known-as-FDS has gone open source!

In Uncategorized on December 13, 2007 at 8:00 am

In case you haven’t heard, the server side messaging component of Flex is also going open source.

The Computerworld article:

http://www.computerworld.com/action/article.do?command=viewArticleBasic&articleId=9052638&source=NLT_AM&nlid=1

From internet news:

http://www.internetnews.com/dev-news/article.php/3716331

CNET’s coverage:

http://www.internetnews.com/dev-news/article.php/3716331

Bravo, Adobe!

Adobe Engage: It’s what I imagined the Valley would be

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2007 at 8:10 am

When I moved from the Los Angeles area to the Silicon Valley, I had nerdy delusions of grandeur. Just like those who do the reverse expect to see movie stars and red carpets everywhere they go, I too expected to see nerds and interesting conferences around every bend in the Valley. Suffice to say, for the most part, I was wrong, but yesterday Adobe helped make my delusions come true.

Adobe Engage is what I would think every company would want to do. Take a bunch of smart people, put them in a room, let ’em strut their stuff, talk tech, talk biz, and see what happens. I felt more like the fly on the wall instead of a major contributor to the conversation, only because I couldn’t believe that events like this really take place.

My notes are at the end of this post, but I have to say, “Mad props to Ryan Stewart.” How you can blog while taking in an event like this amazes me. I started out with high hopes of noting every speaker/discussion, but then I got distracted by following the event. My apologies if you feel I under covered the event in my notes. Go check Ryan’s rather prolific posts instead.

Dave had a good point that was refreshing to hear from the Sponsor. “The most interesting and best part of the day will probably be the evening reception when everyone gets to chat.” When I drank, I thought the whole network thing was overrated. “It’s a chance to drink, period.” Now that I don’t drink, it’s even more apparent how important it is to network, especially at an event like this. I did the whole biz card shuffle, but it’s neat to just talk to geeks (more on that thought in the next post).

All in all, it was a great event because of the people present and the discussions that did go down. Bravo, Adobe! I can’t wait for Engage Too (sic).

Here’s my notes:

Engage
——

David Mendels welcomes the group. Brings up a good point: “Put a bunch of smart people into a room, and good things will happen.” Crowd is purposefully diverse. The event is a catalyst for a conversation.

Round the room intros. I always like that. It’s always nice to put faces to names.

Kevin talks about what Adobe is doing to help people engage each other. Adobe is about engaging users across multiple forms. Print, Web, etc. Acrobat readers updates will be better (read: less painful) next year. PDF Reader will not bring Flash Player down. Designer/Developer Tools(Creative Suite, Studio, Flex Builder), clients (flash, pdf), servers (Flash Media Server, FlashCast, LiveCycle+Flex Data Services, ColdFusion) and Applications (Acrobat, Connect). Tim and Kevin chit chat on whether end users want a consistant experience across the board. Tim’s suggesting that Adobe teach companies how to better serve their customers by using the tools correctly. Kevin and Jeremy chatted back in the Macromedia days about the non-page paradigm that became Apollo, such as icons on your desktop, can’t raise notifications. Kevin pulls up a RIA Tech Trend chart. “It’s a little bit confusing, sorry.” platforms is the y series (windows -> cross-platform -> cross-Phone/Device) and technology is x series(web pages -> browser RIA -> desktop RIA -> native desktop app). Apollo 06 is starting (2 x 2) bottom-left and moving up and right in 07/08, MS is starting bottom right 1×1 (“not to scale”) and moving up-right in 07/08. Apollo is looking to do local file access, online/offline detection and events, drag-and-drop, clipboard access, background processing, multiple windows support, custom window chrome, etc. (Sorry, got wrapped up in the preso/discussion) Kevin shows eBay app.

Jeremy Allaire showed off Brightcove Aftermix. Poor Jeremy took a little beating on his nomenclature of “consumer” vs “creator”. Aftermix would be cool for people to create music videos with for their favorite songs.

InteliSea show’s its sweet little Yacht controlling app. We saw this at the “Meet the Flex Team” meeting. A very cool little app that unfortunately has a $27M price tag, but it comes with a yacht.

Acesis – Point-of-Care – Way to enter/track patient interview with minimum click and easily extendable forms

B-Line Medical – SimCube – for running medical simulations and coordinating

Adobe Kuler demo within Illustrator – very kule

Adobe Digital Editions demos Aboder Ligtweight Reader, Flex 2 interface

General theme is that Adobe has to be careful to keep the end users in mind, not just the content providers.

Interesting post-lunch – “Is Apollo Valid?” discussion

Sho chatting up flex. =) Show’s off Ely’s cool stuff like the anatomy book

There was more, but that’s all I got.

Free Flex Training

In Uncategorized on November 1, 2006 at 8:55 am

That’s right. Your eyes ain’t deceiving ya. This is bonafide, real-deal training on Adobe’s Flex Product line. The training will be performed by me, so take it with a grain of salt, cuz it ain’t my day job. However, it’s absolutely and completely free! Stay for the meeting afterwards and you’ll even get free pizza and drinks to boot! How sweet is that?

I’m very excited to be able to provide this to the community. My employer, eBay, has given me their support and Adobe has volunteered to help any way they can. Lastly, roundpeg is going to be there to pick up the training where I leave off. If you’re curious about Flex and serious about learning it, then you need to be there. More details can be found at http://www.silvafug.org .

I know that some of the local boys (eBay, Yahoo, Google) are jumping on the Flex bandwagon. If you work there, be sure to post the flier (found at http://www.silvafug.org/docs/free_flex_training.pdf ) around the office and take advantage of this opportunity.

See you there!