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Allen “Prisoner” Firstenberg


I want to assure +Scott Maxwell​ that, yes, I had a damn good time on his guided tour of Spirit's journey.
So Google asked me to jet up to SF for a day to help show off Google Expeditions, a way to take students on a virtual field trip for essentially no cost using their nifty Cardboard VR headset. They'd set up a field trip to the American Museum of Natural History, and one to some coral reefs -- and one through the life of the very best Mars rover ever, Spirit.

I couldn't say no.

So this is what that was like for me. It's a bit of a whirlwind tour, but that's appropriate, since it was a whirlwind for me, too.

As it turns out, I spent a few hours taking enthusiastic audiences through a criminally abbreviated tour of Spirit's life. All of the hard work had already been done by +Emily Lakdawalla, so I just needed to show up and run my mouth.

I've said for years that the thing I liked best about working on Mars rovers wasn't just joy-riding around other planets. Don't get me wrong, that was great. But the best part is, since the missions share all their images promptly on the Web, anybody who wants to can ride along on the mission with me -- they can be a backseat rover driver, as I say.

This took that to a whole new level. Instead of listening to me ramble about static images, trying to convey in words what I find to be so magic about this experience, the audience could stand there on Mars with me while I told them about it.

Discovering with me, with Spirit, that the rocks we'd come 500 million kilometers to see were, geologically, the wrong kind -- a bust. Finding hope on the horizon, but too far away. Struggling there anyway, against all odds. Climbing a mountain the height of the Statue of Liberty, and then pressing on to its other side. And, last of all, fouling in a cruel Martian tar-pit trap, sinking and gasping for sunlight and then going gently, and finally, to that long sleep.


I hope they had a damn good time. Because I know I did.

If you're a teacher -- or curious -- you can learn more about Expeditions here:
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Scott “marsroverdriver” Maxwell's profile photoBernadette Hinton's profile photo
:-D Phew!
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And now it's time to say goodbye...

And just like that... things started to wind down. The displays closed. The work crews arrived to get ready for the next conference. Farewells were bid to friends whom we wouldn't see for another year, perhaps. Pictures were taken.

I've said many times that Google I/O isn't about the technology. It isn't about the sessions, or presentations, or displays.

It is about the people.

The Google engineers who we meet who help make the tools we use. The DevRel people who are there to help us learn The GDEs and GDGs who become our daily contact. The project managers and executives who drive the company, as a whole, forward with their visions. The guy you sit down to have lunch with.

+Gerwin Sturm and +Anna Kastlunger have become wonderful friends over the nearly five years we've known each other. I finally met Gerwin for the first time at I/O 2012, and still can't pronounce his name correctly. I met Anna a year later at I/O 2013. I follow the progress of their garden through the year. Perhaps this will be the year I get to Europe, and I hope to visit them while there. But till then... it is farewell for now.

This ends my semi-live notes from #io15. I'll have a few more posts over the next few days and weeks as I write longer notes about things, or watch the video from some of the sessions I couldn't make. I want to thank all of you who followed from home or from an I/O Extended event, commented, challenged, and asked questions. I hope you got a flavor of what the I/O experience was like. My thanks, especially, to +Linda Lawton, who couldn't make it to I/O this year but covered it from home for the +Google Developer Experts page.

Hope to see you at I/O 2016.
Allen “Prisoner” Firstenberg's profile photoGoogle Developer Experts's profile photoBrian Dorsey's profile photoGerwin Sturm's profile photo
Good question. I'd say there were about a dozen or two people wearing Glass, and I knew about half of them personally. I was interviewed on line by a Mashable reporter who was surprised to see someone wearing Glass... when he suddenly noticed someone else behind me also wearing it.
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At #io15, it gets pretty easy to get caught up in all the new and cool and flashy. Cars that drive themselves. Internet for the next Billion people. Letting your kids use a chromebook or a tablet. How things look better and cooler and what you have on your wrist and using your fingers to control a virtual knob. And we can gripe about how the real-time video stream is glitchy or our flight was delayed or our new phone only has a 20MP camera.

And sometimes, you step back, and realize that for some people... technology will help them put a spoon with food in their mouths. Or help them walk. Or see or hear. And if it does nothing more than that - it will be enough.
George Kozi's profile photo
 ultimately we all need to keep it real.
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ATAP: Stories

Spotlight Stories:
“Live theater persists in the face of cinema.
Radio persists in the face of television.”
“The Secrets of Storytelling” Jeremy Hsu, SciAm 2008.
“Storytelling is one of the few human traits that are truly universal across culture and all known history.”
“We are wired for stories. It is part of being human.”
How do we enable more creators to create more stories? We create an SDK - Story Development Kit.
Need to work out a story in space as well as time.
“We are trying to predict the curiosity of the viewer, and make it very seamless.”
Spotlight Stories app for Android, and iOS soon. This summer supported natively on YouTube mobile.
existing 360 cameras were insufficient - 4 cameras with fisheye lenses at 6k resolution each. on-set live stitching and preview.
Dynamic surround sound. “Subtle and rich and realistic acoustic spaces. In real time. 360. Mobile”
Justin Lin
(wtf was that demo movie? Most people kept looking forward, and it was never clear where one should be looking. And the direction perspective kept changing.)
(Glenn Keene! awesome!)

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ATAP: Projects Soli and Jacquard

“We’ve been talking about wearables for two decades, maybe longer. […] There has been some underlying scientific principle that we’re missing. And if we can find it, it might unlock new strategies."

Paul M. Fitts. June, 1954. “The information Capacity of the Human Motor System in Controlling the Amplitude of Movement”

Ivan Poupyrev. (2012)

Smart watch is right about at the limit of our physical capabilities.

Project Soli seeks to increase bandwidth.
Project Jacquard seeks to increase the surface area.

Project Soli:
We can do sensitive things with our hands, but we can’t do that with our UIs today. Fingers have high bandwidth that our elbows don’t have. For example, we can use pointer tools to do fine things.
What if you have virtual subtle gestures with your hand? Your hand provides direct feedback.
“Very very ergonomic”
But we need a sensor that can capture sub-milimeter motions of your fingers without putting things on your hand.
Cameras struggle with overlap fingers. Capacitive isn’t sensitive enough. Radar can do most of this, fast, precise and through materials. But it doesn’t fit in a watch.
Gesture radar.
Release prototype hardware to developers later this year with a full API to monitor any stage of the input pipeline.

Project Jacquard:
“about textiles” - similarity with multi-touch sensors in our phones.
Weave multi-touch panels like any other textile.
Making these textiles at scale. 19B garments worldwide per year. Need to use existing industrial systems to do this.
Invented yarns that were more conductive, more usable in manufacturing, and more colorful.
We expect it to sense your entire hand and presence, but you can also do fingers, or waves, or multi-touch.
This is not a replacement of a touch-screen. But it is doable using broad gestures of your hand or body.
(Did he just show a tailor ironing the cloth?)
(He’s wearing the jacket!)

Levi’s, a major San Francisco company, is a partner. They’re speaking.
“Use of a copper rivet at a point of weakness to solve a problem. There is a symmetry to using a copper core.”
“There is a similarity between Sutter’s Mill and Silicon Valley.” (That isn’t really as uplifting a comparison as I think he was making.)
“We live in a beautiful richly textured real world. […] but need to interact with the digital world. IF we can deliver value in the realm of clothes to solve this…”
“Now, my friends, you are all fashion designers along with us.”

(See, Dahling? +Linda Lawton wasn't so far off! #io15)
Linda Lawton's profile photoMike Trieu (MegasChara)'s profile photo
+Linda Lawton I, for one, welcome our new Buy 'n Large overlords. Try blue, it's the new red!

I'm only half-kidding, too. The future is already here. It's just not evenly distributed.
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From Office Hours to After Hours

This was the second year they held the After Hours party on the first day of #io15 in the nearby Yerba Buena park. Lots of stuff scattered all around for people to see... but mostly, lots of people to chat with.

People kept asking what I thought of Photos... I'll have a summary of my thoughts later. {:
Allen “Prisoner” Firstenberg's profile photoGeorge Kozi's profile photoMoritz Tolxdorff's profile photoChris Vukin's profile photo
Those strawberries were #absolutelyfabulous 
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Tomorrow and Tomorrow and...

Followup from my earlier post, because +Martin Omander (lead North American +Google Developer Experts and +Google Developer Groups wrangler) posted pictures of his kid as part of the I/O Youth program and graciously said that I could reshare them.

"It had nothing to do with me being a Googler. Google went to the Elementary School and asked if they wanted to participate."

Hopefully Martin will share some more info about what the kids did Friday at #io15.
Theuerkauf goes to Google I/O Youth
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Google Developer Experts's profile photoMartin Omander's profile photo
The kids wrote code to make a yeti dance, coded a rover to climb a moon mountain and made cartoon movies. They seemed to have a lot of fun and the energy was great! 
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There were clusters of teens and tweens around the building as we arrived for the second day of #io15, and it wasn't immediately obvious why. We eventually found out - there were a few hundred students there participating in a Youth I/O day. They were mostly hidden on the third floor, away from the masses, but we would see clusters of them occasionally.

+Nitya Narasimhan and I were standing together when we heard the explanation. And looking forward to when our kids will be old enough to participate.
Libby Chang's profile photoNitya Narasimhan's profile photoAllen “Prisoner” Firstenberg's profile photo
+Nitya Narasimhan - The keynote hall was transformed into the Youth area - this picture was taken outside that area (and while I could peek in when doors opened, I was not going to take pictures).

See my later post - +Martin Omander provided some pictures and commentary for what was going on from his child's first-hand experiences.
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ATAP: Project ARA

Basic demo. With selfie after adding a camera.
The camera worked.


Allen “Prisoner” Firstenberg's profile photoCJ Dulberger's profile photo
I meant the entire ATAP presentation, but, the ARA demo was pretty cool too.
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ATAP: Security

“Passwords suck. Squirrel noises are not scalable.”
“We need patterns to remember things.”
Continuum of trust by looking at human pattern (how you type… how you talk… etc) perhaps with multi-modal authentication. Tests indicate that this may be much better than fingerprints and PINs.
Possibly a continuous trust score that evaluates behavior along the day, continuously updated, in real time.

Project Vault:
Hardware and software isolated environment.
Secure SIM for communication and storage.
(Being really vague here.)
“Separate, ultra-secure, microcomputer”
Virtual file system with incredibly limited access point.
Fully open source hardware.
(This is very very nifty. But it changes the attack point for any communication or data storage. I don't think it solves as many problems as they seem to be saying.)

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ATAP: Big Picture Inspiration

The ATAP briefing was billed as something that would "knock your socks off" in a literal sense. Didn't quite make it to that point, but it did have some good acoustics.

“Full of doer-dreamers… who dare to try… even when we may fail.”

“…where you take the risk… and you make something new.”

“Welcome to ATAP! Game on!”

Google Spotlight Stories
“We’re making a mobile movie theater, and it opens today.”

“Passwords and PINs are the relics of an inconvenient past.”

“the answer is out there, somewhere, if we are humble enough to find it.”


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Astro Teller on Glass

The topic of his presentation was about failing fast and soft-landing moonshots into the real world. So I asked Astro Teller to talk about how he thought Google [x] handled bringing Glass into the public eye.

More or less the answer I expected - he opened by saying that it graduated, and had a promising future, but that they handed some parts of the Explorer experiment poorly. And he thanked Explorers for being part of the project.


Allen “Prisoner” Firstenberg's profile photoStacy Sanchez's profile photo
I joined the glass explorers community to follow along, but when Google changed its algorithm, they've all disappeared from my feed. I'll check out your posts and watch the video. 

Can't watch yet. Video processing...
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Allen's Collections
Let me tell you a story...
...or tell me one of yours.

Our lives are made up of stories, and is a story in itself.  Stories are fact or fiction, can be told by a wandering minstrel or projected on the big screen, are written in books or woven into games, are heard through poetry or prose in many styles, let us experience the tale with sound or silence, and can stimulate any or every one of our senses and emotions.

It has been my goal in life to understand stories and storytellers, to help people tell stories, to explore new ways to tell those stories, and to enjoy and appreciate the stories swirling around us.

So come... sit by the fire.  Let us share a story for a little while.
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Other names
Prisoner, Allen Firstenberg, Allen "Prisoner" Firstenberg, Jean Valjean
Software Visioning and Development
I was a kickstarter backer of this store, but actually trying their donuts exceeded my expectations. It is clear that the staff both care about the quality of their donuts, coffee, and other drinks, and want to make sure their customers enjoy themselves. From the quirky and interactive decor (wifi still isn't working on that typewriter?) to explaining every step of their pour-over coffee if you ask, the attention to detail is outstanding. Their Maple-Bacon donut is their signature item, but I have yet to find a flavor from their ever-changing menu that I have not thoroughly enjoyed. I'm not a coffee drinker, but they have plenty of other varieties of quality drinks to quench your thirst. Visit. Enjoy. Share.
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