CSE 190a Autumn 2016 - Women in Computing Seminar

Week 8 - VR Start-up Field Trip!


This week, we had an opportunity to get a look inside a local start-up, 8Ninths. 8Ninths specializes in "solving real-world problems" using the newest technologies and methodologies, and have spent the last 18 months focusing on VR development to solve these problems.

We had a unique opportunity to actually meet and hear from the CEO and co-founder, Adam Shepphard. During his presentation, Adam talked about his experience transitioning from a role at IBM in the United Kingdom, to a start-up in San Fransisco, to Seattle when Microsoft acquired the start-up, and eventually as a co-founder to 8Ninths. He shared very interesting perspectives about the pros and cons in large tech companies and smaller start-ups, which will be very relevant to the upcoming internship and career decisions you will face in these next few years!

During the presentation, we saw the integration of technology, marketing, business, design, and user research within the 14-person company. As was discussed, start-ups provide a unique opportunity for individuals to explore many different roles. Adam mentioned that "generalists" were often stronger start-up employees than "specialists" for this reason, and if you are interested in a number of different things during your education at UW, you may find that start-ups may provide more opportunities to fulfill multiple interests and curiosity than a larger company where you may need to work with hundreds to thousands of other developers on the same project.

After Adam's presentation, we heard from a few other employees about their experiences as women in technology and how they became involved at 8Ninths. The Creative Director, Heather, shared how her early interests in design and performance led to graduate school and ultimately a post-doc here at the UW in the DXArts program.

Jaime shared that she became involved in the start-up as an office assistant, and is now a program manager 5 years later. Start-ups often provide this kind of quick role escalation to individuals who show self-drive and passion for the company, and this can be a very exciting experience as well as one that requires more responsibility than you might find in a more established company.

After we heard from different perspectives of the team members, we got a chance to see some of their work using the Microsoft Hololens devices. For many of us, this was our first experience with VR, and hopefully you found it pretty cool! There are a ton of companies, big and small, starting to invest in this kind of technology, so if you're interested in getting more involved with it, you may find a company in Seattle that offers internship opportunities for work in AR/VR!

Following the tour, I wanted to share a couple of resources based on student questions/discussions. First, last year there was a VR capstone in the CSE department, which was the first one of its kind. It was a unique opportunity for students to have access to new VR technology and have projects to develop apps and games with them. Many of their demo videos are published online, and you can find all of the final project videos here. They're definitely worth checking out!

The VR Capstone also required teams to document their work throughout the 10-week projects with a team blog. Here are a few of the student blogs if you're interested in reading about the project development process!

  • Holo Paint: A collaborative whiteboard drawing Hololens application
  • KeyboARd: The first AR piano lessons
  • ARails: an AR game to build tracks and simulate vehicle motiion within the current phsyical environment
  • HoloChess: VR chess
  • HoloCook: VR cooking tutorials

If you're interested in exploring more AR/VR on your own, the capstone website has a great list of resources for learning and using this kind of technology.

If you'd like to know more about start-ups in general, there are plenty of opportunities in the local Seattle area! Did you know we have our very own Startup Hall? Students can find existing startup teams or pitch their own startup ideas - there are various startup career fairs during the year, and you can tour the space (near Condon Hall/West Campus) during business hours. I also know some students who are employees at Startup Hall, so this is also a pretty unique employment opportunity that can offer some great networking connections if you're interested in getting more involved.