Dave, Converged and Inspired, Eyeo 2015

Hey! I’m Dave Boyle, a Unity developer here at Globacore.

I come from the game design world. To me, the conferences I dreamed of being a part of were ones like GDC or Siggraph. When I was asked to attend this year’s Eyeo Festival, to take in the talks, scribble down as many notes as I could, and then go to the evening networking events, I was more than happy to do it (we were demoing one of our games at the show, after all), but I wasn’t sure how relevant any of it would be to me personally in my day to day. After spending last week in Minneapolis, I can safely say that, and I mean this in the most pun-filled way possible — Eyeo was incredibly eye opening (Eyeo-pening? Get it? Hey wait, come back!). As it happens, their motto of “Converge to inspire” is spot on, and I have come back to Toronto topped-up on inspiration.


“Prepare your butts for science” — Nicky Case

Highlights

  • Jesse Kriss from JPL gave an amazing talk about his work with the Mars rover and using a Microsoft Hololens to enable scientists to walk around the mapped parts of the planet. They use this visual / spatial data to inform what tasks they want to have the rover perform. We live in the future.
  • Nick Hardeman and Theo Watson from design.io presented their latest creation: Connected Worlds. It was described as a much bigger and more ambitious take on their Funky Forest project. An interactive ecosystem where children can create trees and then provide enough water to the ecosystem to have them thrive. Their creature designs were fantastic and the world they created is beautiful. The depth and complexity of the experience was impressive. The design choices they made were inspiring. My inner game designer loved this talk.
  • Yuri Suzuki made this. I want one. Real bad.
  • Reza Ali talked about his process — from concept to writing algorithms in openFrameworks to make his art, to printing it on the CNC machine at Autodesk’s Pier 9 facility. I have been playing around with openFrameworks ever since this talk. Check out his Instructables page. Inspiring stuff.
  • The team from NPL Labs gave a great talk on how they used public collaboration and a touch of gamification to help catalog, index, and create useful and accessible data for visitors out of old archives such as old maps of New York, turn of the century stereoscopic images, and even thousands of old restaurant menus.

“Simple but not simplified” — Casey Reas

What I took from Eyeo

One of the biggest takeaways is the notion that “less is more” in terms of design and the overall user experience. Take the talk from design.io as an example: an incredibly ambitious project, tons of hardware, systems layered upon systems layered upon net code, and yet, to kids visiting the Hall of Science in New York, it’s as simple as walking into the room and experimenting.

It can be easy to get caught up in registration and capturing metrics and making elaborate plans to get users to visit strategic points in your booth space, and that all of that has a real potential of taking the “moment of awe” away from the user, as it can get lost beneath layers of process work that has to take place before they can experience your creation. We’ve done work recently in capturing metrics via a badge scanning app — you can just tap in and continue on your way. I’d love to see that continue where possible, so that we can take care of that end of the experience and then get out of the users way and let them take in our work.

Related to that is the notion that it is better to let your users explore and experiment than have everything explained to them — which can get tricky in a giant booth in the middle of a convention center packed with 30,000 people who want to see your cool thing and move on to the next cool thing. Regardless, it’s something that I think is worth further thought.

Another takeaway that is maybe a bit more specific is something that Jesse Kriss said in his (Science) Fiction and Design talk — Write a press release for a project before you actually start working on it. It helps to define, in a clear and concise way, what it is you’re setting out to make, before you set out to make it. I really like the idea and I’ll be trying that out on my next project to really help define the vision before I get into the trenches coding.


“I distrust shiny things” — Jesse Kriss

Further Inspiration

There’s so much I saw at Eyeo, it’d take me forever to write about it all. Instead, have some links:


“Now that it’s in the public space, it’s no longer mine, it’s the public’s” — Meejin Yoon

Wrap Up

I left Eyeo inspired. The talks were great, the people were brilliant, the cupcakes were delicious. I finally got around to installing openFrameworks on my laptop, thanks to its constant mention by so many of the speakers I saw. I’m working through the documentation and playing around with it now. I’m really enjoying it so far. My copy of Unity is jealous that I’m splitting my time.

As for our game installation that we demoed to attendees on Tuesday night, everyone who played it seemed to really enjoy it. I have some notes on how to continue to iterate on the game thanks to their amazing feedback.

One final word of advice: the bike rentals in Minneapolis are cheap, and a great way to get around town. Highly recommended. One other, final-er word of advice: Beware the Jucy Lucy. That thing is no joke.

-Dave (@boylie)

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