My first time at WWDC, as a scholarship winner.
WWDC18 just wrapped up last week and it was quite amazing, partly because its the first one I’ve been to.
On April 20th, I got the news that I was accepted to the Apple Scholarship program for WWDC — what that meant was that I was going to San Jose for WWDC for free. What came with that was also the scholarship experience, which was absolutely amazing.
On Sunday, the day before the main keynote, all scholarship winners had an orientation to go to. Weeks before the event, they had told us they would be taking us to ‘a secret location’ and that they would be shuttling us there on buses. This location turned out to be Apple Park. For those who don’t know, Apple Park is basically a little city designed by Apple for its employees — or some, at least. The fact that we got the opportunity to visit Apple Park was mind-blowing. They greeted us with an open buffet, full of options, at Caffe Macs.
After that, they walked us over to the Steve Jobs Theatre. Like I said, it was basically a city. The theatre is an amazing piece of architecture, down to the smallest detail. I found myself cold in there, even though they told us there was no air conditioning — it was all in the material and how it was built that allowed air to flow through.
We were then seated downstairs in the actual theatre and Esther Hare welcomed us and congratulated us. We then went through a few presentations, about accessibility and world impact, with the main theme of impacting everyone in the world in the same way through our apps.
After that, we took a group picture and then a wild Tim Cook appeared in the middle of the crowd. People all around him tried to get through and take a selfie with him. I am proud to say that I did get a selfie with him :). We then continued back up stairs and thought that was it. As we walked down to the exit, all the staff along the path kept saying “there’s one more thing down there.” By the way, there were cherry and apple trees all around us that we could actually eat from — it really is a magical place. When we arrived to the exit, they gave each of us a pair of AirPods. I’ve been using them ever since. Thanks Apple! Along with this, of course, we got our badge and jacket.
The next day was keynote day. I made sure to go to sleep early on Sunday and make sure to wake up bright and early to get breakfast in the morning and good seats in the keynote. Our seats were reserved, of course, but still. Breakfast was simple: fruits, pastries, and bagels with cream cheese and jam. As 10am approached, we began to line up near the conference room. I saw iJustine and Marques Brownlee in the Media line — that was pretty cool.
It was finally time, everyone rushed to the front of the room to get the best possible seats. Then again, our seats were reserved of course, but the hype was too strong. Tim Cook came on stage and it began. Years of watching this event live and now I’m finally here — unreal.
iOS 12 and Mojave
The biggest updates were to iOS and macOS. iOS iterated to iOS 12 and macOS High Sierra became macOS Mojave. Both updates were heavily behind-the-scenes.
iOS 12 included upgrades to performance speeds and transitions, as well as multi-tasking, while introducing some new features such as Screen Time and some changes to Do Not Disturb. You can also now FaceTime with up to 32 people and use a variety of cool new Animoji and even your own Memoji, exclusive to iPhone X. A lot of people have been calling the update bland because of the lack of any apparent changes or any design changes. That’s true, but Apple is focusing on making sure that your devices last now, at least with iOS 12. One thing that iOS 12 definitely focused on were changes to their augmented reality framework, ARKit 2. AR experiences can now be shared by two players on two separate devices — which is really cool. There’s also a new Measure app that allows you to use AR on your phone to measure items on a surface, such as a coin or piece of paper — something that could be really useful.
macOS Mojave is a juiced up High Sierra, in my opinion. It focused on organization of files and Finder changes, as well. It also introduced a new mode called Dark Mode. Once turned on, all applications and windows that are compatible turn into a dark version of the application. I’m currently on the Beta and have Dark Mode turned on — I don’t see myself turning it off anytime soon. A lot of changes are also tuned to us developers. New changes allow you to use Xcode to make your own Machine Learning framework really quickly and effortlessly. Mojave will also let developers utilize ARKit 2 in their app development for iOS 12.
Note: I will be doing in-depth articles on CoreML, CreateML and ARKit 2 — a technical and non-technical version of each. Be on the lookout for that!
There were other changes to the Apple Watch and Apple TV, but I have neither so…
The Rest of the Week
The rest of the week at WWDC contained a variety of different sessions and labs, covering topics from user interface to app security to advanced machine learning. Sessions would typically start everyday at 9am and end with the last one at around 5 or 6pm. There would be lunch everyday — usually given with three options with one being vegetarian. I have no idea if I’ll ever go to another WWDC so, just to be safe, I got all three lunch options every day.
The sessions and labs is what most people were excited for at WWDC, or any WWDC for that matter. It taught developers how to use the latest features and frameworks on their apps and make really cool experiences — which we all want to do.
There was also a tournament for SwiftShot, which is a sample app that Apple made to demo the use of multi-user AR experiences. It was a game where, on an empty table, you would place blocks and 6 slingshots, three on each side and for each player. The object was to knock out the other person’s three slingshots before they knock out yours. It was actually pretty fun and weirdly addictive. I won a game and got a sweet AR pin.
Each presenter at the sessions I went to and every engineer I asked help from at the labs were amazing and experts at what they were doing. It was inspiring to see them jump into topics and teach us the thought process behind some of the amazing things that Apple does.
The Nike Run
I did not go to the Nike run and will regret it for the rest of my life. They gave everyone Beats headphones…
I did not go to the bash and will regret it for the rest of my life.
Life as a Scholar in San Jose
As you may already know, scholarship winners to WWDC got lodging as part of the package. We were placed in SJSU housing, at Campus Village 2. We were assigned double-dorm rooms with one other person of our age. There was no washroom, or sink, or amenities other than a pillow and blanket. So that was… a learning curve.
San Jose is a pretty beautiful city, for the most part. I would walk through downtown every morning and routinely get an Iced Latte at Starbucks. I don’t go to Starbucks. I go to Tim Hortons, I’m from Canada after all. So that was also a learning curve. My order was some crazy math equation along the lines of: a venti vanilla iced latte with six pumps of classic syrup. I’m used to just “medium iced coffee, please.” It was also like $5.
After the conference everyday, most of the other scholars would head out for dinner. There were many places nearby, such as Subway, Chipotle, as well as some random deli store at every corner.
Like I said, most amenities weren’t provided. We had to go to Walmart or Safeway the first day or two to get shampoo, soap, and other stuff one usually gets.
It was still very fun.
There was no time to explore :(
A Great Week
All in all, WWDC was one of the best experiences I have ever had the opportunity of going to. It was everything I expected and more. Sure, the new stuff announced wasn't as exciting as past years, but the amount of content that I learned and people I met makes up for that. I still get a little nostalgic just thinking about it. I am also definitely going to apply next year!
For those who do go in the future, make sure to network a lot and go to as many events as possible (as I did not). All the sessions you can view online, you can even live stream them on the Apple website. But the people is why you are there — the 5000 other talented and brilliant individuals who share the same passion as you. Make the most of it!