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Tag: hardware

Emerging Trends in Software Engineering to Keep Your Pulse On

– Associate Editor, BostInno

The need for talented software engineers is clear.

“I think if you talk to just about any company around here that has an engineering organization, they’re going to talk about howdifficult it is to hire good software engineers,” said Kevin Murray, director of talent acquisition at soon-to-IPO e-commerce giant Wayfair, in a previous interview with BostInno.

A key to becoming one of those good software engineers, however, is to be on the pulse of emerging trends, and the software space is no stranger to change.

Take Cambridge-based distributed database technology company NuoDprogram-hero-softwareB, which recently raised$14.2 million to help legacy 3D modeling software leader Dassault Systèmes transfer to the cloud. The 33-year-old company — creator of everything from sustainable wind turbines to an Airbus — has started shifting its focus to software as a service, meaning the need to shift to the cloud was necessary if they wanted to keep up with manufacturing demands.

NuoDB is now assisting Dassault Systèmes in making that move, and is expected to start helping several other companies do the same. As Barry Morris, NuoDB founder and CEO, explained to BostInno, “Thousands of companies are in a similar situation to Dassault Systèmes in that they historically would have sold software. But that software needs to be able to run on the cloud.” To Morris, the move is a no-brainer, particularly because it boasts “economic benefits to the vendor and to the user.” After all, gone are the days of needing hardware and data center space, or shelling out cash for up-front costs. Instead, software can be integrated to the cloud with a few simple clicks at a relatively low price point. Once it’s there, Morris added, applications can start integrating with other cloud-based applications, thereby adding value and sparking more business.

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Customer Relationship Management software provider Salesforce forced itself to move to the cloud, and is allegedly succeeding.

All-in-one inbound marketing software giant HubSpot is forging a forward-thinking path, as well. The local leader is currently beginning its IPO process, and saw a 50 percent jump in revenues in 2013.

That achievement stated, who better to ask for emerging trends than HubSpot’s VP of Engineers Elias Torres? He gave BostInno the inside scoop on where software engineers should focus their attention, as well as helpfully highlighted how HubSpot is innovating around those trends.

Per Torres:

  • JavaScript and single-page web applications using Backbone.js, Ember.js or Angular.js. At HubSpot, we’ve completely shifted all client-side development from Python/Django to Backbone.js and are gearing up for the future to make sure we can keep using JavaScript on the server-side to create isomorphic applications using node.js.
  • PaaS and the shift from virtual machines to containerized applications. The cost of managing static server allocations will force companies to look at containers and cluster management services such as Docker, Apache Mesos or CoreOS. HubSpot deploys 300 times a day on a minimal number of server instances by using Apache Mesos.
  •   DevOps is empowering engineering organizations to balance speed and product reliability. HubSpot does not differentiate between engineers and operators. We have created a release practice that minimizes roadblocks to customer satisfaction through better release and configuration management.

At the end of the day, customer satisfaction is key. One way to ensure customers are satisfied, however, is by repeatedly innovating and ensuring the product being delivered reflects the best of what’s happening in the ever-evolving field. Aspiring software engineers, take note.

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Standing At The Mean

Sam Halperin  is currently a Programming Instructor at Thinkful. He is a 2011 graduate of Brandeis Graduate Professional Studies Master of Science in Software Engineering. He is working on a doctorate in Computer Science, and also blogs at www.samhalperin.com

Experimentation enabled by advances in low-cost consumer virtual reality hardware and software.

A few months ago, after a long hacking session with a genetic algorithm (an algorithm that evolves a solution from “chromosomes” over time),Pic1 Unity Game Engine (a 3D video game engine) and an Oculus Rift immersive display, I had what I think is a unique experience:   Creating a data set with the GA, writing a renderer that transformed the data into geometry, hues and color values, and piping the output to a head mounted display, I was able to don the goggles and somewhat literally walk around and stand at the mean of the data set and look around.  For me, this view into the data was a transformative personal experience, if not a scientifically valid approach to understanding data.

Weeks later a second experiment emerged, this time using sensor data attached to a stationary bicycle to drive the view-camera in a virtual environment.   This apparatus had been part of a somewhat Quixotic quest for a virtual reality based active gaming Sampost2experience.  Once implemented, it represented the faintest surface scratch into the vast requirements of art, engineering, sound, theatre and animation that actually make up a production game, but a uniquely satisfying experiment.

The most recent experiment in this set leveraged design training and demonstrated the architectural visualization pipeline from consumer-grade modeller (SketchUp) to virtual reality experience.  This product, like the other two, was also the “first 20%” of effort, (see The Pareto Principle), but uniquely satisfying. The video from the work has been retweeted many times and had over 1800 views since it has been up, and I have received numerous requests for collaboration on similar projects. (http://youtu.be/mJLK_t0bTYA)

Clearly there is a growing mass movement representing a desire for this type of virtual reality technology.  The defining factor in my experience thougsampic3h, as differs from virtual reality experimentation in the past, was that this work didn’t require access to a university
lab, defense contractor or space agency. This access is possible due to a sea change in VR technology driven by the release of the Oculus Rift Head Mounted Display.

Beginning with the release of the Oculus Rift, and followed closely by other projects, VR technology is beginning to permeate as a consumer level technology.  My bike-vr project is actually one of a few similar experiments documented in the various online communities surrounding the technology.  There is a growing community of VR hackers (perhaps a better term is maker) throughout the world, and the level of experimentation has grown exponentially.

My involvement in this work is only beginning, but I am tremendously optimistic that the technology itself represents a positive force for our ability to visualize problems, to communicate with each other, and to be present in environments that we wouldn’t normally be able to experience — across history, geography, scale and any other limits.

Question: What is the value of “being present” and experiencing virtual environments in this way?  What is the value of “standing at the mean”, and how does it differ from viewing a place, a time or a dataset on a traditional computer monitor?  What are the drawbacks?

Answer: The experience of presence with this type of display is so powerful that it can actually make the viewer nauseous, experiencing a sort of simulator sickness approaching seasickness.   At the same time, intelligently engineered virtual environments, built with this in mind can fool the brain in a more positive direction, producing joy, fright, sadness, even the perception of temperature changes.  This is not an experience that is common to interaction with a smartphone or tablet.

Current VR work of interest is quite vibrant and diverse, spanning topics such as “redirected walking” techniques for navigating large virtual environments by walking around small laboratories[1], the study of “oculesics”, where eye movements are tracked and communicated across networks to enhance communication[2], and the exploration of very large datasets using large laboratory installations ringed by huge arrays of displays[3].

See Also

  • [1] Suma, E. A., Bruder, G., Steinicke, F., Krum, D. M., & Bolas, M. (2012). A taxonomy for deploying redirection techniques in immersive virtual environments. Virtual Reality Short Papers and Posters (VRW), 2012 IEEE, 43–46. doi:10.1109/VR.2012.6180877
  • [2] Steptoe, W., Wolff, R., Murgia, A., Guimaraes, E., Rae, J., Sharkey, P., … & Steed, A. (2008, November). Eye-tracking for avatar eye-gaze and interactional analysis in immersive collaborative virtual environments. In Proceedings of the 2008 ACM conference on Computer supported cooperative work (pp. 197-200). ACM.
  • [3] Petkov, K., Papadopoulos, C., & Kaufman, A. E. (2013). Visual exploration of the infinite canvas. Virtual Reality (VR), 2013 IEEE, 11–14. doi:10.1109/VR.2013.6549349

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