We spent most of last week hanging out with the Intel tribe at IDF in San Francisco. Part of that was connected to the Ultimate Coder contest where we are hoping to win the top prize for developing Wind Up Football (WUF) on the next generation Ultrabook. At IDF we enjoyed connecting with the other contestants and judges. And yes Lee brought candy form England (why did we not think of WUF candy?). We were also at IDF as Intel Black Belts. IDF is Intel’s main event and it is always an honor to be included. I (John) asked our CTO Chris Skaggs to write this update mainly because along with Gavin he has been resistant to add multiple Ultrabook features to WUF. IDF seems to have changed his mind. Here is how that happened. Take note of where we will be changing a few things befoe we ship the build to the judges:
At a dinner shindig we had a chance to hear from Greg Welch, the cat who coined the term ‘Ultrabook’ and also defined the specification. Listening to him gave me some additional insight into just what the Ultrabook is meant to be and it’s got me rethinking some of the assumptions I had realized we were working with during this project.
Greg talked about the launch of the Centrino Chip in 2003 and how it was this big watershed event. Arguably it was the first time that a computer was realistically and truly “mobile” in that it was fully functional without any wires. WiFi, low power chips, and sufficient battery life made a big splash. But then he tells of standing in Best Buy in 2011 and looking at all the laptops…and nothing had changed.
In 8 full years of light speed hardware development nothing meaningful had changed – and he was sad.
His point was that while OEMs had made the laptops faster, cheeper and more powerful they were really the exact same experience and arguably it was that complacency that left a door open for Apple’s “post PC world” idea to be at all plausible. I don’t think Welch agrees with that phrase but he recognizes the stagnant state of PC hardware made such an audacious statement credible. Then he went on to define the Ultrabook specification.
As he went on to describe his goals it made me think of things in a different way and while, to be candid, I still think the iPad represents a more significant jump, the Ultrabook starts to look like more than a better laptop with the ideas of “contextual awareness” and “adaptive response.” I’ll take some time to dig into those thoughts more later ,but for the moment let me focus on how I’d like these ideas to change Wind Up Football.
First, I want WUF to be more aware of what’s going on around the user and adapt to their situation. A simple example of this would be to use the Ultrabook’s light sensor, clock and GPS to track things like ambient light, and what weather.com reports as the local weather -then alter the game’s environment to match. It’s dark outside? Crank up the field lights and add the fireflies. Daytime? Turn the stadium light off and add sharp daytime shadows. Rain? Snow? Heat Wave? Any or all of those things could be reflected in the game’s environemnt.
Contextual computing became a buzz word during the week (I blame Robert Scoble) and while the concept isn’t new, the realistic ability to deliver on this concept IS new…and the Ultrabook is a big step toward making that vision reachable. I’m proud to be part of that effort.
John here again: So with that we head back into a week of crunch to get as many of these changes made as well as final polish before shipping the game off to the judges.