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What a Year

Wow looking back on it my 23rd year of life was quite an amazing one. I’ve been able to transition from a college student that had very little idea of what I was doing into a full blown adult with very little idea of what I’m doing.

I started this year graduating college after 5 years and finished up an internship with the Blackstone Launchpad.

I felt like I jumped into the adult world, jet set to work at a top digital marketing agency in NYC in the summer, working on virtual reality and augmented reality projects. It was truly a fun time to be able to live and work in New York City, reconnecting with old acquaintances and meeting new people. I was working hard on VR projects at work and would go home and work on VR projects of my own. Truly a fun time.

Breaking it down I came to the realization that I really enjoyed solving technical problems and building apps whether it was for the agency or my own ideas. However I did realize that I loved to solved my own ideas a little bit more, and doubled down on that thought. I ended up coming back to bozeman to work part time and focus on app creation and entrepreneurship.

It’s been a crazy time for the world of Virtual Reality as I’ve been able to really see the engagement grow over the last year. My VR apps were downloaded over 750,000 times in the last 12 months. This is pretty mind blowing with context about how that is more than a download a minute for every minute of the last year.

I’m excited to double down on building and updating my apps and focus on broadening the channel of creation over the rest of my life.

I’m find it fascinating that I can create something and the world will engage with it and then give me feedback. Looking back at it, this is my biggest motivation to continue to make things.

A big realization is that I really enjoy the act of creating technology never been dones, the idea of doing something with technology that has never been conceived.

I love the idea that I can think of something and then go out and actually figure out how to build it, and be one step closer to a future that I want to live in. This idea was felt to a big degree when I came back to Bozeman to work at the Launchpad again.

I came back because I found a lot of joy and benefit from sharing my entrepreneurship learnings and process with other students and had some big plans. At the beginning of the year I set the goal to go out and give a Tedx talk. I applied, got accepted for a different talk idea, went through the long process of writing a talk and then giving it. It was a tedious process, that I don’t think I will do again, but I’m thankful and glad I was able to do it.

This part of the year has been a time of reflection as I’ve put a lot of thought into the next steps of my life. If the 23rd year was the year when I transitioned into an adult career, the 24th will be the year that I will transition into a career as a full time creator. I feel like I’m touching the tip of the iceberg and with a little bit more drilling I’ll find gold, or something like that.

The big realization, Is that I need to embrace Youtube as a way to communicate and show my work, building and cultivating audience that will engage with my creations in a way that will build a following. I’m excited for what is in store and will be working hard to achieve the dream.

Lastly, I want to say thank you for reading this, your engagement with my ideas and content is eternal motivation and will continue to allow me to build the future!

-Nakas

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New Update

My world has been pretty interesting lately and I haven’t really been blogging at all so I’m going to give a quick update.
This summer I spent interning down in New York City at a digital advertising agency. This was an amazing experience as I was able to work with professionals doing virtual reality development, which has been very stimulating and awesome. On top of that I was able to connect with my friends I grew up with in Connecticut and my father.

A very awesome experience, despite missing many of the luxuries I came to appreciate living in bozeman. R/GA ended up trying to get me to stay in New York which was a tough choice but I ultimately decided to go back to Bozeman. As I had an opportunity to work at the Blackstone Launchpad in Bozeman Montana
In between the bounce back to Bozeman I ended up going to burning man, which was fun and really cool experience. It was awesome to see all the hard work artists put in but felt a lot like it was just something a lot of rich people do to check off their bucket list.
I’ve been back in Bozeman for 1 month and have been having a blast super fun to experience the mountains again. As far as professional life goes I’m consulting with student entrepreneurs in the Blackstone launchpad and volunteering with big sky youth empowerment. I’m having a great time and I really feel like I’m helping adding value to the community.
I also managed to sign on as a remote associate software developer for r/ga. I start October 13th and am excited for the opportunity.
If I have time in between all these things, I have some rad development personal project that I’ve been working on.
I’m fired up to be working hard at these things for the next couple years and can’t wait to see where it takes me as I feel like I’m on the cutting edge of several emerging things.
It’s been a little interesting to think that I graduated college with a film degree and I’ve spent the last 5 months doing very unrelated things. I’ve been thinking of how film falls into all this other stuff and I think I found the answer. Over the summer I purchased a 360 camera and have been playing around with that a lot. I’m about to preorder a new one that I should get by then end of the month. I’ve been watching a lot of 360 content on Youtube and it’s clear this is a new medium with a lot of potential, but a lot to master. I’m going to push my self to release 360 content on YouTube every day  in order to master this new medium.

There is so much potential but most people don’t have a comprehensive understand to work with 360 video to the full extent that it can be mastered. I feel like this is my opportunity to work towards meshing everything I love into one medium that will help propel my creativity forward.
The future Is looking rad.
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Would You Like to Tango?

It’s been about 1 month since I have received Google’s Project Tango development tablet. The tablet is a result of a 2 year project with Google’s ATAP to give smartphones an understanding of the world around them.

This technology has been around for years and is nothing new, but many new uses will emerge now that the tech is available in mobile.

Autonomous cars will be able to use the live outdoor adf files to create a constantly updating map to be safer. Indoors will be mapped and people will spend less time being lost in large indoor spaces. It’s really cool to think of how a network of users with these phones will be able to benefit society, even if most of society does not own an actual tango.

Engineers will be able to 3d scan objects to perform rough measurements, and then send the files to other engineers. Designers will be able to work with 3d models with more ease and intuition. Film makers will use tango as a way to make the pre production process more efficient, as well as being able to create new forms of media and invent brand new processes.

Pretty much this all this means in 1-2 years time multiple smartphones will get eyes to gain perspective of the environment around it, while determining its local space. This will make the smartphone a much more useful tool in a large number of professional industries.

Despite the cool tech and potential, the open development community is very very small right now. Google has only sent out sent out 4000 tablets to developers requesting one. My biggest fear the reason why the community is so small is that many people bought the tablet on speculation due to the tech. Many people have demoed several of the key tablet and peanut phone features such as 3d scanning. The demos presented them as fully fleshed out apps causing non developers to be interested in acquiring a tablet. When their tablets arrived with none of the 3d scanning software built in, the speculators were disappointed and let their tablet sit dormant. I certainly hope that is not the case and Google used effective screening to select developers that would be likely to develop for the tango. Ideally there are many teams and solo developers working on closed development of polished apps just waiting until LG and Samsung release their flagship models next year.

For some tango projects I’m going to try to develop them in the open as much as possible as I would ideally see like to see the community developing and building off of each other. Thanks to everyone who has worked on developing this platform so far, the work that has been done on this project is so complex it’s quite hard to fully grasp the project but it feels like this will play out as a very important step in computing.

One way that I’m trying to frame my tango development is to ask myself how can the tango dev unit benefit society as a whole right now? The clear mapping application that could be achieved faster then most would be mapping roller coasters.

Roller coasters are an obvious choice as there are only thousands of good roller coasters in the world that are statistically close in proximity to the 4000 developer tablets in the world. If the developer community was mobilized to crowdsource the mapping of roller coasters, a large portion of the roller coaster network could be mapped and rigged. This would benefit society by allowing them to get a feel for roller coasters in a virtual world before most people even know what it means to tango.

For more information check out the Git here

I hope this and other open development can help accelerate the future. 1996 brought the Internet to consumers, 2006 brought mobile to consumers and now 2016 will bring robots to consumers.

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Making Nakas

Today marks the last day of classes for me this semester. I have 115 credits under my belt and will be finishing up my bachelors degree this spring. I took mainly upper level marketing classes this semester and learned a lot.

I did a lot of thinking about my life prospects and where I want to go with my life moving forward.

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Gamification of Mobile Games

The most valuable return on investment any indie unity3d mobile game developer could do is purchase and integrate the iOS native plugin into their games.

The app gives you easy access to many features that dramatically increase the appeal and social aspects of the games.

Some notable features are Game Center integration, Facebook and Twitter posting, and Multiplayer.

Game Center integration is definitely a must have for any developer looking to publish his apps on the iOS platform. The game center page happens to have a fb like button and a rate me button to onboard users and increase position in the search engine result pages (serps). The leaderboards allow users to see how they compete with the world. The achievement section seems kind of interesting but ultimately a weak feature unless it was integrated well. Achievements just award fake points for accomplishments. Achievements are definitely one of the weakest form of gamifying available as they lack the social element. Still the usually don’t hurt and can complete some games.

On the flip side of the equation multiplayer is definitely one of the strongest forms of gamifying available, giving some of the most powerful social connections available in games. The sheer fact that the user knows he is playing against a real human makes the appeal of the game goes through the roof. This can be taken advantage of dramatically in mobile, as most games have a notoriously hard time bringing users back to play more. When you incorporate good multiplayer experiences users will want to log in more to play a game that is always different due to the human element. Obviously multiplayer seems like a lot of scripting to implement but it is getting surprisingly easier to make multiplayer with services like Photon and Game Center multiplayer.

When you look at apps and their ability to be viral and shared, is definitely aided by the ability to connect to social. A game that is shared on social is tenfold more likely to go viral then one that isn’t. The problem lies in getting the user to share on social. Most of the time the conversion rate is small due to most users ignoring the feature due to lack of interest in the brand. Still social shareing can be very helpful by potentially captureing new customers.

iOS native unlocks the true power of the iOS Game Center into easy to use C# functions, allowing unity3d developers to rapidly add helpful plugins, that will rapidly increase the appeal of indie developer games.

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Virtual Reality

The immersion game space is a relatively new field. Developers have only been able to recently take advantage of moore’s law effects on the smartphone market to be able to buy cheap sensors and displays to bring Virtual Reality to the consumer.

Games that allow for full immersive gameplay have always been around but offered a bad experience due to lack of precise technology.

Immersion games provide the user with a virtual reality experience. VR can be divided into two categories, narrow and broad virtual reality.

Narrow vr includes devices that get limited input from the user and provides an incomplete virtual reality experience. The classic example is the car racing game in arcades which puts the user in a virtual cockpit and has them control the car with actual car controls. Narrow VR was brought into the living room by the Nintendo Wii remote, followed by the Playstation Eye toy and the Xbox Kinect. These devices use sensors to track movements of the player. Presently mobile has been able to provide a narrow VR experience with orientation tracking allowing phones and tablets to provide a window into the virtual world.

Broad vr provides a full immersive experience with the use of low latency high field of view head tracking display units. This technology has been in specialty arcades since the 90s but has always suffered from heavy units, bad displays and high latency. The Oculus Rift has been working on developing broad vr for game enthusiasts. It has shipped it’s second developer unit out. Oculus has also been partnering with samsung for the last year on coupling it’s vr technology with mobile devices for an easy to use, affordable and cord free virtual reality experience.  Playstation has responded and announced it’s vr unit. Microsoft has recently acquired FOVE an eye tracking startup, which is causing speculators to think microsoft is working on a broad vr unit of its own. It’s clear the broad vr market is about to enter consumers living rooms and grow fast.

The next big advancement in the vr space is going to be use of Simultaneous localization and mapping (SLAM) technology to provide localisation at all times. Google’s project tango will provide huge advancements in making immersive gaming accessible for consumers.

Broad vr is going to incorporate with multiple narrow vr tech and SLAM to provide an almost unimaginable amount of immersion.

It’s clear that Broad VR in games is about to become huge as the early majority adopts the technology over the next couple years.

Over the next couple weeks I’m going to work on virtual reality development for Google cardboard.

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Modern Disaster Scenerios.

Humanity is in a very interesting time. We still have a lot of problems with society, but the gap between the creation of ideas to solve the problems and the actual solving of problems has never been smaller.

I truly believe that humanity is at a point where we a so close to using technology to solve all our problems. With the advent of the computer revolution in the 90s and the 2000s we are quickly being thrown into a huge manufacturing revolution. Computer automation is going to dramaticly lower the costs of manufacturing while simultaneously increasing the quality of products.

Currently we are destroying the planet at an alarmingly fast rate with overpopulation and the increasing use of non renewable resources. The alarmist way to think about it is that we are digging ourself in to a hole faster and faster with no way to dig ourselfs out.

The more optimistic capitalistic way to look at it is that technology is driving down the costs of clean energy generation and sustainable practices at a fast rate. It will take some time but the price of solar will become cheaper then coal and there will be a time when electric cars are cheaper and better then gasoline cars. It is that point when we will finnly have started digging our selfs out.

It’s going to be facinating to look at how humanity develops at the intersection of technogy and climate change. I like to occasionally think of scenerios of what would happen in the future if x would happen.

One of the strangest senerios that I like to think about is the food shortage senerio. Their are 7 billion people on this planet. The senerio plays out with some big distaster that effects all of humanity. This distaster would dramatically reduce the amount food growth on the planet.

These next couple years would be quite a crazy time and I would hope that I have a spot in a bunker connected to the Internet to see the chaos go down safely.

With food shortages, food prices will skyrocket and people will go hungry. People are 9 meals away from complete anarchy. If the family is starving in the safe house the breadwinner will go out and do drastic things to find or steal food.

Still I like to be optimistic about the theroy. I would think people would stay connected through technology and help each other survive but realistically when people have families to feed, people become selfish very quickly.

Let’s say massive food shortages cause a massive population shortage. This seems bad on paper, but actually will most likly help society in the long run. The people who survived will be the ones that are able to use technology and stockpiles to survive. Those survivors will be the perfect candidates to rebuild the world towords sustanibility. It would be a lot easier to move towards sustainability if there was let’s say a 50% population reduction.

It’s crazy to think about how the future may play out.

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Business Perspective on the Iphone Jailbreaking App Cydia

If you outlaw jailbreaking phones, outlaws won’t jailbreak their phones.

Two days ago I saw Saurik the creator of Cydia give a keynote at a conference which provided an interesting perspective into the world of jailbreaking the iPhone. He talked quite a bit about Cydia and its role in the marketplace. Cydia is an interesting piece of software that benefits pretty much everyone involved.

For those not in the know Cydia is the App Store on the iPhone but for software that Apple does not allow on the App Store itself. It is installed on devices by jailbreaking them and gaining complete control of the Iphone.

Cydia got its name because a cydia is a species of moth that lives and grows in apples.

Cydia obviously benefits the end user giving them unbelievable value added features that add functionality that Apple won’t allow on the App Store. I personally will always want my phone jailbroken because of f.lux eliminating the blue spectrum at night on my phone. The value added is tremendous. Blind people can use iPhones to their full potential with Cydia by unlocking features to provide a great blind user experience.

It’s cool to look at Cydia and how it affects Apple’s business model. It benefits Apple greatly in a lot of ways. The obvious benefit of Cydia is that it’s a testing ground for apple’s new features. Pretty much every feature Apple has implemented In the iOS updates has already been tested years before with Cydia.

The largest value Cydia provides to Apple is the prevention of zero day exploits. Zero day exploits are defined as exploits that hackers find and then don’t tell anyone about the glitch in order to monetize off the exploit. The teams that work on jailbreaking spend 1000s of hours finding zero day exploits and then release the exploit in the form of jailbreaks which Apple can then reverse engineer and fix the exploit. It’s very interesting to think that Cydia is a security competitive advantage for Apple compared to Android who only has white hat hackers to protect from zero day exploits.

There are some downsides to Cydia. The big one is the disruption of the business model for the App Store and the iPhone itself. It’s small because Apple is primarily a hardware company but Cydia allows free tethering while Apple changes 20 dollars a month to add the feature. There is also a little bit of piracy because with Cydia you can spoof the App Store purchasing system. This is small because the majority of people that jailbreak don’t use Cydia to pirate but just to add features. I believe these downsides are small and can be outweighed solely by the increased value Cydia adds to the early adopter crowd who if not for Cydia would be on Android.

With the clear advantages in place, I wonder if people couldn’t find exploits with future updates would it be beneficial for apple to give jailbreak teams an exploit. After 6 months or so apple would give the evasion jailbreak team a jailbreak to release. No one would know it came from apple directly but doing so, will benefit a large amount of users and potentially boost sales. It would be interesting to look into this more. I want to see a graph with iphone sales and how they correlate to jailbreak announcements. My hypothesis is it might be small as the percentage of people that jailbreak is small.

Cydia opens the iPhone and makes it behave like a fully featured computer. A lot of companies don’t want people to take control of their devices as it would drastically affect their business model (think game consoles). In fact it’s currently illegal for consumers to take control of devices if the manufacturer prevents that. Cydia actually has to go to court every couple years and ask for an exception.

Saurik makes a very interesting point in that by locking the phone down and only providing an apple experience, it’s not a complete computer experience. The idea is that if a kid gets an iphone that is locked down he will still be able to do a lot, but if he was inclined to explore the
computer science software development world he would not be able to the fullest extent. If the kid had a jailbroken phone or an android phone he could load up a fully featured ide and learn about making games and apps.

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Ideas are just groups and extensions of other ideas.

To me the formation of ideas is one of the most fascinating things the human brain is capable of. I find the synthesis of ideas works best when I organize previous ideas and work on improving existing ideas.

I find the most useful skill for idea generation is the ability to do research well. I think my main competitive advantage is that I’m able to type things into google search bar easily.

I’m going to talk about how a specific abstract idea formed for me. It’s really interesting because while the idea is focused it’s just built off a combination of ideas that mainly were from other ideas from other people.

Coaster Sandbox

This idea is an educational physics based mobile roller coaster building app. Users can build roller coasters by moving points on a spline collider to build a custom roller coaster and the see how the physics interacts as you change the weight.

This idea started this summer when I saw the forum thread on unity3d that shared the iPhone gyro script example on unity3d . This script hooks up the angle and orientation of the phone to the camera in game. This makes the users smartphone a window into the virtual world. Essentially this script gives the user pseudo virtual reality experience on your smartphone.
For an example of this check out this video here.

When I saw this script I immediately saw the potential. I then started researching ways oculus rift developers have capitalized on the vr technology. Rift Coaster a roller coaster vr simulator that seemed to draw the most attention. A simple virtual reality demo that showcases the potential of virtual reality.

An idea was planted, I was going to make a mobile virtual reality coaster experience similar to Rift Coaster. I began to do research, as other people have been working on similar ideas. I soon found the Unity Hermite Spline script. This script allows you to take points and build a smooth curved track between the points. I then found free rollercoaster 3d models on turbosquid. I now had all the assets to build a prototype.

During my research I came across the PixArtist on YouTube. He posted a video of his roller coaster work in progress of him building a rollercoaster in runtime and then riding it completely physics based. I then saw the potential of this combined with the mobile vr coaster idea.

Seeing that video and all of the PixArtist’s work really inspired me to continue working on my ideas and continue to innovate. The phrase good artists copy great artists steal comes to mind. Innovations develop fastest when you build off of other people’s ideas and the Pixartists has some very amazing ideas.

I then combined all the free assets available and made a rollercoaster prototype similar to rift coaster. I showed the prototype to some friends to play test it. They were not that engaged and I realized that the demo needs more to it. I then stopped development and worked on other ideas it was summer and there were plenty of things on my plate.

Flash forward to October, where I went to Hatch Festival. I saw several people in the tech community give talks on open source software and was inspired to release the Roller Coaster game open source, in order to give back he community. I also sent the Pixartist a message mentioning to him how great his games are and the potential of his games on mobile.

Check out the open source repo here.
https://github.com/andrewnakas/RollercoasterSimulator
Flash forward to yesterday I was talking to Audrey Wooding about a grant opportunity for education STEM games. After the talk it hit me. I should apply for the grant with a roller coaster sandbox idea.

It was that moment the combined all the ideas I had before on the subject and gave me the focus I needed to understand where this idea should go.

Over the next weeks, I’m going to be working on this grant proposal and collaborate with other developers on the idea. Ideally I would reach out to the Pixartist and try to get him to join the project.

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The Power of Engaging

There is direct connection with a dopamine serotonin feel good response when someone likes, comments, follows and shares on social media. The engagement received helps validate the person’s existence.

This validation that social media provides ultimately empowers the user and does a lot of good in the world because of this. The confidence that social media provides is driving the world to be a more productive efficient place.

it’s crazy to think of how many things are done with posting it on social being the main motivation. I know when I personally am doing stuff I usually think of how to post about it on social. if I am backcountry skiing I usually think about how what my caption will be on my daily Instagram post on the skin up.

Not all social media is created equal. While I think it’s beneficial to be on all social media possible, some social media primarily is designed to just a waste of time. A key takeaway for all social media seems to be spend less time digesting content and more time creating content to be digested. Spending time making content and then analyzing the engagement over the past year has really helped me dial in my audience and construct posts to optimize for my audience.

There is a lot of power in engaging with others. Showing the love on social gives the feel good response to the recipient. When you like posts on facebook for instance, the algorithms on facebook are skewed so next time when you post on social the chance of the friend seeing your post are higher.

This summer I came across an open source script called the love machine. This script uses a headless web browser to log onto facebook and automatically like all posts on my timeline. Besides causing some weird conversations and one person getting very pissed off the benefits of the love machine have been very good. People generally feel good when the love machine likes their posts. They then have a positive reception of me and engage with my stuff more.

It’s really interesting to see how validating people around me affects my personal life. Lately I’ve been experimenting with trying to validate everyone around me by smiling, conversing and joking around everyone I see. Some people just laugh at me and think I’m weird. The connection I have been able to make with people just by smiling and being happy around them has helped me tremendously.

I’m going to vibrate higher then everyone else to try to pull everyone up around me.