Daily report: Visiting UDUB and Microsoft

By Thomas Visser

It was early in the morning when the Pixel group gathered in the lobby of the hotel. While the committee was arranging a breakfast to-go, it was slowly becoming clear that the sky would gather clouds today. Participants were running up and down the stairs fetching their umbrellas or, because of a debate over dress code, losing or fetching their jacket. The breakfast consisted of Subway rolls, not like the usual subs you would think of, mostly filled with fried eggs and something else. There were two for each participant. Enough breakfast, more than enough fried eggs.

At a quarter past eight, the bus driver picked up us and drove us to the University of Washington campus. Cecill briefed us on the way on what we could expect: a contact lense with integrated display and sensing. That was indeed what we would see at our visit.

We were welcomed warmly and had an interesting morning at the university. They showed to be well prepared and well capable of explaining their work to us despite of it being mostly a electrical engineering achievement, differing from our backgrounds. For most of us, this was a nice introduction in nanotechnology and nano fabrication. They showed how a display could be built inside a contact lense and how the lense could contain sensors, e.g. to measure the glucose level in the tear film. It was good to have Wim Rutten with us, this being his second company visit, to ask interesting questions from his background in biomedical technology. After the presentation we got a tour around their labs and walked over their beautiful campus. Despite the drizzle, we had a great morning.

After the tour, our bus driver picked us up and drove us, while Marije briefed us, to Redmond, where the Microsoft headquarters reside. Microsoft has a campus on its own, consisting of around 60 buildings. First, we were directed to the food court. It consisted of many small places to get any kind of food. We wonderingly wandered around for a few minutes and then bought lunch.

They had prepared four presentations for us this after-noon. First, we learned about XNA, Windows Phone 7 and how we, students, could create games for their platform and with their tools. Then, someone from the FuseLabs showed us Kodu, a visual programming environment for kids made for creating games. He showed us a lot of cool features and we exposed some bugs, which he was us thankful for and offered some of us a job at Microsoft in return. He did not follow up on the latter, unfortunately. Third, someone from Microsoft Game Studio's came to talk about working at MGS. This turned out to be one big PR-talk, which was certainly not our goal of the visit. With the last presentation, they really made it up to us by giving an impressive demonstration of Kinect, the new full-body controller for the Xbox 360. Some of us dared to compete with the person giving the presentation, a member of the Kinect team, and got a nice workout by jumping up and down, waving with their hands and kicking imaginary balls. Besides the presentations, Microsoft gave us a company store purchase pass, allowing us to purchase up to $ 120 of hard- and software at a highly reduced price. Some of us left Microsoft carrying mouses, keyboards, Xbox controllers and other gadgets.

We watched the sunset from the Space Needle, a 182 meter high tower which was built in 1962 for the World's Fair, and had a spectacular view of Down Town Seattle, the harbor and residential areas while sky became darker and thousands of lights illuminated the skyscrapers, houses and cars.

The committee arranged a thai restaurant to have dinner together. It has been a while since we ate with the whole group; it was in NYC. The food was great and it was nice to have the time to talk to each other. It also served as a good starting point for the rest of the evening, for finding people that also wanted to have a few drinks. Others decided to go back to the hotel and have a good night of sleep. Sleep well, travel better. Tomorrow we'll fly to San Francisco.


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