Tech Predictions for 2012

Historically, I haven’t been one to make public predictions, but at the behest of my good friend, I’m making some of my predictions public. Please feel free to criticize anything you think is outlandish or way off the mark.


API-as-a-service platforms like Parse.com and StackMob explode in popularity.

Mobile developers are getting sick of building back-ends for lightweight apps (eventually, heavyweight apps, too) and will increasingly turn to 3rd-party solutions. Parse.com has a best-in-class out-of-box experience and is shipping updates every two weeks or so. Bet on them to emerge as the leader in the near term.

Occipital revitalizes augmented reality by launching API platform.

Today, augmented reality, after having a brief time in the media spotlight, has largely faded from the public’s mind. Why? Most AR products rely on simple positional technologies, like Layar, or act entirely based on image recognition from a limited set of tags, like Qualcomm. It doesn’t help that holding a phone in front of your face makes you look like a doofus.

“Sure, AR will be great one day,” we say as we dream of a future where we wear augmented reality helmets like this. And yet there are few players moving to substantially advance the state of affairs.

Luckily for us, Occipital’s crack team of computer vision experts has developed revolutionary augmented reality tech that combines both approaches, aiming to bring us one step closer to the future. Expect their API to kick ass after a mid-year launch.

For better or for worse, I imagine the first application to take advantage of it and make good $$$ will be some sort of “Yelp Monocole” for Groupon/Foursquare deals.

Wearable computing isn’t there yet.

Despite the awesome gear that Vuzix is putting out like the See-through monocular display for the Army or the trusty Tac-Eye, It probably will be 2013 before we see wearable, see-thru, heads-up displays really take off in the consumer market. By that point, startups like Occipital will be well-positioned to take advantage of the wearable technology boom.

Square blows up.

Square is THE startup to watch in the payments space. Moreover, with the launch (and success) of Square Card Case, I wouldn’t be too surprised if they start contesting Google Wallet on both sides of the POS. Especially since they have Visa’s blessing, it wouldn’t be too difficult for them to add NFC support and be off to the races.

Speaking of NFC, iPhone 5 ships with it.

Apple often likes to wait until technologies are ripe before jumping on board. In the case of NFC, they’ve put out some interesting patents in the past indicating their interest in doing NFC for ticket redemption, so don’t be surprised if we see iTunes start offering concert tickets, redeemable by iPhone.

2012 will be a make-or-break year for Google Plus.

2011 has been lukewarm for Plus and they’ll need something just shy of a miracle to compete with Facebook. My bet is that a startup will find a killer use case revolving around API integrations, connecting Google Voice, Gmail, and Google Plus. I’m especially bullish on these opportunities for building a social/personal CRM.

Android + Defense = $$$

In 2010, we saw “Apps for the Army,” which eventually led to the founding of the Army app store.

In 2011, we’ve seen Android adopted by the Army as the basis for their “Joint Battle Command-Platform.” Also, Army Cpt. Jonathan Springer released Tactical Nav, an iPhone app for soldiers in the field. Moreover, the DISA has approved Android for use on DoD networks and released official security guidelines.

As if that wasn’t enough, the Special Forces have already been requesting a suite of apps for use on non-sanctioned, off-the-shelf devices. Something like the phone you already have in your pocket.

In 2012, now that Android has official Army, Special Forces, and DoD blessing, we’ll see serious RFPs for mobile military technology.

SxSW Breakout App

Foursquare was the breakout app at SxSW 2009.
GroupMe was the breakout app at SxSW 2011.
Sonar will be the breakout app at SxSW 2012.

Brett and team are hard at work on some killer features, with hopes to launch a blockbuster 2.0 in time for SxSW 2012. Their team has had an influx of bright, new talent recently and I’ve spent some time getting to know them. Since they haven’t formally announced anything yet, I won’t say any more than this: look for Sonar to crush it this year in Austin.

An open source, batteries-included Android Framework emerges.

Android is an amazingly powerful platform, but it’s too cumbersome to become readily productive in. Someone needs to draw up a higher level framework to make it even easier to make awesome apps. If I can make the time for it, that someone will be me.

My Dying Regrets

Heart Attack

A few weeks ago, I thought I was going to die.

Near the end of my morning gym routine, I felt a sharp chest pain and sudden dizziness. Paralyzed with fear, I thought, “Is this a heart attack?”

The thoughts came rushing back: ten years earlier, my pediatrician had cautioned me that I may have Long QT Syndrome. I’ve missed a few heartbeats over the years, but never thought they were serious enough to check out. Could this chest pain be Long QT, finally coming back from beyond the veil?

I ended my workout and bummed a ride home from my trainer. The rest of the day, the pain in my chest haunted me. I couldn’t decide whether or not to go to the hospital. Having had some hellish experiences in the ER before, I decided against it, despite the gravity of the situation.

Alone in my apartment and fearing for my health, I was shocked to feel so completely helpless. Usually a fiercely independent person, I wasn’t comfortable with the thought that, for once, I might not be able to save myself. In that moment, I decided to hop a southbound train to be with family. “If my condition worsens, they’ll take care of me,” I thought, “Heck, they’d want to be with me in the end, even if the doc can’t do anything.”

That night, home in my childhood bed, I went to sleep thinking, “There’s a chance I may never wake up. Am I OK with this? Do I have any big regrets?” I couldn’t think of any. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve made my mistakes and burned my bridges, but, faced with the thought of death, I was completely unable to summon up a dying man’s panic.

Lying in the dark, the pain still stabbing in my chest, a stupid grin spread across my face.

I strive to live with no regrets. But how to measure this? I like to envision a hypothetical scenario wherein someone points a gun at my head and my goal is to not think, “I wish I’d [told her I love her / seen the Grand Canyon / ran my own business / taken better care of my health / …].”

Sadly, I don’t often get the opportunity to check if I’ve actually lived up to this standard. Indeed, all the hypothesizing and navel-gazing in the world won’t ACTUALLY tell me if I’m lying to myself. But that night, looking into face of Death, I smiled. I had lived my life as I’d vowed and even death couldn’t take that away from me.

I survived that night, but it reminded me that my days here are numbered. And so I’ll always live as if Death were waiting for me, just around the corner.

After all, He is.


Evelyn De Morgan - Angel of Death

Choose Life

Image of syringe, heroin, lighter, and spoon

Choose Life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, choose washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose fixed interest mortgage repayments. Choose a starter home. Choose your friends. Choose leisurewear and matching luggage. Choose a three-piece suit on hire purchase in a range of fucking fabrics. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourselves. Choose your future. Choose life…

But why would I want to do a thing like that? I chose not to choose life. I chose somethin’ else. And the reasons? There are no reasons. Who needs reasons when you’ve got heroin?

– Mark Renton, Trainspotting

I’m an addict.

Like many addicts, I’ve spent days of my life hunched over in a dark room, ignoring hunger, headaches, and nausea while chasing the high.

My drug? Starcraft.

I’m a fiercely competitive, addictive person. Determined to excel in everything that I do, I take everything seriously. I like to think of it as my greatest strength and my greatest weakness. Playing a competitive game hits me like a shot of heroin in the vein.

When faced with a challenge, I grow giddy. Competing in high-level Starcraft is one of the most demanding things I have ever done. A glutton for punishment and a self-improvement addict, I love the impossibly long learning curve.

The game also provides instant feedback. Rather than the months or years it takes to launch a software product, a Starcraft game can be resolved in minutes, a tournament in hours. Intra-game feedback occurs on a matter of seconds. Instant gratification.

Unlike most activities, Starcraft never stops. Thanks to the Internet, the supply never runs out. There’s always more players to match wits with. Infinite competition.

Between these three factors, I had all the stimuli I would ever need.

Skeptical? Most are.

My father knows better. He once likened videogames to hard drugs. Any hardcore gamer or Korean man knows that gaming has its dark side.

Blizzard Booth: Left side - Starcraft II

For me, videogames aren’t entertainment. They’re a competitive outlet, a sport. Laugh if you like, but Starcraft is one of the top spectator sports in Korea.

Famous Starcraft player

Games have always been a constant source of comfort in my life. When crisis hit, I knew that games would always be there for me.

There was a particularly dark moment where I had gotten my then-girlfriend pregnant, wasn’t pulling in a lot of DJ gigs, and didn’t see a clear path to a better life. My life was crumbling around me. The one thing I was certain of was the game. The one thing I could was to bury myself in it, take control of the competition, and in so doing, take control of my psyche.

I had been down this road before and I knew it didn’t lead anywhere. But I needed something to focus my mind. And so I took the bad with the good, just to keep me going.

But when it finally came time to make the choice, I chose life. Clean break. Cold turkey. Life is just too short, too precious, to play Starcraft.

I kept my promise for a long time. I channeled my energy and passion for Starcraft into my new programming career. I treated hackathons like tournaments, client negotiations like tactical maneuvers.

Last Sunday, I relapsed. I spent the night with my old Starcraft teammates in Maryland. After huddling in the trenches with these folks, being reunited with them was like returning to family. That night, they told me all about Starcraft II, and the latest developments in the collegiate league. The memories came rushing back.

It wasn’t long before I installed Starcraft II and played a quick game with them. It was intense. The sequel was better than I had imagined. Streamlined and smoother than the original, the many years of development time had produced a beautiful gem.

After 18 months of withdrawal, I had finally tasted my sweet, beautiful, familiar drug. My brain raced in excitement.

I thought to myself, “Can I finally play Starcraft without throwing my life out of balance? It can’t hurt to try…” So I decided to play “a few” games online to get in shape.

29 games later, I finally stopped after winning an hour-long slugfest, bringing me to a 50% win rate. I was covered in sweat. It was bright outside and the clock read 7AM.

alarm clock

Just like old times.

I crashed on the couch and woke up a few delirious hours later, just in time to catch the bus back to New York.

I didn’t waste a minute on the bus ride home, studying high-level technique from a pack of downloaded replays.

Finally home that night, I rolled up my sleeves, ordered food, and stacked it up on my shelf. I filled up water bottles so that I wouldn’t have to leave the computer to get a drink.

I was ready.

I binged on Starcraft for the next two days.

Stockpile of dirty cups and plates.

Afterwards, headache pounding and nauseous from the intense session, I was proud of how rapidly I had become proficient in the new game. The world was my oyster.

And yet, I was terrified of myself. A grown man does not spend 14-16 hours a day playing computer games. Sure, maybe if you live in Korea and are one of the professionals, but that’s like playing in the NBA.

Could I keep up the rest of my life alongside a Starcraft habit? Clearly not.

Not if I had chosen life.

The next morning, I woke up, fired up my computer, and promptly deleted the game, vowing never to play it again.

Unable to cure my habit, I was forced to bury it instead.

What’s your drug?

Odysseus

Farewell, Google

Istock_000012486233small

Below is my Google internal announcement of my resignation, verbatim.

 

——————–

 

Folks,

 

I had meant to write this email sooner, but neglected to.

 

I’ve already given my notice and my last day will be this Friday, May 20th.

 

I know I haven’t been here long, but I’ve come to the realization that it’s time to leave.

 

As I prepare to depart, let me first apologize to my teammates for my mediocre performance. As you might imagine, when working my best, I can do far better. It’s a poor excuse, I know, but my dissatisfaction kept me from putting in my best effort. Please forgive me.

 

Let me also apologize to HR and my manager, Stan, who spent a great deal of time trying to find someone suitable for my position, only to have me leave so abruptly. Best of luck in your search. With my greater knowledge of Google and the engineering positions within, I hope to refer suitable engineering candidates in the future.

 

To everyone: know that I sincerely appreciate your company and camaraderie. The level of mutual trust within this organization is excellent. I’m honored to have been welcomed into this community.

 

But why depart, you ask? Myriad reasons. In short: my expectations for Google did not match the reality. Having always worked for myself and never taken a salary, I suppose my expectations were unrealistic. I know that now.

 

As I first began to see through the silver lining, I was depressed. I thought my only option was to stay true to my fate: to weather the storm and tough it out. Feeling trapped, I wondered to myself, “Why aren’t I fitting in and enjoying this life that so many others dream of?”

 

After wrestling with this for some time, I came to a moment of clarity: security and stability, the two things provided by a job at Google, are not what I seek. Far from it, in fact.

 

Instead, I chase freedom, impact, and challenge, in the grand hopes of leaving behind a legacy. Ambitious? Yes. Naive? Without a doubt. And yet I am who I am, and I’m at peace with that.

 

But could I truly afford to commit corporate heresy and resign so soon? Resign and walk away from this Nerdvana of high bandwidth, free food, and Google-scale deployments? The thought weighed heavily on my shoulders.

 

Google was to be my last watering hole before I struck out into the desert, forever. I had planned to stay here for some time, reflecting and honing my skills before departing to seek my own fortune. But would it be so terrible to cut that one final step short? No, I realized, because I was only waiting to leave until I was ready. Now, feeling confident and ready, albeit ahead of schedule, the time has come for me to go.

 

And yet, despite all this heroic talk, it was a surreal, bittersweet moment for me tour the Mountain View campus last week, knowing that I would never return. After I took in the TGIF presentations and admired Sergey and Larry’s brotherly rapport, I walked off to the shuttle stop as the sun began to set and was suddenly struck by the need to weep.

 

Such a grand organization that Sergey and Larry have built — a living, breathing, happy community, touching the lives of billions. And amazingly, it still remained quirky and playful, despite having over 25,000 members in the family.

 

I was to leave this all behind? Was I mad?

 

No. For I had made the same decision some years prior, opting to leave behind life as I knew it in American high school in favor of a homestay in China.

 

Why leave a comfortable life, you ask? For me, it was exactly because it had become comfortable! Without something greater to strive for, what is life? With this thought, I realized that life is for challenge, not comfort, and so challenge I sook.

 

Now, if Larry and Sergey were to die right this very instant, they would leave behind a legacy, a “dent in the universe,” in the words of Steve Jobs. Their story has been told. They have entered the pantheon.

 

And so I have come to terms with my own path: I am to do the same, to seek out my own glory rather than to reap the benefits of their triumph.

 

Thus, as all things must come to an end, so must my time at Google.

 

Best of luck to everyone. I hope we meet again.

 

Sincerely,
David

 

——————–

 

Very excited for the future. Wish me luck, everyone.