Cloud Is Secret Behind Developer Lounge IoT, Art

Six CNC routers are cutting and etching faces into fluorescent acrylic while German artist Mirja Wellmann watches nearby. A woman admiring Wellmann’s sculpture gushes, “It’s beautiful! It’s like if you have talent, there are no limits!” Nearby, four flavors of microbrewed beer are perfected with data from IoT sensors. Oracle OpenWorld 2017 attendees rate the brews on touch screens. Others assemble colorful furniture made from 3D-printed beams designed by Java expert Michael Hoffer. Adorable robots intrigue passers-by. Welcome to Oracle’s annual Developer Lounge.

“The interesting thing about this is, you walk up, you see all this stuff to play with, but until you get a bit deeper, you don’t realize that they’re all technology demos built on Oracle Cloud,” says Stephen Chin, director of the Oracle Developer Community.

While a normal convention might serve beer and offer experiences like Oracle engineer Jasper Potts’s Matrix-style Bullet Time IoT photo booth, “we have videos and diagrams that explain how this is all built from the ground up on our cloud stack. Once people realize that, it opens up a lot of ideas of what they could do to then build things on top of their stack,” Chin says.

The Continuing Importance of Java

As entertaining as the Developer Lounge demos are, the possibilities are vast for applications built with Java—a portable, secure, performant, industry-standard platform—and Java’s embedded editions for device programming. Working together, Oracle technologies (including chatbots, the Apiary API designer, Developer Cloud Service, and Java SE Embedded) and smart sensors can automate homes, enable healthcare activities, and animate robots, to name a few options. In fact, Chin’s book (with James Weaver) Raspberry Pi with Java: Programming the Internet of Things (Oracle Press, 2015) contains recipes for several projects that are similar to the Developer Lounge demos.

“The book has some examples of using Java and Raspberry Pi to control the coffee brewing setup, to do line followers, to make your own emulation console with a 3D-printed case,” Chin says. “A bunch of people who’ve read it have come up to me at the conference and talked to me about the projects. One of the guys bought the book for all of his coworkers.”

Volunteering at the CNC cutters is Warren Fung, a recent graduate of the University of California at Santa Cruz, who is now a student at free coding university 42, founded by Parisian Xavier Neil. “This is my first time at Oracle OpenWorld. It’s great. I get to see real enterprise tech that we don’t get to see as students,” he says. “Our school doesn’t have a Java curriculum—yet. But we mentioned to some of the Oracle employees that maybe we could do a partnership. As you can see from this conference, it’s very evident that Java is widely used.”

Merging Art and Technology

For the creatively inclined, there’s a thrilling implication behind the Developer Lounge: Artists are in demand to find new ways to incorporate such elements as CNC routers, 3D printers, IoT sensors, robotics, and cloud-native intelligence into novel experiences.

That’s how Wellmann sees it. The sculptor and sound artist who conceived of the interactive art at the last two annual conferences, she is all smiles as she notes how much she enjoys working with people—most of her installations are collaborative.

Using facial recognition technology, the faces of attendees who pose for a photo by Wolf Helzle, Wellmann’s social media artist husband, are plotted for cutting on the CNC routers, then glued to a series of glowing Lucite slabs. “I wanted to do the portrait of the attendees like a flying abstract form—a flock,” she says.

Though she has no technology background, Wellmann began using cutting machines to help build enormous wooden forms. Now, she’s optimistic that companies like Oracle will need people like her and her husband to put technology to creative use: “For me, I’m really lucky because [this collaboration means] I can do things that by myself I can’t.”

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