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Employee Spotlight: Andrew Dickerson, Director of Software Engineering for Milk VR

Samsung is a global company and relies heavily on the drive, ability and expertise of our employees to be successful. Every day, we work across geographic boundaries to bring you the latest in technology, tools and Samsung devices.

Recently, we sat down with one of our talented team members, Andrew Dickerson of the Milk VR team, to ask him a few questions about Virtual Reality, Samsung and the future of technology. Here’s what he had to say.

 

Andrew Dickerson

 

SDC: What do you do at Samsung?

AD: I am the Director of Software Engineering for Milk VR — Samsung’s 360-degree video platform for Gear VR users — and other Gear VR projects. I’m located in Dallas, TX. I oversee a team that has developed the Milk VR platform, which includes three Samsung Milk VR viewers, Gear VR, the Android mobile app for smartphones and tablets, samsungmilkvr.com and the backend servers that drive it all.

We’re also doing some additional R&D around advancing VR. I research and consult for other Samsung business/investment business units on VR third parties of interest and attend a lot of conferences on VR. The team is experimenting with input and output of devices of all kinds, building prototypes, UX studies and trying to determine how VR can be used in other industries. It’s all very interesting.

 

SDC: How did you end up at Samsung?

AD: Samsung made me an offer I couldn’t refuse — the ability to have my work featured on millions of phones that people all around the world own. I was previously working on graphics software development when Samsung contacted me and invited me to an interview in Dallas.

 

SDC: What do you love most about your role at Samsung?

AD: The people I work with are what I love most about my role at Samsung.

I’ve been fortunate to recruit a great team to work with that has experience in the phone industry, video game industry, networking, multimedia, big data and user experience design. We are a small but very agile team. Because of the balance across digital skillsets, we have been able to make a big impact in Samsung. All of these different skillsets coming together is what created our VR experiences and helped drive Gear VR.

 

SDC: What is it like to work on and with VR technology?

AD: It has been quite a roller coaster the last couple of years. Earlier on, it was much quieter than it is today simply because there were only a handful of companies in the space. More prototyping was done back then, while a lot of things are very commercialization-focused now. VR is changing rapidly. New VR companies are everywhere, and the “experienced” VR community is always into having the most immersive technology possible. It’s following the same trends and pace that smartphones did years ago — what was unique and successful a couple of years ago is now being done by dozens of companies. VR is a lot of fun; it’s cool to think about how it might be used in industries that you wouldn’t typically imagine VR in. Definitely exciting!

 

SDC: What are some of the high points from your time at Samsung?

AD: I have so many, but to name a few I would say:

  • Presenting early Gear VR prototypes to different groups and hearing that what we were working on would become a product.
  • The release of Milk VR on Gear VR in December 2014.
  • The crowd erupting to the announcement that the consumer version of Gear VR would be $99 at Oculus Connect.
  • Watching the Gear VR consumer version roll out to stores around the world, as well as seeing all the bundled S7 pre-orders come in and the fun consumer responses that followed.
  • Pranav announcing the Gear 360 camera on stage at MWC.
  • Demoing Gear VR for people at conferences like SDC, seeing their reactions and hearing their ideas.

And I’m sure there are many more still to come!

 

SDC: What are the biggest challenges you face?

AD: With VR, we are creating a market that didn’t exist before. So it has taken time to educate people on what VR is, how it works, what the jargon is, how developers can use and develop for it, how to test it, what makes good vs. bad VR and how to advertise, sell and make money with VR.

A couple of other challenges that come to mind include:

  • Telling compelling stories in VR that can’t be told anywhere else to the same end users to make them want to come back over and over.
  • Making the VR goggles of today more wearable on a daily basis.

 

SDC: What inspires you most about the future of technology?

AD: I think we will be shocked a few years from now as to how naturally connected technology can make us. Ten years from now, 2D video conferencing may feel like black-and-white TV did to color TV. There are many pieces of technology and even platforms being built around VR that will change the way we interact. Eye tracking, body tracking, finger tracking, hand tracking, emotion detection, 3D scene reconstruction, lightfield capture, omnidirectional treadmills, speech to facial animation and motion controllers are just a few things that come to mind. Many of these look odd and hard to sell to a consumer right now, but the technology is improving rapidly with the investments being made in VR and AR. The decreasing size, ease of use and seamless integration of these pieces of technology will change every industry in some way.

 

SDC: Can you tell us something interesting about yourself outside of work?

AD: I married a wonderful woman, Allison, a year and a half ago in the midst of all of my VR work. I even managed to convince her to let me record our wedding ceremony in 360 video. (Yeah, I know… I’m a geek through and through.) Sadly, some of the footage was lost in transferring the files because, back then, you needed as many as six or seven cameras mounted on a ball to make a 360 video. It’s so funny to think that only a mere 18 months ago, that was the reality. Today, we have the Gear 360, which requires just the push of a button for VR-quality, 360 video.

 

Interested in learning more about developing for VR? Check out our online resources or partner with us through the Samsung Developer Program for help making your visions a reality.

By Samsung Developer Connection
June 17, 2016
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