Qualcomm Developer Network November Developer of the Month is Steve Nix, CEO and Founder of ForwardXP, based in Dallas, Texas.
ForwardXP develops immersive software applications for emerging platforms including Virtual Reality, Augmented Reality and Mixed Reality. Their proprietary technology focuses on the intersection of these platforms with Voice User Interfaces and Artificial Intelligence.
The Think F.A.S.T. VR medical training demo ForwardXP helped bring to life is a powerfully engaging VR simulation that puts viewers in the middle of a medical emergency. In this state-of-the-art virtual training center, medical students use VR to educate themselves on how to recognize symptoms of a stroke using the F.A.S.T. (Face, Arms, Speech, Time) system while interacting in real-time with a virtual patient.
How was ForwardXP started?
ForwardXP’s co-founder, Jah Raphael, and I originally met at id Software where we had the opportunity to work on some of our favorite all-time game franchises including DOOM, QUAKE, Wolfenstein and RAGE.
We knew the number of VR devices in homes and businesses would grow quickly and there would be eventual demand for unique software to go with those devices. Where most of the initial VR content had been focused on entertainment or games, we wanted to focus on a broader range of content. The “XP” in ForwardXP stands for “experiences.”
When we started talking with Qualcomm Technologies about creating a new kind of training experience in the medical space, we were instantly interested and intrigued by the possibilities and challenges. This is the first app we worked on that may actually save lives. We learned a lot about strokes during development, and we hope that people who experience the app will more quickly recognize a stroke so it can be quickly treated.
Where does your team get inspiration?
We look at most problems through the lens of a game developer, with an intense focus on the end user experience. As a team, we are naturally drawn to early hardware and creating new software that pushes the limits in new and creative ways. We are also continuously looking at other technology trends across platforms and devices and then mapping those together. For example, the proliferation of voice user interfaces in the home with services like Alexa and Google Assistant has strongly influenced our key technology roadmap in VR.
Who are your technology heroes?
There are several technology leaders that have inspired my career and current path. John Carmack really created the game genre that I spent so many years in, and he continues to be an incredible advocate in VR for high-quality end user experiences and ways that new technology can improve those experiences. Gabe Newell and the team at Valve have done amazing work on user driven design and responding to their community. I was able to partner with Valve early in my career and I’m grateful for everything I learned during that time about building software for real users, not just the stuff I was interested in or thought would be fun. Jeff Bezos has also been a huge inspiration and I read everything that I can about Jeff and his philosophy. His whole approach is about removing barriers to a great customer experience and that has massively shaped Amazon’s unique culture and process.
How did the Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 835 VR development kit help in creating Think F.A.S.T.?
Qualcomm Technologies continues to lead in the mobile space with their tools and other breakthroughs. The Snapdragon 835 development kit is really on the leading edge for VR developers and we could not have created the robust experience in Think F.A.S.T. without it.
In addition, the Qualcomm VR SDK for Unity3D was essential to the success of Think F.A.S.T. This SDK provided a stable backbone for integrating with the headset’s position and view tracking systems. Once integrated we were able to start building the experience with the game-changing ability to move freely around the virtual world, completely untethered.
The 6DoF technology and motion tracking were key to everything we created on Think F.A.S.T. Actually being able to walk around the virtual training facility and examine the stroke patient by simply moving around him, dramatically adds to the experience and makes it feel like you are really there.
Where do you see VR technology in 10 years?
VR will begin to legitimately displace traditional displays in gaming and entertainment with the ambitious content that is already in development, built specifically for VR. The bigger and more pronounced [transformation] will be in training and education. A well-executed experience in VR can be the closest thing to an intense, potentially dangerous or life-threatening situation without being there. This will bring massive cost savings for everyone involved, but more importantly, it will give people better training opportunities that just are not available in the current 2D world. We are just starting to scratch the surface and untethered motion tracking, hand controllers and voice interfaces will be key drivers adding the necessary immersion for this shift to VR training.
Anything else to share with our developer community?
At ForwardXP, we enjoy working with emerging technology and the support we received on all aspects of this project from the team at Qualcomm Technologies has been amazing. We were impressed throughout by how much attention Qualcomm commits to the software side and development tools for their hardware platforms. Without that help, we could not have created what we think will be seen as an important milestone in VR.
We believe Think F.A.S.T. and the experiences that follow have the potential to change the way we think about training and education over the next decade. We appreciate the opportunity to help pioneer this area with the help of Qualcomm Technologies and their Snapdragon 835 VR development kit.