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Boston TechJam 2015, VR and EMBER 3D Printer

There was a big festival-like atmosphere at City Hall Plaza in Boston on Thursday evening. There was the event called Boston TechJam. It’s a networking event for tech companies with the goal of fostering startups and innovators, allowing them to showcase their latest technologies. There was food, beers, music, and games. There was also "pitch tournament" by top startups. Anybody who is interested in technology were invited to come. According to the e-mail that we received from the organizer in the morning of the event, nearly 4000 had bought tickets by that time and there was an option of walk-in. According to BostInno, TechJam is the largest innovation meet-up in the region. It was indeed a jam of people and jam of activities.

Autodesk was one of sponsors of the event. We had a vendor tent. This year, we decided to go with two themes: Virtual Reality (VR) and 3D printer. My colleague, Kevin Vandecar, was responsible for the VR table. He asked me to assist the table. We set up two laptops hooked up with Oculus Rift headsets so that people can try out VR experience; one with gaming scene and the other with Revit model using View and Data API. We also showed that you can have similar experience using your own smartphone and Google Cardboard. We had 70 or so DoDoCase VR for people who were interested in try out themselves using their own phone.

Boston TechJam VR4

Pictures from Autodesk's VR table. Top left: a visitor enjoying VR experience using his iPhone 6 Plus and Google Cardboard. Top right: a visitor experiencing Oculus Rift. Bottom left: Kevin (middle) explaining how the Oculus works. Bottom right: view around Autodesk tent.


On another table, we have displayed Autodesk’s latest EMBER 3D Printer together with examples of printed objects. The EMBER 3D printer is high precision 3D printer using so-called Stereolithography or SLA technology. I have used Makerbot, a different type of 3D printer, in the past. This was the first time I’ve actually seen the EMBER. I was quite impressed with the level of detail that this printer can produce.

Boston TechJam Ember table 2

Left: Ember 3D Printer on display at TechJam. Top right: sample models printed using the Ember. Bottom right: close up of an object (Spark logo). 


In case you haven’t heard about it, you may want to check it out from the Ember site. My favorite is the YouTube video below. It shows a time lapse of Ember in action. Printing a layer at the bottom instead of on top is quite shocking and fascinating:  



How is the EMBER different from Makerbot? This is probably the question people might ask. Makerbot or similar 3D printers using technology called FDM (Fused Deposition Modeling), which places plastic filament through a hot nozzle, melts the filament and squeezes it layer by layer. SLA printer uses UV light to cures the photo sensitive resin in a tank, building section by section. If you are interested in reading more about how SLA works in general, you may want to watch this video. I bumped into it while trying to learn about SLA. It explains what SLA 3D printer is very nicely. I hear jewelry designers are interested in this type of printer. It certainly makes the rings and earrings we made at Girls Technology Day look like a toy! 

Actual event started at 4 PM and continued till 9 PM. People came in one after another. Non-stop for five hours. People were waiting most of the time, trying to see what VR experience is like. Some asked technical questions. Some wanted to try out cardboard, downloading Google Chrome right there. (In order to make it work, we need a browser with WebGL support. Chrome on a newer phone seems to work best at a moment.) I now have rough ideas of which mobile works better with VR samples. One person even said to me that “your booth is the best.” 

The only regret I have is that I had no time to look around other booths to learn about what others are doing. I was expecting that there would be a time that I could take a break at least to get something to eat. But at the end, I could barely escape to grab a food and continued talking with visitors non-stop for entire duration of the events. It was the same for Kevin. Still some of visitors are from other vendor tents. We could exchange some information. 

Boston seems to be an appropriate place to host this kind of event as there are many prestigious schools in the areas and many startups. The mayor of Boston was there as well. There was certainly the atmosphere of supporting young tech community in the city. Autodesk is moving to Boston from Waltham next year. I heard there will be some kind of maker space. Looking forward to be closer and being mingled with the community and for the next year's event.

Weather turned out to be a perfect nice summery day, beating the odd of earlier forecast to rain. Good start to enjoy the summer tech adventure!

If you would like to try out VR experience yourself or even develop your own, here is the link to the information we shared at TechJam.