Wednesday Sep 26, 2012

Talking JavaOne with Rock Star Simon Ritter

Oracle’s Java Technology Evangelist Simon Ritter is well known at JavaOne for his quirky and fun-loving sessions, which, this year include:

  • CON4644 -- “JavaFX Extreme GUI Makeover” (with Angela Caicedo on how to improve UIs in JavaFX)
  • CON5352 -- “Building JavaFX Interfaces for the Real World” (Kinect gesture tracking and mind reading)
  • CON5348 -- “Do You Like Coffee with Your Dessert?” (Some cool demos of Java of the Raspberry Pi)
  • CON6375 -- “Custom JavaFX Charts: (How to extend JavaFX Chart controls with some interesting things)

I recently asked Ritter about the significance of the Raspberry Pi, the topic of one of his sessions that consists of a credit card-sized single-board computer developed in the UK with the intention of stimulating the teaching of basic computer science in schools.

“I don't think there's one definitive thing that makes the RP significant,” observed Ritter, “but a combination of things that really makes it stand out. First, it's the cost: $35 for what is effectively a completely usable computer. OK, so you have to add a power supply, SD card for storage and maybe a screen, keyboard and mouse, but this is still way cheaper than a typical PC. The choice of an ARM processor is also significant, as it avoids problems like cooling (no heat sink or fan) and can use a USB power brick.  Combine these two things with the immense groundswell of community support and it provides a fantastic platform for teaching young and old alike about computing, which is the real goal of the project.”

He informed me that he’ll be at the Raspberry Pi meetup on Saturday (not part of JavaOne). Check out the details here.

JavaFX Interfaces
When I asked about how JavaFX can interface with the real world, he said that there are many ways.

“JavaFX provides you with a simple set of programming interfaces that can create complex, cool and compelling user interfaces,” explained Ritter. “Because it's just Java code you can combine JavaFX with any other Java library to provide data to display and control the interface. What I've done for my session is look at some of the possible ways of doing this using some of the amazing hardware that's available today at very low cost. The Kinect sensor has added a new dimension to gaming in terms of interaction; there's a Java API to access this so you can easily collect skeleton tracking data from it. Some clever people have also written libraries that can track gestures like swipes, circles, pushes, and so on. We use these to control parts of the UI. I've also experimented with a Neurosky EEG sensor that can in some ways ‘read your mind’ (well, at least measure some of the brain functions like attention and meditation).  I've written a Java library for this that I include as a way of controlling the UI. We're not quite at the stage of just thinking a command though!”

Here Comes Java Embedded
And what, from Ritter’s perspective, is the most exciting thing happening in the world of Java today? “I think it's seeing just how Java continues to become more and more pervasive,” he said. “One of the areas that is growing rapidly is embedded systems.  We've talked about the ‘Internet of things’ for many years; now it's finally becoming a reality. With the ability of more and more devices to include processing, storage and networking we need an easy way to write code for them that's reliable, has high performance, and is secure. Java fits all these requirements. With Java Embedded being a conference within a conference, I'm very excited about the possibilities of Java in this space.”

Check out Ritter’s sessions or say hi if you run into him.


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