Having Fun Can Drive IT Innovation

Managing the Changing IT Landscape: Developing Cutting-Edge Software

So what do you get when you combine college students, IT professionals, and a math app for middle school students? And why would we want to have a frog play video games on a phone?

Sometimes we have to “get out of the box” to stimulate our creative muscles. So why not have a little fun while we’re at it? When I’m doing something fun and exciting at work, I’m more open to new ideas. Applying fun concepts to business problems—whether in the form of a game or a contest—can result in powerful teamwork and even stronger solutions. In fact, it makes us more productive and more creative, and it prompts innovation.

I just read a Business Insider article on how gamification can foster learning up to 40 percent faster. This article teaches us about a new way to look at innovation, collaboration, and the power of technology. New approaches were on display at the Intel Developer Forum (#IDF13) last month.

Competition leads to cooperative learning

Businesses everywhere are under intense pressure to create new mobile apps faster, better, and cheaper. And bringing that app development in-house is gaining popularity as the most efficient solution.

Intel IT took a fun approach to demonstrate the power and speed of cloud-based app development at IDF. In a hackathon event, two teams of college students faced off against a team of Intel IT professionals. The challenge was to create a math app for middle school students in less than two days, and the app had to meet several key criteria:

  • Be cloud aware.
  • Land on platform-as-a-service.
  • Support multi-platform, responsive design.
  • Be totally cool and innovative (my favorite criteria).

The winning app was called Cosmic Math, which advances a spacecraft to the next planet of mathematical difficulty when you correctly solve equations. Though the winners were awarded a fake cloud (some cotton balls), all teams got real experience developing apps in a private cloud.

As I watched, it was clear that this competitive event turned out to be as much about collaboration as it was about having fun and creating something new—in a short period of time. To discover which team won and what the teams learned, read event organizer Catherine Spence’s IDF13 hackathon blog.

When pigs fly, frogs will play games

To demonstrate the simplicity of new device interactions, Intel’s Dr. Achintya Bhowmik, director of perceptual computing technology and solutions, showed a frog playing a video game.

As I explored the vendor demos at IDF, I discovered several examples of new device interactions, including gesture, voice, and even eye tracking. By giving computing devices human-like senses, developers will enable them to “see,” “hear,” and “understand” us so that we can interact more naturally with them. This ExtremeTech article includes a summary of the perceptional computing solutions on display at IDF, and also shows a video of the frog. 

While I see perceptual computing applications emerging first in games and consumer technology applications, my mind immediately drifts to what this could mean for future business use cases. It seems like a big opportunity to improve data security, personal productivity, and business workflows. 

I mean, if a frog can play a video game, then imagine what we could really do with interactive technology experiences in the workplace. What ways do you see perceptual computing impacting business?

Now tell me the truth … did you chuckle at the end of the video of the frog playing the game?

#ITCenter #hackathon