When web development reached critical mass in the early-mid 2000's, there was a lot of discussion about what it all meant for native development and apps that are optimized for devices, but developers' penchant for exploiting what devices can do has persisted through all of that, and it keeps getting more interesting with every passing year: devices are smarter, faster, and more packed with features than ever before. Gone are the days when developers had to wait patiently for hardware to catch up to software. Now it's the other way around, and it's great for developers, who just can't seem to get enough of cameras, accelerometers, location sensors, touch screens, gesture inputs, voice inputs, and a bevy of other previously-unheard-of coolness. Even Steve Jobs got an education in this undercurrent as Apple brought the iPhone to market ... if you've read Walter Issacson's book, you know the story: Jobs was of course maniacal about user experience, and was adamantly opposed to the idea of third-party developers messing things up with native apps. Subsequently, the iPhone comes to market with a lot of fanfare about Safari and web mobility, but once developers understood what the device could do, it began a mini-standoff that resulted in a November 2007 capitulation blog post, promising developers an SDK for iPhone and iPod Touch. The rest, of course, is history.
Since then, we've seen the term "device" take on all sorts of different meanings ... most people think of it as a smartphone, or a PC, or a tablet, or a game console to name a few form factors, not to mention the embedded world of ATMs, traffic lights, and sensor networks. But anything with a microprocessor can run software, and as things get smaller and more modular, the sky's the limit in terms of developer creativity and imagination, which brings us to today's post. Jeff Sandquist and the Channel 9 team have been busy with a project that we've talked about since September, and for lots of folks, it will reshape how you think about what a device is, where it goes, how it gets integrated into things you use today, and (in this case) how amazing it can be when it's done right .
Thanks – Tim
Those of you who attended or watched BUILD last September may recall a project that Dan, Clint and I have been working on with the guys at West Coast Customs. Against the odds, and perhaps against our better judgment in terms of sleeping hours, we set out to see what was possible when you combine some of the world's most innovative technology, the latest in cloud connectivity and raw American auto muscle. What would it look like if you could take Windows, Windows Phone, Windows Azure, Xbox, Kinect, Bing - you name it - and put it all together into one iconic car? Well, we're excited to announce that the experiment is complete and "Project Detroit" will be unveiled to the world this Sunday, March 25 at 9:00 p.m. PT/ET on Discovery's Velocity Network.
To say that this has been a labor of love is an understatement. To do this right we knew that we needed to work with the best and the only option was West Coast Customs. Along with Ryan Friedlinghaus and his crew, we started with a 2012 Mustang, retrofitted it with Dynacorn's 1967 Mustang fastback replica body. From there, we piled on Microsoft's latest technologies, many of which have never been used in automotive applications. We created heads-up displays with augmented reality in the windshield. We put a Kinect on the front and a Kinect in the rear for skeletal tracking and live streaming video feeds. We added swipe-able touchscreen dashboard displays and then we tied it all together with Windows Azure in the cloud and Windows Phone applications to control it all. And that's just the beginning.
(want a really big version of this picture? It makes a great desktop background )
To really understand how it all came together, you have to watch the episode, but to give you just a taste, here are some of the things you can expect to see:
- Windows Phone Integration: Although the Mustang's design makes the car easy to spot, you can keep tabs on the car's location even when it is out of sight. Locate, unlock, and start the car all from the Viper SmartStart app for Windows Phone.
- Built-in WIFI: To help ensure the Mustang is always online and connected to the cloud, the vehicle has a built-in 4G wireless network that supports multiple devices.
- Digital Instrument Cluster: Swipe the touch-screen instrument cluster and toggle between different dashboard skins including a 1967 Mustang, a 2012 Mustang and a Windows 8 Metro design style version.
- Heads Up Display: Similar to what's found in fighter jets, the windshield contains a driver side and passenger side heads-up display (HUD) highlighting telemetry and Bing Maps information directly on the windshield. View nearby restaurants, shopping centers and gas stations all without taking an eye off the road. A passenger can play Xbox on his/her side of the windshield without distracting the driver.
- Ford SYNC: Up-to-the-minute traffic information, hands-free communication and even voice control applications are part of the standard Ford SYNC system that is available in Project Detroit.
- Entertainment System: The entertainment system comes with an Xbox 360 and a Kinect. When parked, the rear windshield can actuate up to serve as a projector screen for playing movies or video games from behind the car.
- External Audio System: The audio system acts as a public address system so you can speak into your phone and have the audio played through the car's external speakers. Using this system, the car also has customizable car horn "ringtones" that enable you to change what sound plays when the horn is honked.
- Kinect Integration: Front and rear Kinect cameras provide a live video feed of surrounding pedestrians and objects. You can even watch and listen to the live audio and video stream from the Kinects remotely using a Windows Phone and send a message (see below) to the external audio system like "Hey skateboarders: stay away from my car."
- Cloud Powered: Using the built-in wireless network, the Mustang is able to communicate with cloud services including Bing Maps, Viper's Smart Start system as well as store real-time telemetry data such as speed, location, RPM and fuel level in Windows Azure.
- Customizable Rear Windshield: While driving, the rear windshield can serve as a customizable display system that can play video, show images and display custom messages, like "Stop tailgating me please" or something more, umm, colorful.
As a community of developers you might be saying, "that's great, but what does this mean for me?" We started this project because we knew it would be a challenging and fun way to show what all of these technologies can do in an environment like a car. So now we not only have an incredible Mustang "device" to showcase what we have done, we will be making source code for the major components of the project available on CodePlex in the coming weeks.
We want you to think BIG about the types of scenarios you can create. Think bigger – beyond the devices we hold in our hands, those that sit on our desks and the things that mount to our walls. We are so incredibly proud of this car, but we're even more proud of what it represents – ingenuity, creativity and some great demonstrations of Microsoft technologies in cool applied scenarios. Make sure you tune in Sunday, but in the meantime check out some photos and let us know what you think. As you know, Channel 9 is all about community and Project Detroit is only as successful as you make it. Get excited, download the code and create your own device powered by hardware and software.
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