Another Awesome Day @ the Cube

Phew. Well, today freakin’ ruled!

Days like today are the best – those one of a million types that you look back on as you nestle into bed and think “dang…I wish they could all be like that.”

BEHOLD!! The Cube.

They’re the kind that make you really appreciate this ball of chaos on which we occupy. The ones that make you forget the stresses and obligations of daily living and instead let you focus on the good and the great. The stuff we should actually focus on – gnome saying?

Truthfully, this was something I’ve been looking forward to since my first visit several months ago (the recap of which can be found here: Pushing Boundaries: My Day at iCube). To spare you an unnecessarily verbose description of why I was so excited, I recommend you read that post. Basically I got to spend all day screwing around with super expensive virtual reality stuff, among other toys that any nerd would die to get their hands on. Read on for the deets of today (I’ll pause so you can get caught up on the aforementioned post).

The team at iCube most certainly inspire.

The main thing that made today so much better than my first visit was the added bonus of bringing a close friend, Johnny. Incidentally, now that I think about it, he’s someone that many of my readers are already e-acquainted with (I refer to none other than infamous Johnny the Slick-Handed). So to most accurately place you into my mindset, imagine the value of attending something, anything, with a good pal. It results in a profoundly different interaction – not only for the event itself, but when also considering the small things like the hour-long conversations both to and from said event. For lack of a better description, it simply elevates the entire experience. Couple this with the fact that our tour-guide was not only a friend, but one of the most down-to-Earth, smartest people I know (Mack Lunn) and that’s just a formula for…well, fun. Rhyme not intended.

The day began with an incredible bacon-burger-filled lunch at Spanky’s, a local joint located on the campus of TN Technological Institute in good ole Cookeville, TN. Johnny, Mack, and myself were joined by two painfully beautiful she-geniuses, Tara and Brooklyn – who, I should add, also work at iCube. Evidently the place excels at hiring super-intelligent, motivated human beings; something indicative of any organization which winds up being enormously successful.

Before I forget – and this has absolutely nothing to do with anything – one thing I’d be remiss not to mention that happened during lunch: the literal tear inducing moment of sharing a short video of a poor, trapped sheep being rescued only to be accidentally tossed down a mountain. You’re probably thinking that sounds sadistic and evil, but I assure you it wasn’t as bad as it sounds. After all, I’m like…90% sure…the sheep ended up just fine (stop and watch this video immediately). Again, totally irrelevant to this post, but something I found so funny that I simply had to sprinkle in here. Blame Johnny for showing it to me on the ride up.

It gets no more immersive than stepping into virtual reality.

Anyway! Let’s get back on point. More important than TumbleSheep, lunch produced some extremely stimulating conversation – not a surprise considering the company. My favorite thing about highly intellectual environments is the conversation, which always proves to be thought-provoking and relevant. Not to mention that Spanky’s is the absolute business if you want a decent burg in Cookeville.

After lunch, Mack led us back to iCube, where I wanted Johnny to try out the same stuff I got to enjoy during my first visit. So, armed with all things VR, Mack strapped him into an Oculus Rift and let him immerse himself in the digital, virtually realistic universe we’ve all read so much about. The post I referenced earlier alludes to much of these applications/games, but one thing I want to mention that most definitely separates today from last time: FREAKIN STAR WARS!!

Sorry, let me adjust myself before my visibly aroused scribbles create an awkward environment for us both.

Who, me?  Not much…just using my LIGHT SABER! Whatchu up to?

Yes, you read that correctly. They have finally developed a game that allows us lessor humans to step into the shoes of a real life, force-slinging, saber-wielding Jedi who can block FRICKIN’ LASER BEAMS. I kid you not. So Johnny, being the guinea pig of the day, was able to enjoy this as I sat there taking pictures for this very post – silently dying a little on the inside wishing this had come out when I was younger. Kids these days get to have all the fun, right? Whatever. They can take their iPads and their fake online girlfriends and…ahem. Moving on!

After awhile of fiddling with VR, we again (for me) stepped into the craaaazy-expensive “VisBox”, which is this huge platform/dark arena where you put on some goofy goggle and walk around in a real 3-D, immersive environment. My last post described an application catered towards hospitals, where diabetic patients can waltz around in their hearts/arteries, truly visualizing what’s going on in their bodies if they don’t follow the doc’s instructions. Again, Johnny was the “player”. We also showed him the other applications that the Vis Box offers, such as a super cool app where you can walk around the old Quake video game’s map. You know the one I’m talking about – that old FPS game where we all learned to shoot people. Not this sissy COD junk that the nerds of today are used to. In any case, I imagine the Vis Box is always one of iCube’s crown jewels that has a lot of impact and wow-value for the folks who aren’t familiar with their work.

Where the magic happens.

After the VB, Mack took us through the studio, showing us where the (seemingly literal) magic happens. Imagine a video game studio, but sprinkled with students, Oculus Rift headsets, and a bunch of dry-erase board with hieroglyphics…only the hieroglyphics are actually just stuff that English-speaking people who are smarter than me understand and not actually a foreign language.

If you understand this, stop reading this and go design some stuff.

Following the studio, the final part of our tour began, which was a quick look at the things they do in terms of 3D printing. This time, unlike my last, there was actually one printer that was actively printing something. This was really cool to see, since earlier I didn’t have the chance to see something manifest out of what seemed like thin air (these things are nuts if you haven’t watched videos or anything on them). In fact, the sheer thought of “printing” objects still sort of boggles my mind, but alas – that is literally the world we now live in. Get used to it, I suppose.

Since we mentioned light sabers and all…

All in all, I’ll wrap up with by reiterating how much I appreciate Mack and days like today. Many thanks to all the folks at iCube for creating such an inexplicably incredible venture that I eagerly hope to read about as time moves forward. I genuinely expect some revolutionary things coming from them and theirs in the future.

A future which, as iCube clearly indicates, is blindingly approaching with lightning-fast swiftness.

Thanks again Mack!!!! You da man.

For more information on iCube and the amazing work they do, please visit their website at http://www.ttuicube.com/

Reflecting on the Greats: Drew Karpyshyn

For my second entry in this series, I’ve decided to highlight someone who has had a particular impact on me in terms of inventiveness and imagination. Many of you will likely raise an eyebrow when you see the name of this writer. Yet many of you, particularly those versed in the realm of science fiction, will nod and smile in appreciation of the writer to whom I am tipping a cap.

As so many others in my generation, my recollection of my life involves a series of great stories portrayed in the form of video games. My kin were raised to the liking of Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, Crash Bandicoot, the list goes on. For me, personally, I always gravitated toward RPGs when it came to my video gaming habits. I suppose, subconsciously, I’ve always had a writer’s heart – as the story was first and foremost the thing that captivated me in my digital endeavors. Call of Duty is fun for awhile, but for me, I need a the intellectual stimulation of a well-written story to hold my attention for longer than a round or two of TDM.

It is for this reason that I’ve chosen to take a knee in honor of Mr. Karpyshyn. For any that are unfamiliar with him, he was a primary writer behind such behemoths as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Baldur’s Gate, and (most importantly for me), the Mass Effect Series. In fact, his work on Mass Effect stemmed into several novels, elaborating on the vastly complex and beautifully-hashed-out science fiction work of art.

If you find time to look into his work, I strongly suggest you do so. The environments he achieves, the motifs that are conveyed, and the sheer quality of his writing is awe-inspiring. As a budding writer myself, I’m compelled to send my deepest appreciation for those such as him for setting such a high bar to which I can aspire.