Technology

Here’s what these young developers predict about our relationship with technology, post-lockdown

A coder with all his technologies at his access   | Photo Credit: Arian Darvishi/Unsplash

As the COVID-19 lockdown powers through, more people have taken on coding as a new passion, with many hoping to integrate this in their careers. It is safe to say that one is never ‘done’ learning coding; the language keeps changing, as does the adaptability to keep up with the ever-emerging technologies we surround ourselves with. More importantly, the networks of coders and developers has taken on a more abstract shape, many going the virtual route rather than straight out cancelling the event.

So, Apple announced that Worldwide Developers Conference 2020, which is now in its 31st year, would be taking on a new virtual format due to the pandemic. The upcoming conference has more than 23 million registered developers in more than 155 countries and regions. Having hosted thousands of students since its genesis, the conference last year saw more than 75% of the attendee students as first-timers, speaking to the adoption of Swift and the Everyone Can Code curriculum, and its expansion.

Here’s what these young developers predict about our relationship with technology, post-lockdown

MetroPlus caught up with past WWDC scholarship winners who are, in fact, excited about the new format. The young developers chat about the misconceptions as well as their predictions of technology post-lockdown while assuring that coding and development can start right at home.

‘Immense prominence’

Vidit Bhargava, the co-founder of Squircle Apps, is known for his app LookUp, a visual dictionary, which was named Best New App in the App Store in 2014 and 2017. Clearly, he is no stranger to the seemingly intimidating procedure of getting your app reviewed.

The young developer thinks back, “A few years ago, the review times were often considered to be a big block in the development process. You’d have to wait for anywhere from three to seven days to have your app approved, and if something went wrong it’d be even longer! But that’s improved a lot recently. So much so that review times are less than 24 hours now. I’ve submitted App Store updates that got approved within a couple of hours. Yes, there’s some uncertainty around the process of having your app approved. There are times when the review team would flag an update if they require more details, or reject something for it being not in line with the guidelines. But even then, there are always clear instructions for the next steps; with clear communication.”

Vidit Bhargava, developer of LookUp and founder Squircle Apps

Vidit Bhargava, developer of LookUp and founder Squircle Apps  

Vidit explains that people will realise that they can do a whole lot more with technology after the lockdowns lift, adding, “The lockdown has forced people to think on their feet and adapt to a new way of doing things, and technology is coming to the rescue in innovative ways. People are spending more time with their gadgets in the lockdown, and that will definitely make them more savvy and comfortable with them than they previously were.”

He also says there is a strong future for automation and robotics where many thought it was not necessary. “These two are vital in reducing human contact, and if it helps people stay safe in the pandemic, they will appreciate it. Similarly their experience in learning online will define how they see that technology in the future. If your online class keeps ‘disconnecting’ frequently, you are far more likely to want to go back and sit in a traditional environment for learning. The technology that is helping us get through the pandemic, needs to work as intended to be able to win the respect of the people. It is gaining prominence in society because it is the best way to get things done right now, but it will only last long if people have a good experience with it.”

Vidit advises those new to coding not to be intimidated, especially because many tend to look at the complicated syntax, and try to grasp it all at once. He explains, “In its essence, programming is just a set of steps you tell a computer to perform. And if you were to look at it like that, it is not very different from Lego.”

A ray of hope

For Swapnil Dhol, being able to produce something out of thin air and running it on the powerful devices we carry in our pocket is super rewarding. He is the mind behind gradient-adjusting app Neon and comic viewer XKCD. “Human interaction is a big part of WWDC, since developers can interact with Apple Engineers, get their code reviewed, and ask any questions that they might have. Also, WWDC is a place to make new friends, meet like-minded people. I’ve met some of my closest friends, who continuously push the boundaries of what is possible with technology,” he comments.

Swapnanil Dhol, developer of Neon and XKCD

Swapnanil Dhol, developer of Neon and XKCD  

Of course, the developer in him is eager to tap into emerging technologies. “I’ve been tapping into the possibilities of RealityKit recently. The sheer power of being able to detect multiple anchor points to create a 3D render of an object is nothing short of amazing computational power. I’ve generally been looking to dive more into the field of Augmented Reality since I believe that it’s the future of mobile apps.”

He believes the lockdown proved that technology does shape human life for the better. “Being able to order essential items from the comfort of one’s home and attend meetings on the other side of the planet, is nothing short of amazing and this trend will continue even after the lockdown ends. I think people will finally understand the potential of these technologies. The lockdown has affected nearly all aspects of our daily life, but students are still able to submit assignments and teachers are still able to teach...The power of technology is amazing and it is great to see that in a time of crisis, technology turns out to be a ray of hope,” he concludes.

New respect

Brothers Tarun and Aman Jain, both WWDC scholars in 2016, put their heads together to run a small games startup called Digital Hole, with the first game released being Ringo.

Here’s what these young developers predict about our relationship with technology, post-lockdown

“The relationship between users and technologies around the globe is definitely going to change post lockdown,” they explain, “Online social gaming, e-learning, and OTT content streaming are some of the sectors that have seen a massive jump in usage and people would love to continue all these things post lockdown as well,” they explain. After the lockdown, they say people will look at technology with “new respect.”

They add, “All the technical advancements and achievements are helping us overcome these challenging days, and people definitely have noticed the significance of technology in their day-to-day life.”

Aman Jain, co-developer of Digital Hole

Aman Jain, co-developer of Digital Hole  

Having recently launched an app for children called Storyio – For Kids, they see that Machine Learning and Augmented Reality are, “A few of the technologies that we think are going to change the education industry, and we are constantly exploring new possibilities in those areas... We are currently exploring ways to implement these technologies in the app, to help educate children better and in more efficient ways.” For those looking to code for the first time, they advise, “never to be afraid of anything new and always be curious.”

Technophobia: a silent reaction

Sudarshan Sreeram is just 17, but he has experience many developers would envy. He developed a simple and interactive version of the classic two-player game, Tic Tac Toe, using Swift Playgrounds, and even penned an opinion paper titled ‘Artificial Intelligence and Jobs of the Future: Adaptability Is Key for Human Evolution’, which was published in January 2019 in the journal AI Matters, after his stint at WWDC 2018.

Here’s what these young developers predict about our relationship with technology, post-lockdown

He considers the new digital format of WWDC to be beneficial to wider audiences which would be inclusive for many first-timers, adding, “The event would bring in a greater degree of participation, especially among experienced developers within the Apple ecosystem and those from younger age-groups looking to get involved in app development.” For those looking to start coding, he is empathetic, “There’s a vision, but not a visible path or roadmap to reach it. Even if there is one, there’s a sense of being overwhelmed by the amount of information to digest; simply put, it’s like having a stack of thick, bounded books dropped on your head... The learning process takes time and effort, and starting small allows you to register the information you gain to a higher degree. So, in the end, you’re building yourself a pyramid rather than constructing an easily collapsable funnel.”

Sudarshan says that after the lockdowns lift, “The world would certainly see an increased reliance on technology and online services, and I think that there would be an increased emphasis on tackling problems in the areas of cyber-security and data privacy.”

In fact, he predicts a wave of new reactions to technology after the pandemic, explaining, “Technophobia is a silent, natural reaction. Take personal computers for example: when they were first introduced in the early 1980s, computer-phobia was commonplace. Forty years later, our society is technologically dependent; it’s hard to think of how life would be without access to the internet or an internet-connected device.” He further explains that the key takeaway here is that any radical change would initially be met with a sense of scepticism, but would gradually lead to the creation of a new, widely-adapted norm until the next change arrives.

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Printable version | Mar 3, 2021 1:20:12 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/apple-wwdc-india-scholarship-winners-interviews-on-the-future-of-technology-post-coronavirus-lockdown/article31673322.ece

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