18 Feb – What’s it like to be a VR SDK developer at Tiledmedia?
Stan is Tiledmedia’s all-around VR Software Developer. With our ClearVR technology deployed across mobile devices and headsets, Stan now works on bringing ClearVR to PC-based platforms. We asked him to share what he works on and give his view on what it’s like to be a VR developer at Tiledmedia.
Coding is not the only task
What does a typical workday look like, Stan?
“I normally kick off my development work usually around 10:00 am with the company-wise development standup or the biweekly PC meeting that I host. Before the meeting, I read up on Slack messages and plan my day. During these meetings, we share our progress or obstacles and let each other know who is working on what. The idea is to avoid merge conflicts and mitigate dependency delays. Then, the rest of the time I am busy implementing what we’ve agreed on, and then I test the code.
We often need more discussions and we frequently have intensive coordination discussions. That’s how we focus resources and keep iterating ideas swiftly. Next to development, I may spend time on customer support or evaluating the quality of our live tests on the PC platform. Last but not least, a day wouldn’t be complete without coffee breaks. It could be like exchanging ideas with colleagues at the coffee corner, or garbing a cup of coffee standing in front of the big data dashboard monitoring our product usage. To be honest, it’s quite satisfying.”
Learn as we go
What are the issues that you ran into and how do you resolve them?
“You never know what kind of issues lie ahead, for instance with firmware, drivers, and the various platforms we support. For example, on a PC platform, we might encounter graphic card driver issues as I work on maintaining our cross-platform codebase. This includes Windows, Linux, and the new MacOS. We also need to align the PC APIs with the APIs for our mobile and headset SDKs. It’s quite challenging and requires a strong sense of software engineering.
My favorite way of resolving these issues is called ” Salami Tactics.” It’s our term for “divide and conquer” at Tiledmedia. Sometimes we need to dive extremely deep into our processing pipeline to identify the root of a certain issue – slicing it very thin as it were. The engineering sense plays an important role on deciding where and how thin a slice should be made. What’s nice about working at Tiledmedia is that we value innovation and have a rapid development pace. We work with great partners who are also our customers, and they bring us nice challenges. We learn as we go. It’s a healthy process, beneficial to both our customers and ourselves.”
Reducing the dev cycle and performing quality testing
Tiledmedia’s SDKs target headsets and mobile devices. So why work on a PC version?
“The PC work greatly speeds up our customers’ development cycle. PC support allows developers to implement new features and test them swiftly – they are no longer forced to do a full headset build and test their app on that headset. Our customers can now do this entire cycle on their development PC. For example, our brand-new cross-user synchronisation feature was first built and prototyped with our PC SDK and then ported to mobile devices and VR headsets. We are also developing more automated quality testing, and again the PC is a great platform to start our tests, on several levels.
But it’s not just supporting mobile devices – we have actually started to support Windows-based apps using our ClearVR tech.”
Productivity working from home
What are the tools you use? And how do you deal with working from home given the current Covid-19 situation?
“Just to name a few, we use Git for version control, clang-format to save time keeping the code tidy, and build tests on GitHub to prevent build regressions. As I write cross-PC-platform C++ code, I find it useful to leverage multiple C++ compilers from different platforms to spot compilation bugs at an early stage.
As for working from home, that concept existed way earlier than Covid-19 among software developers. To keep me comfortable when working longer hours, I use the same ergonomic keyboard and mouse in the office.
Additionally, I always remind myself to regularly call in with colleagues. Trust me, it always pays off. As an expat living in a shared apartment with flat-mates having a similar background, I can concentrate more easily, I would say, than those who have distractions at home, like children running around and calling for attention. My main challenge is to rest when I should. Set a timer, eat well, and sleep well. Those elements are essential to keeping productive. Obviously, we have our regular social events, like the Friday afternoon week closing, when everyone shares the good news.”
Feels a bit like hacking
So where are the real challenges – for Tiledmedia and for you?
“Like the other engineers at Tiledmedia, I don’t want to settle for performance out of the box. We pursue the cleanest and highest quality VR video. Our software and technology aim to squeeze every last bit of performance out of consumer equipment. For instance, we allow 8K VR on devices that only have a 4K decoder. I always like to try and run with a headset connected to a PC with the highest-end CPU and GPU on the market. We just can’t settle for good enough, we want to give consumers the best possible quality. Squeezing every last bit of performance out of current hardware feel a bit like hacking. Our challenge is to make these “hacks” work across all devices, reliably.”
February 18, 2021