360|AnDev 2018 was a sensory experience for the record books. For the third year running, the Android developers conference was again hosted in Denver, Colorado, nestled in the shadows of the magnificent American Rocky Mountains; a sight which really must be seen firsthand to be believed. The two-day event, held in a remarkable piece of early 20th-century Greek-style stone architecture converted to a cutting-edge culture and conference space known as the McNichols Civic Building, was in its own way a visual marvel unto itself.
I was pleased to find that this year’s conference had but one track. This helped reduce the stress associated with the usual conference experience. There was no rushing from room to room like a maniac, no basing your day around guesses of whose talk might be better, and none of the feelings of regret over the talks which inevitably must be missed out on.
The opening keynote was delivered by Blind Institute of Technology founder, Mike Hess, who is blind himself. The talk, titled “Communication Effectiveness” was a really strong start to the event. The focus of the presentation centered around experiences using modern technologies without the use of sight, a concept I feel many attending the conference, myself included, wasn’t very experienced with.
We were also quite surprised when blindfolds were handed out in order to experience a portion of the presentation only by listening. This was enjoyable as it offered a unique perspective and allowed everyone to focus on the content free from distractions. I have to say it was both inspiring and heartwarming to learn about Hess’s work of using new technologies that help the blind gain employment in the modern workplace as well as give employers the necessary tools for hiring the blind.
Over the next two talks, “Animations: Smooth Criminals,” by Stacy Devino and “In-Depth Path Morphing w/ Shapeshifter” by Alex Lockwood, we got generous portions of visuals based info and were exposed to many fascinating aspects of Android’s animation system. We learned, for example, that for more complex animations it is best to use one from open source libraries.
Lottie, from AirBnB, is an excellent example of this, as it can help you export an Adobe After Effects animation and show it on Android using Canvas. You can achieve very nice results with Lottie and it is super handy because most designers usually have some experience with After Effects or are fluent with it. You just need to remember; limiting the amount of different animations on one screen is important and testing on older devices is an absolute must.
We also learned about Kyrie (think Animated Vector Drawables on steroids) and the ShapeShifter web app that helps designers more easily create path morphing animations for their Android apps. Shapeshifter was especially impressive as it can help you transform any shape to another using pretty wild math and even some genetic algorithms. However, Shapeshifter can at times be difficult to tweak correctly but when it finally clicks, it can do some really stunning transformations.
As one might expect from an Android developers conference in 2018, Kotlin, the still relatively young programming language, was a hot topic of discussion. The talk, “Kotlin Coroutines: An Intro to Practical Use on Android” by Nick Capurso, brought us into the world of easy asynchronous programming.
In many ways, it is pretty similar to what RxJava can do, but except the learning curve can be much better for someone who has little to no experience with functional programming concepts. Additionally, the talk, “Kotlinize Your Canvas” by Joshua Lamson, showed us alternative ways of building complex and truly custom UI using only Canvas.
Not all talks at 360|AnDev were strictly technical though. Joe Birch covered topics related to diversity and inclusivity in his talk, “Making Change As An Ally.” Joe broadly discussed challenges which can emerge in work environments and provided some tips on how to work with them. We also got some super useful advice from the talk on the best ways to go about giving designers feedback without hurting their feelings.
One of the core reasons many people visit conferences is the community which is gathered together, and this was especially true for 360|AnDev. The whole place was swarming with people from big and well known US companies like Microsoft, Uber and Google. For example, we were happily amused to find out that the Uber app looks slightly differently almost everywhere and that Microsoft has its own work-oriented social network called Yammer. How else would you learn stuff like that but by attending an international conference?
Altogether, this conference was a truly wonderful experience. We got to hike the mountains and enjoy the awe-inducing views of the American wilderness while discussing nerdy topics with other 360|AnDev attendees. I mean, what more can a dev ask for?
Edited by: James Christopher Lacek
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