“Reach for the sky!”
Play ▶️: One Fall day, when I was 13 years old I went to the movie theater, just as I had done dozens of times before. Little did I know, THIS time, my life would forever change as the lights dimmed and I heard a computer generated toy sheriff slowly proclaim … “Reach for the Sky.”
For many, Toy Story was a cute animated movie … something they’d take their kids to, something most of my friends had no interest in. For me … well I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have goosebumps when I saw the first images of the film come onto the screen. I was mesmerized! Captivated! Enthralled! I felt as though I had won some sort of prize, like someone had given me a gift, like the stars were aligned and for the first time the world made sense. This immersive make-believe world engulfed me unlike anything I had ever experienced. As the film ended, like most in the audience, I was smiling … partly because of the beautiful friendship between Woody and Buzz, but also for a very different reason. I knew at that moment that I HAD to be a part of this. No matter how long it took, and no matter how much effort was required, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. Computer Graphics.
Pause ⏸️: Hi. Allow me to formally introduce myself. My name is Jason Carter and this is my second week as a Technology Evangelist on the Babylon.js development team. By now, you’ve probably guessed that today’s blog entry will be a little bit different. Today, we’re not going to spend our time together talking about the amazing technology being developed in Babylon.js (it is insanely amazing). Instead, I’d like to tell you a story about passion. My story.
Play ▶️: Eventually 13-year-old me had to grow up right? I had to think about more serious things like high-school, college, a more stable and suitable career in Finance or Law? NOPE. Not for me. Toy Story was a seed that was planted in my brain. For the first time, I saw clearly that real magic existed at the intersection of art and technology. That intersection became (and still is) a lifelong obsession. Computer generated images, stories, and content had fully grabbed hold of my imagination and attention. Suddenly everything in this intersection became something I needed to understand, to study, to experience. Computer games, DVD commentaries, computer programming…all of it was intoxicating and none of it was enough. I needed more!
Fast Forward ⏩
Play ▶️: After graduating college, one spring afternoon I was sitting at my desk in my apartment … stunned … an email had just hit my inbox and I had reread the first sentence for the 12th time.
“Congratulations — We’re happy to offer you a position as Production Assistant at Dreamworks Animation.”
Somehow, in some way, my boyhood obsession with CG content and hope to make a living surrounded by it, wasn’t fantasy anymore. It was real. I had just been offered a full-time job working on Computer-Animated Feature Films.
Fast Forward ⏩
Play ▶️: Staring out the window at leaves gently rustling in the trees, sipping Market Spice Tea, I thought back. 10 years. 10 years had flown by like the snap of a finger. I couldn’t help but smile as I reminisced about the highs and lows of a 10-year career in the animation industry, and about my boyhood dreams having blossomed into some of the most amazing experiences of my life. What had I done to be so incredibly blessed? Flushed Away, Bee Movie, Kung Fu Panda, Monsters VS. Aliens, Shrek Forever After, Puss in Boots, Planes, and Planes: Fire and Rescue … how had I been so lucky to have been able to help breathe life into these amazing worlds and stories? How amazing had it been to send these worlds out to audiences? How was I fortunate enough to have worked alongside some of the most talented people in the world?
The time had come for me to hang up my Mickey Ears and join Microsoft on a new life-changing adventure.
Pause ⏸️: Microsoft HoloLens is one of those devices that you cannot possibly describe no matter how much you try. You simply have to use it to understand how magical it truly is. This may sound a little cheesy, but I actually teared up the first time I took the device home. The 13-year-old version of myself (who never grew up) was giddy with excitement and was emotionally overwhelmed by the fact that for the first time, it wasn’t me entering a computer generated world but computer generated content had entered MY world! The raw emotion of that moment is still powerful to relive.
Play ▶️: How is there a dinosaur in my living room right now? I’m looking right at it. I can walk around it. It’s not jittery or unstable. There’s a world-locked low-poly T-Rex in my living room!! What is happening? How is this possible?
The people around me were brilliant. When I say brilliant, I don’t mean it in the social sense … like when you tell your friend it was “brilliant” of them to tip the Uber driver $10. I mean actual brilliance. Genuine intelligence at a level that I have never known and will never know. The engineers and artists around me were solving problems that most of us didn’t even know existed yet. It was simply awe-inspiring to be working along-side them and sharing an excitement for world-changing immersive 3D content. How am I here? Who am I, to be working with these amazing people?
We were creating a device that is fundamentally going to change the way people think about computers. A computer is no longer a thing you use or reach for. Computer content can be intertwined with your world … teaching you new tasks, helping you organize your messes, pouring aliens into your bedroom! This was an entirely new level of passion for 3D content and I was helping to build it … in secret … for the world.
Fast Forward ⏩
Play ▶️: In December of 2018 something entirely unexpected happened. Another team at Microsoft reached out and asked for some assistance on helping to craft a story they wanted to tell. I met them in a conference room and listened. What they shared was nothing short of captivating.
They go over 2 things:
First — Babylon.js is a 3D-content engine. Instant smile on my face. It’s web-based so it can be used cross-platform, and it’s been used to create lots of 3D games and experiences. The smile on my face grows. There’s passion in the room … you can hear it in their voices. You can see it on their faces. These folks are really into what they make! I love that!
Second — Babylon.js is open source software. So it’s free for anyone to use, modify, or contribute to. The story they want to tell is about the team’s work philosophy, particularly, how the “team” is actually an entire community of people across the world that share a passion for 3D content and the technology they’re building together.
Pause ⏸️: The atmosphere in the room changed, it was no longer excitement that exposed their passion, but something different … a sense of seriousness filled the room. The passion you could hear in their voices took on a much more heart-felt tone. This philosophy that they’re talking about is deeply meaningful to them. You can feel it.
Play ▶️: They proceeded to tell me about how their community means everything to them. That while it’s exciting and intoxicating to work on 3D software and be inside of 3D worlds, it’s the fact that everyone SHARES this passion that is the single most important thing. This shared passion is the true “product” of the team. No matter what’s on the days task-list, the ideas/needs/asks of the community is the highest priority above everything else. Nothing else matters apart from this shared group of passionate people. The passion and heart in the room was infectious. It gripped me.
That night I admit I had trouble sleeping. My mind was turning over and over. How does this work? Do they really put aside everything else just to focus on what the community needs? What happens to their other priorities? What happens to features? The entire community shares in their passion for 3D content and 3D worlds? The team creating the software and the people using the software are the same?
Flashback 1 🔄: Once completing your work on animated film, you’re left with an empty feeling. While you’re making the movie, you’re surrounded by amazing people who share your passion for being in and around the worlds you’re creating. When the movie releases however, that team disbands and goes onto other projects. You leave the 3D world to the audiences and you’re left empty. You don’t really get to SHARE the world with audiences. With the exception of film critics, you don’t really get to hear what everyone thinks or how everyone feels about the story.
Flashback 2 🔄: On HoloLens, users of the device were able to provide feedback through a few channels, but it was a one-way conversation. They would share their passions, frustrations, and ideas with you through bugs, but you don’t get to respond … to validate their frustrations or jump for joy in their victories with them.
Back to Present ▶️: Ok wait … hang on a sec … so you’re telling me that the Babylon.js team has an active community that shares their feedback with them daily, in an ongoing, positive 2-way conversation? The creators of the software and those using the software are the same? I wrestled with these questions again and again.
The next day we began working on a video to tell the story of their passion for their community. We spent many hours together. I listened with curiosity and envy as I heard them genuinely tell me, over and over, how important their community is to them and how they get to actively share their passion for 3D with them.
I won’t ask you to take my word for it. Here is their philosophy in their own words.
I was officially infected by the passion of this team and their sincere/genuine care for their community. I knew I had to be a part of it.
Fast Forward ⏩
Play ▶️: It’s difficult to express just how grateful I feel to be a part of this team and community. That boyhood passion for creating 3D worlds and being surrounded by 3D content … well, it’s more alive and vibrant today than ever and I’m bringing it full-force to my role on this team. Through creating demos, videos, tutorials, presentations, educational curriculum, and much, much more — I want to spread Babylon as far and wide as possible. To let every developer know that 3D is easy to learn … to let every artist share their creations widely … to let every student know that programming can create entire worlds … to let every 13-year-old (young or old) find the life-long joy that I have found.
My story is far from over, but I’m so blessed to be writing the next chapter with a world-wide community of people who share the same passion for 3D content that I do…continuing our dreamlike descent into the Wonderland of Computer Generated content.
What’s your story?
Jason Carter — Babylon.js Team