As we mentioned some weeks ago National Instruments in Ireland and Britain held a press event at which they unveiled new products under embargo which were to be released later during NIWeek scheduled for the first week in August in their home town Austin, Texas. We said as much as we dared in our report “Fostering discovery and innovation!” (21/7/2011). Here we found out about the launch of LabVIEW 2011 and “the latest cutting edge NI software and hardware for test!” (The details of new launches are in the box on the right other links including excellent quality videos of presentations and reports in other publications/blogs are linked in a box at the bottom of the page!)
We published each of these releases as the embargo was lifted over the first three days of NI Week, this by now traditional event in National Instruments calendar. We were unable to attend because of the costly 7450km (ca 4630 miles) of ocean and land between your humble correspondent and the excitement of downtown Austin! However all was not lost as we were able to follow the excited and exuberant tweets (#NIWeek) from an assortment of NI Nerds, Geeks and others whose excitement and enthusiasm virtually oozed from each of the 140 characters! There were also some official and semi-official blogs and photos to catch. Hopefully we will capture some of the flavour of the event here.
It appears that NI back-room people were given a run-through pre-NI week and some of their tweets. The company attracts mostly young graduates and their obvious enthusiasm is infectious. One pre-event tweet says “I have to admit that I’m REALLY impressed with the LabVIEW Marketing folks today.” Another “Walked into work to find a Tesla coil playing the Mario theme song. Love this company!” Another recommends using the NI Community web facility and forums. Or, “I can’t wait to see/meet everyone in the LabVIEW community.”
One of the speakers (Intel’s Stewart Christie) says “‘Tiny Robots Helping Tiny Robots Is an Adorable Thing,’I need a set of these for my #NIWeek talk!” And one of the applications in test: “Optimations’ writing water wall powered by LabVIEW is going to be at #NIWeek! Can’t wait to see this app in action!” The build-up the previous week is almost as busy as the actual event itself.
Even people (like yours truly) who couldn’t attend contributed “Have fun at niweek, everyone! Recovering from illness for me this year… maybe next time….” and Todd Sierer (remember him and his nerdy videos!), “Best of luck to all my friends putting on #NIWeek 2011!!! I know it’ll be the best one yet!” Like I said the enthusiasm is infectious!
But what about the event itself. All the tweets were apparently being shown on a screen for all to see and the irrepressible Todd again tweets “Uh oh…just found out all my tweets are showing up on some kind of screen at NIWeek. Hey everyone! I hope they’re using a filter…” Automation Week’s Gary Mintchell comments, “This is my 14th #NIWeek and it is still fascinating.” Indeed many other editors were tweeting throughout the week. (Thanks guys!)
This piece will concentrate on what was available by tweet as the event progressed. The content was recorded elsewhere (including very excellent videos) and we have links to these resources in the box below.
“Tweeting live from the keynote floor at #NIWeek 2011! Dr T talking about his early days taking measurements pre-NI…” “Software IS the instrument. Dr T” Dr T is Dr James Touchard, co-founder of National Instruments. During the opening the tweets continue to reflect the enthusiasm,
“Customers sitting behind us ooh’ing and ah’ing over the new idea exchange features and the time it will save them: awesome!” and “Something really striking this morning at #NIWeek is how often the audience feels compelled to clap as new capabilities are introduced.” The company announces that it is investing $200m in R&D this year. “NIWeek 2011 is the biggest yet: 3300 attendees; 222 sessions; 103 exhibitors!” And I guess another NI staff member: “love this stuff, we’re like Apple for test and measurement 🙂 rawk!” (rawk is a new one on me!)
Day two starts with NI co-founder Jeff Kodosky, the Father of LabVIEW, explaining “basics of power of LabView. Data flow and graphical representation key.” “LabView is the most touch ready programming language today,” tweets Gary Mintchell. This tweet expresses an opinion and tells this writer something new about the Lone Star state, “As I sit here at NIWeek with the most advanced technologies I wonder why their home state of Texas is fighting to save the light bulb!”
Obviously the event divides into various streams and events are taking place in different rooms. “Miss seeing the NI PXIe-5665 battle the Agilent PXA during the keynote? See the demo again in the #RF Pavilion in the expo hall,” tweets one. “Xilinx presents ‘Embedded Processing Solutions for Industrial Applications‘ today at #NIWeek, 11 am Technology Theater” says another. And we were a bit afraid of “Get your geek on and learn how to hack the Microsoft Kinect and other cool sensors at 4:45 in Room 17A.”
Day three began, if you believe the tweets, with student projects robots and other ideas were let loose creating great interest. The focus was on the acceleration of student innovation, “accelerating student innovation with fundamental elements of modern engineering—not just math” said Rick Nelson of Test & Measurement World. This is something that I had picked up at the London press conference. The emphasis on training and education, fostering innovation and inventiveness in students. They work with 6000 universities in 110 countries and Ray Almgren, VP of Product Marketing for Core Platforms, announced a new partnership with the MIT ME department to integrate LabView in 14 courses. He made the point that students, when they sign up for engineering courses , are immediately confronted with is difficult maths and simulation, when they really ought to get their hands dirty with a practical, real, experiential curriculum. “If you want students to pursue engineering, don’t tell them they must become great mathematicians!”
The programme shifted then from student to storm research Innovation. We might say that things started blowing up a storm, with the keynote, Stormchaser Tim Samaras “chasing Tornadoes for Science… for Science! And fun.” Judging from the tweets on this – they almost exploded the feeds on this computer – this was a breathtaking and riveting performance by all accounts. The tweets too were sometimes graphic if not downright esoteric like “We can can measure tornado speed in cows per minute,” or “I’m getting paid to listen to a guy from Storm Chasers give a talk right now. Best job change ever,” or “Watching the most amazing tornado footage I’ve ever seen.” The speaker is quoted “I love lightning, Phantrom 7 high-speed camera captures naturally produced lightning strike. I want images, not cartoons.” And so it went on. I guess the best and most appropriate comment was “The Thursday keynote of #niweek always blows me away.,” (so good we retweeted that one!).
As we have said in other places these events serve many purposes and networking is one of these. You have a priceless opportunity to meet your peers, possible future and/or past employers, technical geniuses, brilliant inventors, truly great leaders and a whole gamut of humanity which share this common interest with you. And of course there is a fun side.
“Ready for the #NIWeek conference party at the Moody Theater? Fun starts at 7; buses from conv center run 6:30-11:30” It looks like a fun happening! However @jaegen tweets some drawbacks in the new Labview 2011 on Wednesday night, “NI Week party / proves that LabVIEW cannot teach / engineers to dance…” Well R2D2 was not really noted for his dancing ability! Another ruefully comments, “My goal tonight is to spend more time hanging out at the #NIWeek conference party than I did trying to find a parking spot for it.” So Austin is just like most cities then! And other tweets we will probably ignore include “Norm and I at #niweek Wed night“ and other shots of participants in greater or lesser states of enjoyment – I nearly said inebriation but I’ll spare you! Suffice it to say that a good time appears to have been had by all!
A final tweet gives us some hope for the future generation: “I came home from the #NIWeek conference party to my daughter asking questions about a #LabVIEW diagram she had sketched out.” and “You can tell #NIWeek is over. My Twitter and Facebook feeds have suddenly become very quiet.”
And so say all of us until the 18th NI Week next year or as @nrdingle tweeted “Only 363 days till #niweek 2012.”