Spotlight on Jason Collins from Google



Jason Collins, Google Engineer

Jason Collins, a software engineer with Google and University of Saskatchewan Computer Science alumni, gave the keynote address at Digitized, a technology conference for 350 high school students at the University of Saskatchewan. 

Successful software developers are persistent, so when the co-founder of Saskatoon’s Vendasta Technologies failed the “strict, stringent and crazy” hiring process at Google in California’s Silicon Valley last year, he went through it twice more until they hired him.

Jason Collins now writes code for the Google cloud platform as one of 160,000 “Googlers” working in 70 offices in 40 countries. On Thursday Collins gave 350 high school students attending Digitized, a one-day career workshop hosted by the University of Saskatchewan Department of Computer Science, a peek inside the rapidly-growing world of computer technology.

Why is now a good time for young people go into computer science?
The technology that we’re building is on an exponential curve. While we’ve seen things grow, the rate of change is becoming even faster and faster. The things that are going to happen over the next 15, 20 or 30 years, we can’t even conceive of today. That exponential acceleration is really exciting. 

It sounds like technology is catching up to the challenge of virtual reality and beyond.
This is going to explode and create new forms of gaming, art, music, movies that will dramatically change the way we experience these things. The next stage is augmented reality with cool hipster glasses that can overlay computer print over the real world. So when you’re talking to someone their name pops up or their birthday. If you’re shopping, comparative prices at other stores will pop up. Signs in foreign countries would be translated for you.

Google is also working on Project Jaquard, in which wire is woven into fabric. If you’re wearing augmented reality or virtual devices, we’ll make “wearables” to interact with these devices. Instead of reaching to your face to scroll a mouse wheel, you could wear a jacket with a touch pad in the arm to control what’s in your vision.

Another is Project Soli, which works with radar on a chip. The human hand is very intricate in the way that it can move and this radar is super high resolution that can detect very small movements in the hand. So you can do very subtle movements with your fingers and your hand in space. This chip can see these actions happen and can react to it.

We are moving toward embeddables for altruistic reasons, like defeating cancer cells or giving quadriplegics motion back in their limbs. Engineers are working with a quadriplegic man, Ian Burkhart, whose arm was completely motionless. Now he’s able to pour a cup of coffee and drink it, just by thinking about it. It’s a prototype. He received a transplant in his brain and there’s wires connected to a computer and electrodes on his arm to stimulate the muscles. He’s just thinking about those activities and is able to make them happen.

With so much change, how does anyone keep up?
It really is a career of non-stop learning. There isn’t a point when you’ve learned all you need to know. The most important thing is a passion for learning and always wanting to find new stuff and figuring things out.

Full Star Phoenix article