This third-year WWDC scholarship winner built an ML model to recognize beer in one day

Posted:
in iOS edited June 7
Every year Apple invites student developers to its Worldwide Developer Conference. This year there were 350 scholarship winners in attendance. This afternoon I met up with Collin DeWaters of Fredericksburg, Virginia, who already has four titles in the App Store and put together a new 3D racing game for his Swift Playground application in three days. He's 21.


WWDC scholarship winner Collin DeWaters


Student prodigies are all over the place at WWDC. I ran into two at this morning's Nike Run Club. But even by lofty WWDC scholarship winner standards, DeWaters seems extraordinarily diverse in his interests and his familiarity with Apple's APIs.

Despite being toured around as a guest of Apple during the event--which includes a trip to Apple Park's Steve Jobs Theater to meet with Tim Cook--DeWaters found time to build prototype code making use of the newest APIs to be released. He also managed a stop at Apple's Infinite Loop store to track down the just announced Pride Month band for Apple Watch. And during WWDC week, he made an appearance at AltConf (his interview there is on YouTube).

A Swift learner

DeWaters got interested in computers initially working with PCs, but then got a Mac in high school and spent a couple years figuring out Apple's Objective-C development language.

In 2014 Apple released Swift, and DeWaters quickly became a fan of the new language. He noted that it was easy to understand, easier to learn and easy to read and collaborate on code, particularly in comparison to ObjC. In 2015 he launched his first App Store title, "Avoid," a game where players dodge and defend against floating blips to stay alive as long as possible.

That year he also put in an application for a WWDC scholarship but wasn't accepted. That didn't stop him though. He created a social network for music and won a scholarship to attend in 2016. The next year, he worked with SpriteKit and GamePlay Kit to build the retro 2D game Bit Hockey, which he submitted as a Swift Playground and was again invited to WWDC.



This year, he applied with his latest project, a 3D racing game--with the intent of adapting it to work with ARKit. He's actually written the game twice: first as a conventional racing game for Mac that steers a car around a racetrack (there are billboards in the game cleverly advertising his other software titles), and again as an iOS game, with plans to turn it into an Augmented Reality title where players control the turning speed of Hot Wheels-sized cars that race around a track that can be virtually positioned on any ARKit-recognized horizontal surface.

DeWaters noted that most of the GameKit and SceneKit logic of his racing game was easy to port between Macs and iOS. The two platforms require more custom work in building their platform-native user interface, however. He stated that UIKit on iOS made it relatively simple to build the user interface elements, and in comparison to the Mac's AppKit API was a lot easier to understand.

One of the new features Apple demonstrated this year was an internal effort to host its own UIKit-based apps on the Mac in macOS Mojave, including News, Stocks, Home and Voice Memos. Each of the apps has a simple UI that's easy to adapt to the Mac's mouse and windowing UI without needing to rewriting it to macOS AppKit APIs.

Next year, after Apple polishes its implementation of UIKit on macOS, it expects to make this work public to third-party developers. DeWaters noted that this could facilitate moving his own iOS games (and other apps with a simple UI) to the Mac.

Music Memories

Of all of the projects he's worked on, DeWaters said he's most proud of Music Memories. That original app lets users select photos taken on specific dates, pick a calendar event or a selected date range and it then suggests (using MusicKit) the songs the user was listening to (using machine learning and some original algorithms), creating a zeitgeist playlist that can be accessed everywhere Apple Music works.



Once a Music Memory is created, the song playlist appears on iOS devices, Apple Watch, your Mac and can even be requested by Siri to play on HomePod.

The creative title (a free app) was recently featured by Apple in the App Store, jumping its user base to 1,000 daily users. It's already available globally, but currently limited to English. DeWaters said he's attending sessions at WWDC with an interest in localizing it for other speakers and locations.

He also has plans for a 2.0 version that makes use of a subscription model, featuring both a Mac edition of the app and the ability to save memories in the cloud. Its App Store reviews are glowing, with one user writing, "I love using this app especially with the 'dynamic memories'! I was able to listen to a playlist of music from 3 years ago in college! The fact that all of this works with the built-in Music app makes this app a real gem."

Mojave MacBook Pro, with Touch Bar

DeWaters was already using the new macOS Mojave on his MacBook Pro. He assured me he's dual booting it, but also said the new developer release is already very usable. I asked what he thought about the new Dark IU. "I'm never going to turn it off. I love it!" he said.

I asked him about the Touch Bar on his MacBook Pro. Did he find it useful? Turns out he's already built apps that use it. His iOS Bit Hockey game started out on the Mac, where he used the Touch Bar APIs to provide menu shortcuts and to pause the game.

He also said he finds his Touch Bar handy in other apps, including of course Apple's Xcode development tools, where with a single tap of the Touch Bar he can comment out a selection of code, isolating lines that might contain a problem.

What else does he anticipate Apple working on? Well, the rumors are swirling about eyewear featuring an Augmented Reality experience for AR without needing to point a phone. Maybe by 2020.

ML Beer

DeWaters already has plenty to think about right now. He somehow found time to work with Apple's newly released Create ML to build a machine learning model.

Yesterday (!) while at AltConf (a meeting held around the corner from WWDC) he whipped up a machine learning model to recognize drinks, and tell if a photo or camera image was water, wine, beer or some other drink.




He took 400 photos of peoples' drinks and created a model in ten minutes that he demonstrated for me by looking at image search photos.

"That's wine," he pointed out. "And here's a beer," he said, as his demo app labeled drinks in images as he pointed his camera at them, first with a confidence predictor and then with a pinned, 3D label floating in space. Seemed to be some gratuitous ARKit on display.

And speaking of beers: this year is DeWaters' third WWDC but tomorrow will be his first WWDC Bash where he's old enough to get an armband for adult drinks. Beers all around.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 9
    siwi666siwi666 Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    this guy is an absolute winner. Great article!
    JFC_PAracerhomie3lamboaudi4watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 9
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 172member
    That’s the thing. This stuff is supposed to be fun!
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 9
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,598member
    Tenacity. That’s the key to being a success. 

    And here again we see the difference between real life and forum life. 

    Here: “The touch bar is a gimmick”

    The world of professionals where folk actually use Macs instead of just wishing they were cheaper PCs: “It’s quite handy for kicking off debug sessions or accessing functionality within a certain context.”

    bshanklkruppwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 4 of 9
    Rayz2016Rayz2016 Posts: 3,598member
    Apple has spent a lot of time and money raising developers out of the basement and into the limelight. 

    That’s good marketing. 

    Here: “I don’t like Planet of the Apps so it must be rubbish.”

    There: “I don’t like Will I. Am, but I can see what it takes to build a successful app. Have I really thought this through? Is my idea good enough? How can I make it better?”


    edited June 7 bshanklkruppwatto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 5 of 9
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 5,992member
    Rayz2016 said:
    Tenacity. That’s the key to being a success. 

    And here again we see the difference between real life and forum life. 

    Here: “The touch bar is a gimmick”

    The world of professionals where folk actually use Macs instead of just wishing they were cheaper PCs: “It’s quite handy for kicking off debug sessions or accessing functionality within a certain context.”

    Oh man, that describes a lot of posters on AI. Good one.

    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 6 of 9
    jpellinojpellino Posts: 599member
    Great story.  

    Also, obligatory Silicon Valley reference:  "Not hotdog!"

    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 9
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,281member
    Rayz2016 said:
    Tenacity. That’s the key to being a success. 

    And here again we see the difference between real life and forum life. 

    Here: “The touch bar is a gimmick”

    The world of professionals where folk actually use Macs instead of just wishing they were cheaper PCs: “It’s quite handy for kicking off debug sessions or accessing functionality within a certain context.”

    This kid is going to get rich fast!

    Re Touch Bar:  Gimmick Shmimmick!  I use Touch Bar all the time, in Logic pro X, for example, it is so useful I can't use Logic on my other Macs now as I have forgotten how without a Touch Bar!  

     I want Apple to release standalone keyboards for Mac Pros and iMacs that have Touch Bar... Please Apple.
    edited June 7 watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 8 of 9
    jdgazjdgaz Posts: 264member
    MacPro said:
    Rayz2016 said:
    Tenacity. That’s the key to being a success. 

    And here again we see the difference between real life and forum life. 

    Here: “The touch bar is a gimmick”

    The world of professionals where folk actually use Macs instead of just wishing they were cheaper PCs: “It’s quite handy for kicking off debug sessions or accessing functionality within a certain context.”

    This kid is going to get rich fast!

    Re Touch Bar:  Gimmick Shmimmick!  I use Touch Bar all the time, in Logic pro X, for example, it is so useful I can't use Logic on my other Macs now as I have forgotten how without a Touch Bar!  

     I want Apple to release standalone keyboards for Mac Pros and iMacs that have Touch Bar... Please Apple.
    I dont have the Touch Bar Mac, but I feel the same way about the absence of a home button on my phone. The interface on X is outstanding. I now have a hard time helping others or using my iPad. Who needs buttons.
    watto_cobrajony0
  • Reply 9 of 9
    auxioauxio Posts: 1,847member
    Rayz2016 said:
    Here: “The touch bar is a gimmick”

    The world of professionals where folk actually use Macs instead of just wishing they were cheaper PCs: “It’s quite handy for kicking off debug sessions or accessing functionality within a certain context.”
    I find most people in general to have a very conservative mindset.  Anything which is new and/or they don't understand, their first reaction is negative to it.  Fear of the unknown.  Which is the very opposite reaction compared to those who create new things for a living (no matter what the medium is for their creations).  It's why I've always gravitated towards creative people.
    watto_cobrajony0
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