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Fashion, Tech, and Everything in Between


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Reaching New Altitude

It’s official, in 2014 I flew over 25,000 miles on Air Canada, which qualified me for the first tier of Altitude status. I’ve been a frequent flier ever since I started school out East (2,000 km from home), but since I started traveling for work I’ve done a number of trips out West, which is undoubtedly what pushed me into the 25K club. With this new status comes some airline perks like discounts and lounge vouchers, and also a pretty cool membership card with my name on it.

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This is my first year having a recognized status with an airline reward program, and I must admit I’m pretty thrilled! Air Canada has been my favourite airline for years, and after being on the inaugural customer-carrying flight of their Dreamliner last year I’m hooked on their quality service and consistent investment in the well-being of their passengers. I fly them whenever I can, but sometimes they’re significantly more expensive than their competitors or have more stopovers, so the next best option is WestJet. WestJet has also been great lately, as they did a status match earlier this year, and matched (and exceeded, actually) my Air Canada 25K status, promoting me right to WestJet Gold, the top tier of their frequent flyer program.

I’ve got a lot of trips coming up this year, and I’m hoping I can fly enough on Air Canada to make it to the 35K or even 50K tier. That’s when the benefits get really good! Unfortunately Air Canada is quite expensive, and is often not within the lowest logical fare range for corporate travel, so I have to fly other airlines and can’t rack up those miles. But hey, I still get to travel for work so I can’t complain!

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Becoming a Microsoft Regional Director

I am so happy to announce that I’ve been selected to become a part of the Microsoft Regional Director program!

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Microsoft Regional Directors are individual developers with significant knowledge of Microsoft technologies who are engaged in their communities and form an important link between Microsoft and the developer communities around the world. RDs are not employees of Microsoft and are not monetarily compensated; they provide Microsoft with a lens into the developer mindset, and provide developers with a voice to share feedback and perspectives with Microsoft.

It is an incredible honour to become an RD and join this incredible community of high-powered, very intelligent individuals. I come to this community from my background as a Microsoft Student Partner (MSP) and Technical Evangelist intern at Microsoft Canada. Many of the existing and new RDs are professionals with years – decades, even – of experience in the tech industry, some of whom have been part of the Microsoft story since the pre-Windows days. To call their accomplishments outstanding would be an understatement. A significant portion of these RDs began as Microsoft Most Valued Professionals (MVPs), who are independent developers with expertise in a specific Microsoft technology. Where MVPs are celebrated for their deep knowledge of one technology, RDs are selected for their knowledge that spans Microsoft’s technologies.

There are currently only 130 RDs across the globe – for perspective, there are approximately 6,000 MVPs in the world and 7,000 MSPs in India alone (I don’t have the global count, but the MSP program is active in over 80 countries). Acceptance to this prestigious program is a true honour, and I can’t even begin to describe the spectrum of excitement I am experiencing as I take my first steps as an RD. I am just starting my career, so to be one of the 11 MSPs selected to join the RD program is an absolute privilege, and I look forward to working with and learning from this amazing group of professionals over the two-year duration of this position.

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5 Fun Ways to Spark Your Child’s Interest in Technology and Boost Their Critical Thinking Skills

Last week, one of my readers reached out to me about how to keep his young daughters interested in technology. The conversation about the growing necessity of technical skills is not a quiet one, and I commend this father for realizing that and wanting to encourage his daughters to keep those doors open as they grow up. There’s no denying that technology plays an immediate role in children’s lives nowadays; kindergartners with smartphones, 13-year-olds making braille printers out of Lego, and toddlers skipping ads on YouTube before they can even talk are just a few examples. But even though devices are ever present, it’s often not the technology itself the kids are interested in, but the content they can consume with it, which largely does not stimulate critical thinking or mental growth (but that’s a whole other conversation). For those of you with kids, or who work with kids, or who could use a little fun yourself, here are five fun ways to spark an interest in technology for all the right reasons.

1. Introduce them to coding with made-for-kids tutorials and programming languages

Programming is NOT what it used to be. Parents, if the last thing you remember about programming involves punch cards or 2D Pong, forget everything you think you know about code. Today, coding is dynamic, it’s collaborative, and it’s absolutely accessible. There are some amazing resources out there to get kids started with programming, each targeted to a different age group or skill level. Here are just a few:

Scratch Programming – a visual programming language made by MIT for kids

Hour of Code with Elsa and Anna from Frozen – kids solve logic puzzles with Elsa and Anna from Frozen

Kodu Game Lab – build interactive 3D games using a simple programming interface

Code.org all-ages beginner’s tutorials – access over 20 hours of tutorials and lessons that introduce kids to logic and programming concepts in a fun and familiar setting

TouchDevelop by Microsoft Research – once they get the hang of logic, move to a more advanced yet still basic programming language and build apps, games and more in this free online environment. Projects can be shared across social media and published to all platforms – Android, iOS, Windows and web. How cool will it be when your little ones can say they’ve published an app?

2. Build kid-friendly robots using Lego Mindstorms

Lego Mindstorms puts a big spin on classic Lego building by combining everyone’s favourite building block with an easy and fun take on robotics. Mindstorms makes it easy to build and program robots and features a variety of sensors – light sensors, touch sensors, bumpers and more – that give your Lego creation what it needs to perceive the environment around it. My very first programming experience was with Lego Mindstorms when I was around 10, and the sheer excitement of building something with my dad and seeing it come to life was exhilarating.

3. Play Minecraft (no, really!)

Minecraft may look like just another game, but it’s a great way to explore creativity and learn. Building their virtual worlds block by block, kids can exercise their planning, problem solving and design skills while exploring limitless creation, playing with physics, and even building their own modifications. It’s like Lego all over again, except now you can have unlimited designs with you wherever you go, on your laptop, tablet or smartphone.

4. Take them to the science center

Science centers are awesome. They have grand, colourful exhibits that teach kids about how the world works in a fun and interactive way. Many exhibits have digital components or address how things are done, and learning the hows and whys of the world is a great way to boost critical thinking skills early on.

5. Watch Annedroids 

With all the garbage on TV nowadays it is very rare to find quality media for kids. I love Annedroids because it paints science in a fun light and features a girl as the lead intelligent role. Anne is a pint-sized scientist with a knack for inventing. Along with her friends Nick and Shania, Anne builds Annedroids – thinking, feeling creations with big personalities. This show is one I wish had been around when I was a kid. Not only does it promote creativity and experimentation, it portrays a girl in this strong, intelligent role. Anne is the smart, talented, cool-for-all-the-right-reasons role model that young girls need, and she’s here to show both girls and boys that girls make rockstar technologists too.

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SOMO SOund & MOvement Workshop

Last March I had the pleasure of meeting Loretta Faveri, inventor of SOMO (SOund in MOtion) by SonicWear, a wearable device that turns the body into a musical instrument. When I last featured Loretta, SOMO was in prototyping stages – see the original feature here – and I was captivated. As a musician and dancer I am no stranger to both making music and moving to it, but SOMO presents a way to do both at the same time. And the SOMO story doesn’t stop at the device. Loretta and her team are producing a series of workshops that encourage people to experience SOMO firsthand and make music collaboratively. I was ecstatic when Loretta invited me to be part of her first round of SOMO workshop, which took place at Denise Mireau’s beautiful studio, The Studio For Movement, in downtown Toronto. Take a look at the video filmed that day (and check out my moves! haha).

SOMO SOund & MOvement Workshop from Loretta Faveri on Vimeo.

I had a great time at the SOMO Workshop. What I love about the SOMO experience is the device lets you play around in an invisible landscape – since the notes it plays are determined by position, you really get the feeling that you’re exploring the realm of sound. What I really enjoyed about the workshop was the collaborative aspect of it. At first I was a bit disappointed that I couldn’t play with the SOMO on my own for an extended period of time, but once we got into pairs and began making music together, it clicked for me that, like in dance and music, the combined product of multiple independent components is what creates the depth and beauty.

This SOMO workshop was an awesome experience, and I will certainly be signing up once it goes public! I encourage you to give it a try too – maybe I’ll even see you there. :)

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How Holograms Could Change Fashion Forever

The tech world went wild when Microsoft announced HoloLens, a wearable computer that bridges the gap between the physical and digital realms and makes holograms a reality (see my article from the day of the announcement here). The first question on everyone’s minds was “does it work as well as they say it does?” Now that media reviews have confirmed that Microsoft has “found a way to merge reality and CG together (Gizmodo),” my mind is swimming with dreams of holograms. This is the first time in history that holograms have a real potential to be integrated into our daily lives, and I am particularly interested in holograms as an artistic medium.

Fashion has been greatly influenced by trends in technology in recent years, especially with the rise of 3D printing, which has quickly become a technique used by many designers (see my article, The Best 3D Printed Fashion You Can Buy Right Now). Biometrics and projection mapping have also found their places in the fashion world, so it stands to reason that holograms will one day be part of the fare produced by design houses we know and love. Because holograms exist in the digital realm it will be interesting to see how, if at all, holographic fashion is monetized and presented to the consumer. But like haute couture and avant garde styles, holographic fashion could have a breathtaking effect on the catwalk.

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In this article I’ve taken some of the photos I shot at SS15 World MasterCard Fashion Week in Toronto last October and reimagined them with holographic elements. I’ve organized the hologram designs into two categories: Integrated, which features holograms as augmentations of the designs; and Environmental, in which holograms present a sort of environmental or situational context for the garments.

Integrated

Imagine if designers could incorporate physically impossible materials into their designs. There’s only so much a person can do with elements found in the physical world – but since holograms exist on a virtual plane, they are limited only by the capabilities of technology. Well, holograms really exist in a mesh of physical and virtual planes, since they are virtual objects that interact with the physical environments around us. The beauty of this duality opens up a new door of possibilities: viewing art with and without the holograms. Imagine you’re at a fashion show, watching the models walk down the runway. For each of the designs below, imagine turning the holograms on and off – the garments are impactful both on their own and with the holographic overlay. It is the contrast between these two states that draws the real magnificence to the fore.

In this first look below, this beautiful white dress designed by Sid Neigum is contrasted by an impossible winged collar of pure light and solid gold. Without the collar, the dress is a stunning exhibit of craftsmanship and draping; with the collar it is a story about heaven solidified, all things pure made tangible.

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint

In this next look, a holographic shawl made of metallic feathers floats above the shoulders of this geometric black dress, also by Sid Neigum. The impossibly delicate, impeccably reflective feathers take on the colour and reflected geometry of the garment – but only the garment, not the crowd or the lights of the runway. They bear no weight on the model’s shoulders, and do not cut or tear the dress, which shifts neatly as the model struts down the catwalk.

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint

This third look adds a sinister element to this woven jacket by Sid Neigum. At first glance the jacket appears normal, but then you notice burning red embers hiding in the shadows, that then begin to bleed.

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint

This final design in the Integrated series spins a fine silver cage around the skirt of this beautiful Narces gown. On its own, the gown flows like waves, washing gently with every step. But when you turn on the hologram, finely woven braids of silver encase the cacophony of flowing material and define the outer limits of the waves’ reach. Juxtaposed against the weightless structure of the silver, the fabric, though light in reality, appears heavy by comparison, contained in its cage like a bird.

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint

Environmental

Now imagine holograms that surround the models and compliment the designers’ work with environmental context. In the first look below, this ethereal structured dress by Sid Neigum is surrounded by a three-dimensional galaxy. Locked to the model’s location and spatial orientation, the stars and dust clouds follow her as she walks, complimenting the dress’s playful combination of structure and softness, and emphasizing its softened rigidity.

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint

In this second look by Elan & Castor, holograms provide environmental context for the look’s effortless, summery chicness. As the model walks, sun-baked cobblestones render beneath her strappy heels, and swaying palm trees sprout around her, transforming the catwalk into Rodeo Drive in the heat of late June. The holograms are again locked to the model’s location, but this time they appear and disappear sequentially, giving the appearance that it is the clothing itself that is emanating this covetable scene.

Created with Microsoft Fresh Paint

Today, fashion and all other forms of art that are rendered in the physical world are restricted to the limitations of the laws of physics. Holograms, a medium that spans physical and virtual planes, could revolutionize the way we approach these art forms. Imagine the impact not only on fashion, but on theatre, concerts, sculptures, education, medicine… the possibilities are mind-blowing.

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DISCLAIMER: The images, text and ideas in this post are merely inspired by Microsoft’s recent announcements and are in no way informed by my involvement with the company. This is the first time holograms have had real potential as an artistic medium, and this post is inspired by the potential of the medium, regardless of the technology behind it at this time. 


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Serenity

ripley_aquarium_toronto_jellyfish_3I’ve always been mesmerized by jellyfish. They’re such graceful, ethereal creatures, but they have so much power hidden in their seemingly delicate tendrils. Like fairies or angels they float by slowly, twisting and winding through the water with ease and showing off the tiny creases and ripples of their transparent bodies. You can almost hear music as you watch these aquatic dancers, a tinkling song of icicles and water droplets and pure light, if light had a sound. It’s such a peaceful experience, losing yourself in the world of the jellyfish, letting your mind empty and the world around you fade away as though you really have immersed yourself in the deep sea. ripley_aquarium_toronto_jellyfish_4 ripley_aquarium_toronto_jellyfish_1 ripley_aquarium_toronto_jellyfish_2

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Photos taken at Ripley’s Aquarium in Toronto, by my friend Christian H.


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Ce que se passe en Montreal…

…gets blogged! When I arrived in my room at the Sheraton hotel in downtown Montreal, I was greeted with the most beautiful, invigorating sunset. The sun broke through my window at exactly the right angle to fill my room with orange light and warmth, such a sweet welcome to the beautiful city. I sat in the windowsill for a while drinking my coffee before I did what any blogger would do – took shameless selfies before the perfect lighting went away!

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I love how the sun spills past the half-constructed buildings outside, filling the window with a cityscape of shadows that looks almost futuristic.

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Since I began traveling for work I’ve pretty much mastered the art of hotel room selfies, and I make a point to take pictures of the rooms I stay in so I remember all my temporary homes. I used to do it for the sentimental value, but now it’s mostly so I can make informed decisions when I choose my next hotel chain! This room at the Sheraton had a gigantic mirror right beside the bed, which proved a little unsettling at times even if it did give the illusion of a bigger space, but as a whole the room was very comfortable and impeccably clean. And I LOVE having a king bed all to myself!

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As much as I enjoyed the comfort of my room, I didn’t spend my whole trip there! If you haven’t seen them already, check out my posts about CUSEC and Igloofest!

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