Future Innovators Award

Posted on Fri, Nov 27, 2020 Personal
Game engine & future innovators award

It's an honour to have been nominated for, and to have won, the Australian Defence Force Future Innovators Award for 2020. I wanted to write a little about how I won this award and who I have to thank.

It's an honour to have been nominated for, and to have won, the Australian Defence Force Future Innovators Award for 2020. I wanted to write a little about how I won this award and who I have to thank. This year, I've collaborated with and worked on projects with companies/groups like NASA, Microsoft, & IBM and I've become a part of a team that is going places. I'm really excited for the future, both for myself and for Signal Kinetics.

Last year, I joined forces with Rishabh Chakrabarty and Edwin Montgomery to compete in the NASA/JPL Open Source Rover competition for 2019/20 (a competition that will likely be repeating and a vibrant community that I'm looking to continue working alongside and with in the future) and we did really well. It was my first coding competition (hackathon) and my first project to use machine learning (specifically reinforcement learning). I learnt a lot and this not only started our team, it also led me to pursue a slightly different career path than the one I had outlined for myself.

Since then, I've accelerated my knowledge of Unity (C#), Python (ml/web dev), and JS (web dev) to be able to continue working with my team on projects that make a difference in the world and are fun to work on. I started working on introducing myself to companies who made software or games that I loved, so I'd be able to get secret tips and ideas from the best in the business - as well as a chance to put my foot in the door of the industry.

Towards the start of the year I recommitted to competing in the following school-run competitions:

Australian Space Design CompetitionMicrosoft AI For Good ChallengeFremantle Young Writers ConferenceSadly due to the intensity of Year 12 I was unable to compete in many other competitions that I had done over the years previously, however these three - especially the Microsoft AI For Good Challenge - would be crucial in me receiving my award. I led a team to design a self driving car network based on reinforcement learning principles and wrote a paper on it; the main ideas discussed were reducing emissions, traffic jams and destruction to native environments through the construction of increasingly large road networks. As part of the competition we designed a raspberry-pi based model & simulation set showing how such a system could work. For this I was nominated by my supervisor, Isaac Kigodi, for the Australian Defence Force award and later on he discussed with me my other accomplishments throughout the year.

My entire list of projects can be seen on my portfolio, github profile and dev.to profile. Each and every one of these has helped me achieve my goal of expanding AC0/RD Software into a viable company and that is therefore something I'm immensely greatful for.

I'd like to take the time to thank the following people for helping me in 2020 to get to this point:

Microsoft AI For Good Challenge -

Ethan YongOlsen ChenIsaac KigodiHeroX:

Rishabh ChakrabartyAnkit GroverEdwin MontgomeryMikhail AsavkinAmbasatGaming projects:

Dylan VekariaMartin EvansDervish MusovicSavy SodaOne Lonely Outpost

The transition from group to collectiveI always smarted at the idea or notion that AC0/RD was a company or corporation. The whole point was that it was an open-source initiative; while we would try and make money from our projects this was less about profit and more about making projects that made a difference in the world, and helped us achieve our goals as well. We're big believers in the idea of global access and due to this we never really described ourselves as a company.

Over the last few months we've been attempting to find our identity to create a viable future. When I joined forces with Rishabh (this meeting really allowed AC0/RD to spring from being a primarily 1-person team to where we are today) he already had his own initiative, a UROP/X entity that had a vastly different path to what AC0/RD did at that point. Furthermore, he was planning to switch into indie game development as a main career path. To try and manage all these passions between our small team has been awkward, as we want to ensure that we can embark on the professional career we wish to while still being able to collaborate as a team.

Until the latter parts of 2019, AC0/RD was primarily about robotics. I mainly did most of the work on my own, occasionally getting friends to become part-time members on certain phases. Since then, we've moved away from hardware into software, primarily in the scientific industry. And this journey has allowed me to realise what I want AC0/RD to be.

I play a lot of Eve Online and other sci-fi games, and one of the great things about EO is that it allows players to contribute to real-world scientific research by playing the game by partnering with the Zooniverse. I feel that at AC0/RD, creating to, or adding to a game engine that enables this "scientific communication" between games is one of the greatest things we can do:

Multiple projects can be constructed in these applets, whether it's piecing together the parts of a Mars rover in a construction game or programming it to drive along the plains of Mars and find the fastest route to a destination by utilising machine-learning principles. There's plenty more ideas we have for these appletsIt provides a source for education that is built into the gameIt provides a larger source of traffic to the Zooniverse, allowing it to growWe'd even be able to utilise this engine for many of the competitions we take part in, which is something we want to continueIt could be created in the form of mods like traditional minecraft mods or overlays like in Eve OnlineOur open source license for this means that the user is fully informed of where their data is being sent and what data is being sent; and what will be done with it.At AC0/RD, we've been fortunate enough to work on projects relating to web development, however we're putting that on hold - and shifting it to the new company I'm sure that you've heard rumours about - and focusing on dissolving AC0/RD. What do I mean by this?

Having too many companies is bad for visionDue to the small size of our team, we can't split ourselves into multiple companies to keep different projects separate. Obviously some projects are very different, but as we've decided as a collective to prioritize moving into indie game development as a long term goal, we needed to restructure our team.

Here's a quick run-down on all of our open-source projects we've worked on as a team, throughout 2020:

Arcadia - an open-source games platform & community; also including our games and collaborations with other publishers/developersOur as of yet unnamed game engineOur web starter kit, with plenty of plugins to extend websites regardless of platform or frameworkMachine learning plugins for voice assistants (Voicebox) and communication between applications (APIs), for example Github's very own bot service ProbotExoplanet machine learning researchAll of these have obvious applications to our sci-game engine, and we're obviously still taking part in competitions, primarily:

NASA/JPL Open Source Rover ChallengeHeroX Exploring Hell ChallengeAll the competitions we've taken part in in 2019/20 have allowed us to further our goals in the software development industry, however....

At AC0/RD we're effectively ONLY focusing on the parts of these projects that have real use for our game engine. We've formed a new company, Signal Kinetics, which will be taking over the other four projects overall. Once we've got a successful prototype of our game engine, AC0/RD will be completely dissolved into SK and we'll work on integrating this engine into the rest of our ecosystem, focusing on ways to make sure that it works well with everything we do. We'll prioritise competing in competitions that allow us to further these projects with the aim of creating a more connected environment for discovery as a collective.

Finally, we're also forming a freelancing team to create websites and other mediums for users. Tentatively named "A+", it's planned to be the main money making service for us; while everything we make is open source, not everyone has the time to make a website for themselves. That's where we come in, selling a service rather than a product.

Thanks for taking the time to read this post, and I'll come back with a little bit more about what's been going on with my end