Engineering graduate’s app catches Apple’s eye

Seth Friedman met the world’s most innovative software developers this summer at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco. For five days in June, 1,000 Apple engineers and 5,000 developers gathered to reveal Apple’s latest technological innovations.

A notoriously secretive company, Apple had promised it is working on its “best product pipeline in 25 years,” according to Eddy Cue, Apple senior vice president of Internet software and services, in an interview a week before the conference.


Friedman, just shy of a month of receiving his bachelor’s degree in computer science and math at Vanderbilt, was one of 200 students worldwide to win an Apple scholarship worth more than $1,500 to attend WWDC 2014 – June 2-6.

What caught Apple’s eye was Friedman’s app framework that eliminates the need to “tap and swipe” on a device. Instead, a simple tilt of the wrist – left or right – will allow navigation.

Apple required students seeking scholarships to create something that told the company about the applicants and about their prior software development and work experience.

“We had to make an iPhone app to demonstrate our skills and to introduce ourselves. In terms of the app I created for the scholarship, in general it was a resume that highlighted my education, internships and mobile software development experience. The key cool feature, though, is an open-source framework I am currently developing using Apple’s Core Motion framework,” Friedman said.

“Instead of swiping and tapping to navigate from screen to screen within an app, my framework allows users to gently tilt their wrist to the left and the right, and the app will navigate for them,” said Friedman, whose software engineering internships included summer stints at Uloop and CTS America, Inc.

Friedman included functionality for the new motion framework he’s working on for iOS, currently called SNFMotionKit. iOS is an operating system used for mobile devices manufactured by Apple.

WWDC 2014 numbers from Apple CEO Tim Cook

25th anniversary of WWDC

Started in 1990 with 13 developers with just one lab

Attendees from 69 countries

70% are first-time attendees

Youngest developer in the audience was 13 years old

9 million registered developers (47% increase from 2013)

“As our devices get bigger, I wanted to create a new, alternate method for interacting with our devices besides touch, since it can be hard for one’s thumb to reach all the way to the top of the screen, for instance,” said Friedman, who is a software development engineer at Amazon in Seattle, Washington.

“I took advantage of Apple’s Core Motion framework and designed a framework that allows users to interact with their apps through tilt gestures. For example, tilting the device to the right moves a page back in whatever app the user is currently in. This unfortunately isn’t something that can just be installed on a user’s device. Individual apps will need to adopt this paradigm,” he said

Friedman is optimistic that other developers in the iOS community will like this idea and incorporate it into their own apps. Friedman’s open-source SNFMotionKit is on GitHub here.

Seth with Craig Federighi, Apple's senior VP of software engineering.

The young engineering school alumnus said the conference has been an incredible experience.

“It was all very exciting. One day the students were told we would be meeting with some “distinguished guests tomorrow” that Apple didn’t reveal. We wondered if it would members of Apple’s executive team,” he said.

The next day Friedman rubbed shoulders with Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of software engineering, and Jonathan Ive, Apple’s senior vice president of design, among others.

Before graduation in May Friedman already had a wealth of experience in mobile software development. For one of his projects through the student organization VandyApps, Friedman developed an open-source app for iPhones called VandyVans that provided a fast, native way for Vanderbilt students to access the campus van schedule as well as a live map of the vans’ locations.

Seth with Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior VP of design.

In the summer after his freshman year at Vanderbilt, Friedman interned at CTS America, Inc., a Pensacola, Florida-based company that provides real-time information through integrated software solutions for law enforcement officers, firefighters, EMS personnel and dispatchers.

“Seth demonstrated a high degree of intelligence, and very quickly adapted to the differences between programming in a university environment and programming commercially,” said Martin Westwood, CTS software engineering manager.

Ryan MacCarthy managed Friedman during a summer internship at Uloop, a network of online marketplaces and university news websites for college students featuring classified advertisements.

MacCarthy describes Friedman best: “Seth ‘gets’ mobile.”