New Hackathon Experience
Wed, 05 Nov 2014
From the beginning, humans tried to classify skills by establishing levels of performance between individuals. Nowadays, individuals compete in contests to evaluate their skills and talents among other skillful people in that area of expertise for personal, professional, and public recognition.
At first, competitions were designed to be harder and more challenging by giving harder tasks, more complicated systems even fewer materials to work with in order to see the creative part of the teams. The next thing was to decrease the time allocated to finish the task, and the hackathon was born, a difficult task in a really limited period (24 - 30 hours).
25h was a great experience for me and my team members, especially that this was the first edition of this contest hosted by the university and our first official hackathon.
We had started at 10.00 AM Thursday when the jury had announced the goals of the hackathon and finished Friday at 11.00 AM when the winning teams were announced. The task revolved around the Leap Motion controller and the GestureKit SDK, to be specific, we needed to control a browser using the leap motion:
- open a webpage using a specific gesture
- scroll, zoom, reload page (these first two were qualification tasks, aka the most important ones)
- generate new feedback system for the leap motion using additional software or hardware equipment
- search for words in the webpage using gestures
There were 4 teams, each with 3 members. My team was formed of: Boca Alexandru, Nistor Alexandru, Remus Baltariu, Alexandru Larionescu(our coach), and the jury was formed by Annette MOSSEL and Christian SCHONAUER, researchers from the Technical University in Viena.
This event was hosted by the University “Stefan cel Mare” of Suceava, and sponsors were Assist Software and Global Design.
The contest was meant to test how this type of competition would be seen by the students and as a qualification to another contest, Laval Virtual a 30 hours hackathon in France, but the students didn't know about the qualification for the next hackathon.
Just a short description of the technology used in the contest:
- Leap Motion is a 3D hand recognizer device, that reads in real-time hand gestures, movement, and positioning.
- Gesture Kit is a SDK(Solution Development Kit) that is used for mobile devices for recognizing gestures on a surface, or if is combined with the Leap Motion Controller it can recognize hand, finger gestures or the movement in space of a pen-like a tool.
Our main task was to implement a browser control system with Leap Motion as it was a qualification task. After we had qualified, we wanted to implement a new feedback system that would amaze the jury and all who would test our system. This was the actual challenge and goal for our team. Navigating through a browser needs a minimal feedback system and not so complicated. We had integrated visual and audio solutions for that and our feedback system only for scrolling. Me and my colleagues have experience in 3D development and using the leap motion, the idea was to simulate feedback from the 3D hands generated in virtual space when objects are touched while receiving tactile feedback but using the entire palm including each individual finger.
Our target was achieved, the jury and everyone who tested our prototype was amazed, it was really a new experience, a new feedback system. However, the last point on the objectives list was a little ignored, in consequence, the jury awarded us the second place, first place went to a team that accomplished all the points on the list. My principle in a race is this: it doesn't matter whether you finish first or last, the only thing that matters is how you play the game and what you learn from it, that’s how you succeed to increase your performance and experience.
I sensed a little chaos in the organisers bench. It’s understandable, they didn't have the experience to control everything and, in the end, when they announced the winning teams there was no mention of the sponsors and no audience was present for the awards ceremony, only the participating teams and some professors.
After 25 hours of hard work, build-up stress, a lot of coffee, bad jokes at 2 AM to relieve the stress but finishing with a functional prototype and a pleasing jury, I was impressed by the first edition of this 25h hackathon especially how all the teams stood up to the challenge received and finished in the specified time.
Any more challenges? Will take it...