It was nothing short of serendipity when dgtlhrt found out about what turned out to be the largest AR/VR Hackathon of the year, Reality, Virtually, Hackathon! at MIT, only a couple of days before it kicked off. We both rushed to get our Expo tickets, and found ourselves grinning ear-to-ear with excitement immediately after getting confirmation emails.
We wanted to be involved in any way possible, so he urged me to help out as a volunteer, and I gladly obliged. I showed up for the workshops and kick-off setup on Friday, October 7, at Stratton Student center and met some of the brilliant minds behind the event. It was then that I realized how huge and diverse of a hackathon it really was. Some of the participants flew or drove in from other states, while others made it from across the globe, with the hopes of being mentored by the brightest names in Augmented and Virtual Reality. That day, the hack teams were formed — all 74 of them — and they pitched their ideas, for which they would build prototypes in the next 48 hours.
It would have been awesome to attend the workshops and keynote speeches that night and on the following days. Thankfully, there will be more of these hackathons in the near future!
The hackathon teams worked tirelessly throughout Saturday until early the next day, Sunday, during which a preliminary round of judging was held.
It was a bright and brisk morning at MIT Media Lab, perfect for hobnobbing with the future of technology. I made myself available to the volunteer team. And sure enough, I was put to work almost immediately, getting exclusive access to the final judging session in the process.
It was relatively quiet during the first hour, but come 11:30, the place was absolutely buzzing. Dgtlhrt made it at around 12:00, just in time to witness the snaking lunch line.
Inside the lecture hall, the seven finalists were setting up for their final demos. We were happy to find a majority of the teams using the HTC Vive. Outside, the other teams were showing off their hacks to the public. Here are a few snaps, including that of a monk trying out a guided meditation prototype — for Quality Assurance purposes, we suppose!
At this point, the judges were making their final rounds. They were given 12 demo minutes with each finalist to come up with winners for a number of categories. While the results were being tallied in a separate room, the finalists were having their official demo reels taken, to be shown later during the awarding ceremonies.
Finally, at around 2:30 PM, the event team was ready to announce the winners, and we all proceeded to the stage.
Best Entertainment Hacks
RevolVR, 1st prize
Vream, 2nd prize
Rendever, 3rd prize
Getting Things Done and Doing Business
Silver Unicorn, 1st prize
HoloCaptions, 2nd prize
Best Human Connection
Best Human Well Being
Study VR, 1st prize
KidCity VR, 2nd prize
We were all reminded of the massive support within the AR/VR community, through a couple of special awards. Storytellers VR went home with the Best Up and Coming Hackers award plus $1000. The Audience Prize, for which the Expo attendees voted, went to Vream Team, who were awarded $2500.
Our favorite prize has got to be the Best Vive Hack (of course!), which was taken home by the formidable KidCity VR team for their Treehouse educational platform. Treehouse enables adults and children to interact in the VR space. Each of the team members won an HTC Vive and an invitation to distribute on Viveport! That’s a total of five Vives!
Sony Playstation VR was also a prize sponsor with the Best Interactive VR Award. Zeegeeball won with their zero-gravity frisbee idea.
Qualcomm’s Most Refined Mobile VR prize went to VR Storytellers who came up with an app that generates viewable VR content by entering text into a website.
The last sponsor award went to Waypoint RX for their prescription fulfillment hack, bagging $2500 for Best Non-Gaming App from AT&T.
Major Prize Winners
The two major prizes were Samsung’s Best VR Hack and AT&T’s Best AR Hack, each for $5000.
Waypoint RX won their second award of the day, bagging Best AR Hack.
The third and final win for KidCity VR was the Best VR Hack.
Congratulations to all the winners! We wish you luck with the future of your projects.
The day was capped off with an appearance from the exceptional event team, thanking sponsors, participants, judges, and volunteers for dedicating their time to such an astoundingly successful hackathon.
As for us, we couldn’t resist the chance to get our photo taken with Dario of HTC Vive! Shout out to Mike Q for introducing us!
We’re full of gratitude and excitement for the event team. Special thanks to the volunteer coordinator, Connor, for keeping me occupied!
Thank you, Scott, Arpit, Luna, Praveen, and Steve Patterson for being so awesome to us. It was such a humbling experience. We’re so new to the community and yet felt very much at home. See you on the next one!