Event Report: The First AR Standards Hackathon
A hackathon is an event to help groups of people with different skills collaborate intensely over one or two days towards a shared goal. Hackathons bring together people who are passionate about technology with those who have challenges that technology can solve. One of the affiliate AREA members, the AEC Hackathon, organizes such events to address architecture, construction and engineering challenges. Teams of AEC hackers have been gathering in cities around the world under this banner since late 2013.
Hackathons can also be a valuable way to raise awareness and identify new requirements. The goals of the first AR Standards Hackathon, organized by the WEKIT European Project, were to explore the AR standards landscape and attract engineers who are interested in the adoption of existing and emerging AR standards. The hackathon was hosted by RWTH Aachen University in Germany on April 15-17, 2016.
This was actually my first hackathon although I’ve been using standards and supporting their development through the IEEE Standards Association and meetings of the Community for Open and Interoperable AR. When I arrived for the kick-off on Friday evening, participants were gathered around the registration table. Soon the organizing team (Prof. Ralph Klamma, István Koren and Peter De Lange) welcomed participants and everyone got acquainted. I discovered eager people with many ideas and a high level of enthusiasm, and generally find those with AR experience development skills to be very rare.
The hackathon kicked off with Dr. Fridolin Wild introducing us to the WEKIT project and schedule. Then the organizing team presented the sponsors and explained their donations in support of the event’s goals:
- Vuzix provided their M100 smart glasses
- Atheer provided copies of AiR, their AR software development platform
- Optinvent provided their ORA2 smart glasses
- Epson provided their BT-200 smart glasses
- Bitstars was represented by their HoloBuilder authoring platform
Those with an idea for a project pitched it to the participants in an effort to recruit team members. Some of the proposed projects were very compelling, for example, using AR to help a deaf person to understand what a speaker is saying just by looking at the speaker through smart glasses. Another project proposed to reduce the impact of graffiti by helping artists to express themselves on walls without leaving any trace in the real world. There were also several Augmented Reality games.
On Saturday morning, the teams formed and the hackathon officially started. For the next 36 hours, nearly 30 people were busy with coding, brainstorming and troubleshooting.
Five teams worked on projects that included:
- #hackWalls : collaborative creation of digital AR-activated artworks and notes on physical walls.
- #faceglARss : social interaction and people identification using face recognition and AR emotional status tags.
- #cyclops : two-way interaction in room-sized exercise games based on fiducial markers.
- #boxingAR : a gesture-tracking experience in boxing-related exergames.
- #explorAR : architectural presentation and interactive browsing of 3D models using Leap Motion for customer demos.
At the end of the second day, the participants presented their projects while the jury gave them scores based on:
- Originality of the project
- Use of originally developed modules
- Use of open source solutions and standard-based technologies
- The possibility to further develop and expand the project in different contexts
Participants were tired but proud of their projects and achievements.
The #hackWalls team won the award for best project. The creative team developed a web browser-based solution that allows anyone to draw on any wall and to share it with anyone else with a simple URL.
Hackathons are a great opportunity to meet new, like-minded people that have passion in AR and development skills. The event permitted me to hear and sharing ideas, build useful contacts and I am already looking forward to next AR hackathon!
Have you attended a hackathon? Is there a hackathon in your future?