Our very first Holo Weekend Hackathon took place last week at Infusion‘s office in Houston, Texas. This venue is located in Houston’s busy CityCentre and offers a gorgeous view of the city skyline. With the help of Infusion and additional sponsorship from Microsoft, we were able to provide food, work space, and technical resources to aid developers over the weekend.
Prior to the event, we spent time reaching out to local artists and developers through the HoloHouston User Group. We specifically looked for people who had a passion for 3D modeling, VR development experience, and individuals with access to HoloLens devices. We then expanded our search to contacts in Austin and Dallas to ensure that we found the very best people in the area with the expertise to work on building applications with HoloLens.
Approximately 20 developers and artists showed up for the event with 6 HoloLens devices available for teams to hack on. This proved to be a sufficient amount of devices, with artists being the most sought resource. This was very interesting, as a typical hackathon will lend weight to developers as being the critical piece to accomplishing a given solution. Once you step into most VR and AR scenarios, it is the artists who wield the ability to create the content that becomes integral to the application. Without them, the experience falls flat (pun intended).
The event kicked off with a presentation from Jared Bienz, which walked through development scenarios as they pertain to HoloLens. This allowed attendees to become familiar with the platform and available sensors on the device. Keep in mind, for many in the room, this was their first time experience the HoloLens in person!
Next, we organized into teams where artists and developers aligned and pitched prospective ideas. This was a great way for attendees to meet and discuss their particular skills and interests. It was really cool to see people who had never met before jump into collaborative projects together.
And then we hacked… For the remainder of Friday night followed by another 24 hour session on Saturday. Joowon Kim (Founder of OnComfort and Professor at the University of Houston) captured a good portion of the hacking on a very cool 360 camera!
Given the limited time and for many a lack of experience with HoloLens, all teams were able to make significant progress and were able to give demonstrations of their apps running on the HoloLens. This was very cool as we opened up the showcase to the public who were able to see these experiences in action and to have questions answered by the team members.
Dr. Chang Yun along with a team of students from the University of Houston, created an application to assist individuals with Asperger’s in recognizing emotion. This was accomplished using Microsoft Cognitive Services to take a recognized face captured by the HoloLens and process it to detect emotional sentiment. This produced a visualization above the individual in the HoloLens, which depicted the emotion sensed by Cognitive Services.
Team JunkRaiders created a game to tackle the issue of hoarding which also acted as coping mechanism for those who have the urge to “break things”. The application would produce a series of holograms around the room that depicted junk you might acquire from a flea market or garage sale. Ugly vases, trash, and boxes of dynamite would randomly be placed in the room around you and you were given the ability to toss it out to make it disappear for good.
Faysal Sharif led a team to create 3D zombie survival horror style game very similar to Resident Evil. The game included a VR handgun that fired projectiles at zombies that spawned into the physical area of the room. The polish on this project was very clean and looked like a very convincing demo of what the zombie apocalypse might look like with HololLens.
Joowon Kim led her team to create a game which involved assembling various contraptions to lead a series of spawning hamsters to an exit. This game was super cool and felt like a 3D Augmented Reality version of Lemmings. The game would start by showing you an assembled set of pieces which would then fall apart. You then race against the clock to rebuild the contraption and save the hamsters in their creation Gerball!
This event was a blast, we were able to skill up on producing experiences for the HoloLens while making many new friends along the way. It is our hope that events like these can help bring like-minded individuals together to create longstanding collaborations. Given the projects we’ve seen already, we are very excited to see what will come out of future meetups in Houston.
Until next time, Happy Hacking!