When I was first asked to judge at the MIT Reality Hackathon, I was excited about the prospect of meeting some of the best talent in XR and having interesting conversations. I looked forward to seeing teams go from a simple idea to a full working prototype in a matter of a couple of days. Little did I know, however, that it was going to be a rush for judges too! Each team only had 5 minutes to demo each product.
When I arrived, I could tell the contestants were excited, but they were also tired. After all, they had been working for the past 2-3 days with very little sleep. Most participants were also being exposed to several technologies new to them, such as the SDK’s for Nreal, Magic Leap, Hololens, Oculus Quest, different version control systems, and 3D modeling software (not to mention new project management styles from their teammates, Unity, and C#) for the very first time.
Overall, I was inspired by seeing both the business-use-cases for these projects and the creative developer scene here in Boston, especially the college student crowd. Most of the developers I have met in Boston have been working professionals in the industry, so it was refreshing to see so many bright students either entering this space for the first time or coming out from the shadows (after they had been involved for a while in AR/VR student clubs, etc.).
I also saw many professional developers at the hack, and it was great seeing them work together with all this fresh talent. And, while I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with the teams, I did hear about how a couple of the teams got together very last minute as they were scrambling to fill roles, with Unity developers being in high demand.
The highlight of the event, for me, was definitely getting to see all of the projects in their final, well-“prototype”, form. In addition to the projects I was presented as a judge, I had the chance to look through a lot of the final project’s introduction videos on the DEVpost site.
Here are some of my favorites:
This app uses a virtual reality environment to give students with dyslexia and/or dysgraphia a judgment-free space to explore concepts like letter formation and word recognition under the guise of a magical spell-casting game. In the words of the creators, “breaking down communication barriers between people through a tool”.
The Nutrimonster app is a way to quickly browse shelf items in real-life stores and sort/highlight things about them. They imagine themselves as particularly helpful for those with restricted diets or the health-conscious consumer. For example, this could be a great way to get your shopping done more quickly for a vegan dinner or for low-sugar lunch.
My favorite enterprise AR application, this team created an app designed for AR glasses that focuses on video streaming of tasks and a kind of back and forth evaluation process for those tasks. The team described it as:
” 1. Expert Wears Magic Leap and Performs Task – Magic Leap Record
2. Novice Wears Magic Leap and Watches Recording – Performs Task Correctly – Magic Leap Records
3. Expert Evaluates Novice Task Performance Remotely ”
As someone who has learned a lot about enterprise-focused XR applications (because that is a focus of our AR/VR developer Bootcamp), I was impressed by the practical nature of this project, and I hope they develop it into a product. Side note… I could also see this being used for an appliance or smartphone repair for novices.
In conclusion, I had a blast at the event, and I plan to keep in touch with the people I met as XR Terra continues to forge a path toward training developers far and wide in the latest XR tech.
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