Hack For The Future

Picture this, an office floor filled with technology enthusiasts, programmers, strange hardware contraptions, weird software solutions and pizza. Wondering what is going on? It is a typical Hackathon. Cool, but what the hell is a Hackathon? If you ask Google this is what you get “ [ ˈhakəˌTHän ]  an event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming. “, true but it’s so much more than that. It is also a place where were you can put your creativity to work, meet new people, learn new things and most of all have fun with technology. This year the Hack Together hackathon is organized in Sofia Bulgaria with Strypes as a sponsor. The topic? Nothing less than the future! How can you improve the world of tomorrow? This hackathon will last for 48 hours and is held during the weekend. There are no specific programming languages specified, no hardware limitations, no topic limitations and therefore no limit to the creativity and imagination. tumblr_njpx9gcend1qh5tg1o1_500_bigger

The Team

As a forward looking company ICT Group is sending a team of enthusiasts to the Hackathon. The team consists of ICT Hackathon 2015 winners Gertjan van Zon, Niek Linnenbank and software solution expert Edo Noordhuizen. All part of the Machine and System Unit. A team is no team if it has no name. So in honor of Operation Manager Inge Pebesma who brought the team members together, the team is called I.N.G.E. which stands for ICT Nerd Gets Euphoric. Because we are all nerds and very Euphoric about this Hackathon!

The Jury

In a Hackathon everybody is a winner but as the proverb says, some more than others. But how do you determine a winner of a Hackathon? Is it by originality, functionality, presentation or the amount of fun the team had making the project? Luckily they have found some people to carry that burden. The jury consists of the Chairman of BASSCOM and the founders of HackBulgaria, MOVE.BG and LAUNCHub. Personally those name don’t mean anything to me but in Bulgaria they are the well-known in the Technology, Programming and Start-up scene.

The Prizes

Of course there are prizes, what would a contest be without prizes? Without any doubt the first price are the eternal bragging rights that you have won this hackathon. Besides that, there are also some more trivial prices like money and goodies.

The Preparations

How did the team prepare for this hackathon? The best way to prepare for a hackathon is to have some open minded brainstorm sessions. So the team ordered some pizza’s and came up with some great ideas. Some were even too experimental and impossible to make in just 48 hours, but you should always have dreams. During the hackathon the idea will probably change course a couple of times but that’s all part of the fun. Check out this blog and Twitter to find out what kind of technical stuff we are taking with us.

No pizza’s, WTF !

If you’re wondering how the team experienced the Hackathon you should keep reading otherwise this will be the end of the blog for you. The hackathon was, and basically every hackathon is, a really nice way to get in touch with all sorts of people and expand your network. The team has met some great people from very different parts of the community. From taxi driver to CTO, from Mobile App Engineer to ambassador. Wait a minute, ambassador? Yep, the Ambassador of the Dutch Embassy in Sofia held the opening speech. After that the team talked with the ambassador about technology and especially the Microsoft HoloLens and the impact it can have on so many things. The Ambassador was really impressed with the Microsoft HoloLens and enjoyed himself with the Holograms and HoloApplications. After this inspirational opening of the Hackathon it was time to get the grey matter working and develop the project.

The project

The Microsoft HoloLens is best described as really dorky looking sunglasses but that will change. In the near future everything will be smaller and smaller. Normal glasses size of even contact lenses with Mixed Reality are already within reach. The team made a really nice proof-of-concept of a Holographic Conference Room Reservation System, let call it a HCRRS. A What? A HCRRS! With the HCRRS you can put up a conference room sign without cutting down a tree of cluttering the work environment because it’s an Augmented Reality sign. A conference organizer can easily make or cancel a reservation of the conference using Augmented Reality or a planning tool after the sign is placed also using Augmented Reality. You don’t like the design of the sign? Change it by making a new one or selecting one from the Sign Design Store. The team also implemented environmental sensors which are inside the conference room, to inform the organizer or participant of the conference room environment in which the meeting takes place. If it doesn’t meet the criteria he or she can adjust the room environment. All this with a simple air-tap! So it’s a fully remotely updatable conference room sign, try that with a single piece of paper!

During the 48 hours the team encountered numerous difficulties ranging from network issues and “How do you add a webview to a 3D-object in Unity” to where are the pizza’s? A wide range of technologies were used such as PHP, Grovekit Hardware, JSON, Microsoft Holographic SDK, Microsoft Visual Studio, Raspberry Pies and the Unity 3D Gaming Engine. None of the team members had much of experience with Unity or the Microsoft HoloLens but that didn’t hold them back. Learning new technologies is one of the great experiences you will have when you are at a hackathon. holographic-conference-room-reservation-system At the end not all features were implemented, like the sign store, but the team was very satisfied with the result. After all this hard work it was time to preset the project to the jury. Unfortunately the live feed wasn’t stable due to Wi-Fi problems so the audience and jury didn’t see everything the Microsoft HoloLens user was seeing but that is all part of doing a hackathon. The team didn’t win but by participating in this Hackathon we’re all winners.

During the hackathon a lot of people were interested in the Microsoft HoloLens and the techniques we used for the project. A Hackathon is a perfect place to exchange information and gain new insides. Don’t want to leave your house for that? no problem. Use your personal book budget to get some gadgets or books and start experimenting. Challenge yourself! Facebook: Website: Twitter: #gertjanvanzon Bookbudget : @AFAS under “Performance and Development”

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