On the weekend of February 9th, members of the SphereGen Mixed Reality Development Studio attended and mentored/assisted at Yale University’s Mixed Reality Hackathon. Members of the team in attendance specialized in Unity Development and Art Asset Creation. SphereGen works with HoloLens and other Mixed reality devices daily, so we hoped our experience and knowledge would be a great resource.
The theme of the hackathon was “Solving Real Climate Problems”. Participants were tasked with creating applications which visualized and gamified real-world data with mixed reality devices. As mentors, our job was to guide teams to a presentable application within 8 hours. As you can imagine, this time limit had some of us worried.
The Hackathon Experience
Once the hackathon began, attendees brainstormed ideas and splintered off into groups. Due to the amazing turnout of attendees and their various backgrounds, there were countless big ideas. Many of these ideas had to be toned down to a small shell or very small aspect of the overall idea.
A large portion of development time can go into creating assets and gathering resources. Fortunately, most groups planned to utilize premade assets and available data sets. Many groups kept this in mind when coming up with ideas. This was a great benefit since they could spend much more time perfecting and implementing their ideas. Although many groups did use premade assets and data, due to a lack of experience with the Unity Engine and programming, there were few breaks for us once development went into full swing.
As development time drew to an end, there were a few groups that had one final obstacle. Many of the teams developed their applications on Mac/OSX computers. However, Mixed Reality devices like the HoloLens, the Dell Visor, and HP Headset require APIs and libraries that are only available on Windows computers. Setting up computers to include all the necessary components would require significant time. Time we didn’t have. Fortunately, Yale University, Microsoft and SphereGen had provided computers that had the required components installed and ready to go.
Once the groups transferred their projects to the new computers, and completed the incorporation of the libraries, the groups were able to view their application on their Mixed Reality device of choice. After looking at their 3D ideas on a 2D screen all day, many groups were ecstatic when they saw their 3D ideas come to life in front of them with Mixed Reality.
Why Do a Mixed Reality Hackathon?
This hackathon was a great way to introduce new people to Mixed Reality. The experience also enabled creative problem solving around the issue of climate change. Unlike some educational mixed reality experiences, a hackathon gives the participants experience with not only using mixed reality, but also creating it.
Find out more about the hackathon here: