Future realities hackathon – AR/VR and IoT

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Last weekend Jim Taylor took the new Theta HoloLens along to the AR/VR/IoT Hackathon in Wellington, part of Techweek 2017. This “Future Realities” Hackathon was all about mashing up technology to connect the real world to the virtual world, providing an opportunity to play, experiment and solve problems at the frontier of augmented reality, virtual reality and the internet of things.

This was the fourth hackathon this year for Jim, who leads product solution architecture at Theta and manages our research and innovation programme. He was keen to explore the possibilities for using the HoloLens to create a virtual display in a real world environment – with possible applications for museums and exhibitions. He says:

“As always, at a hackathon, you start somewhere and end up someplace different. That’s one of the great things about these kinds of events. We started thinking about involving kids more actively in the display scenario, which led us towards the idea of an augmented reality game. Marianne Malmstrom of Knowclue was on our team, and has great experience using exploration, games and virtual environments in education. So that fed into the solution too.”

The team developed a VR playground that brought together some of the mechanics of Minecraft with the features of the HoloLens technology. Says Jim: 

“Minecraft is great, kids love it, and encourages computational thinking and creative play without being didactic. Our puzzle, like Minecraft, is based on blocks. But to find them and move them around you use the features of the HoloLens device – like voice recognition commands and spatial sound.”

In just two days the team built a working VR game – not with a full feature set (their original idea was to incorporate Minecraft Redstone features into the game, to enable levers, buttons and explosions) but enough to point at what could be possible with the technology. Jim thinks this is the key to a successful hackathon:

"At some point in the weekend you always have to bring things back down to what’s achievable. Just like any project, really. I had a good idea of what we could achieve, and, importantly, what we could show to give a sense of what else might also be possible. The future reality, if you like.”

The judges were convinced, and the team won the hackathon. They were pretty pleased! 

So what of that future reality? A generation of kids that learn by doing and exploring – sometimes in virtual and augmented reality? Building and designing their own games to create and share? HoloLens and other VR/AR technologies open up whole new worlds to educators and students, and events like this hackathon provide an opportunity to explore the frontiers.

We’re keen to keep exploring here at Theta, and have a HoloLens. So if you have an idea you’d like to see realised in AR/VR, have chat to our research and innovation team.

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