What is a Hackathon?

There is a lot of excitement building around our upcoming Kinect Hackathon, but people who have never experienced a Hackathon aren’t quite sure what to expect.

According to Wikipedia: The word “hackathon” is a combination of the words “hack” and “marathon”, where “hack” is used in the sense of playful, exploratory programming, not its alternate meaning as a reference to computer crime. The term seems to have been created independently by both the developers of OpenBSD and the marketing team of Sun; these usages both first happened in 1999.

Typically, a Hackathon is an event where developers and other people that are interested in software development (students, graphic designers, user interface and experience designers, product managers and entrepreneurs) gather to collaborate intensively on one or more projects. Sometimes groups get together to work non-stop for 24 hours or more or the event may be stretched over a week. The idea is to come together to learn, share ideas and focus on one project without distractions.

The new Kinect v2 sensor is a significant leap forward for gesture-based sensor technology. The XBox ONE came out in November 2013 and the Kinect sensor was included as a gaming interface. The Kinect for Windows sensor will be on the general market in September 2014 and this will be the start of a new era of gesture-based interactive interface applications and new opportunities for entrepreneurial innovation.

Microsoft decided to invest in a Kinect Hackathon World Tour to create opportunities for people to get a jump start on learning how to develop for the Kinect v2 sensor. A team of the top Microsoft Kinect engineers loaded up their gear and have already supported hackathons in Beijing, Berlin, New York City, Dallas and Redmond. The next stop is Kitchener, ON in August then off to Amsterdam in September. They are like a training SWAT team for Kinect v2. The MS engineers arrive on August 7th with Surface Pro’s, Kinect Sensors, bootable hard drives and their new experimental NFC sensor technology. The engineers are so committed to providing high-quality, personal training and support that they play to be in the hackathon space non-stop for the full 44 hours of the hackathon. If you ever wanted to learn about emerging, cutting edge technology from the source, this is your chance.

The other thing that is important for a hackathon is the physical space and atmosphere. It is important to create an environment where people can work together and share ideas. For #DeepKinect, we want to create a space where designers, entrepreneurs and developers can experiment with working together. We’re bringing in easels, flipcharts, pens, rolls of paper and possibly some art supplies. Learning how to work with the technology is important, but with the new paradigm of the gesture and depth-sensing interface, it is also important to explore how humans will interact with the technology to accomplish their tasks. We’ve come a long way from just keyboards and mouse devices.

Physically, it is also important to bring everyone together into a common space and feed them really good food. Healthy meals are provided for the whole weekend and munchies will be on hand for those that stay through the night. The Kitchener Studio Project is located in the downtown core of Kitchener (44 Gaukel St. across from the bus station). The space will be set up with enough tables, chairs and power bars to support 100 participants. A large display screen and projector will be set up in case anybody wants to see their creation on the big screen. Conestoga College will also provide 20 iMac Workstations for people who want to work on digital media creations with the Adobe CS6 and sound editing software.

The #DeepKinect event is certainly going to be a playful, exploratory and experiential learning event. You can come on your own or as part of a team. We’ve structured the event to start with pitches from various teams on Friday night. This will give people a chance to join teams that are working on projects that they are interested in and allow teams to find people with compatible interests and skills. If you need equipment, you can sign out Microsoft equipment. You’ll then settle into a comfy spot and start work on your project for the weekend. If you’d like to stay through the night, we’ve made arrangements for the MS engineers and security guards to be there for you.

Coincidentally, this hackathon is located right in the middle of the Kitchener Blues Festival, which means that we have entertainment waiting for us right outside the door when we want to take a break from working. Entertainment isn’t usually part of a hackathon, but we thought it would be an added bonus to make the weekend extra fun. We’ll also be sharing the space with one of the Building Waterloo Region exhibits that explains the history of the building and the land and Clearpath Robotics will demonstrate some of their Kinect-controlled robots.

On Sunday, after lunch, the teams that want to compete for the Hackathon Prizes will present their projects. The top three teams will be receive their prizes and the equipment will be returned, packed up and the Microsoft team will ride off into the sunset. Hopefully, all the participants will head home with a glow after a weekend of learning about emerging technology and having a great time working with 100 kindred spirits. Maybe some new entrepreneurial adventures will hatch as well!

If you want to register for #DeepKinect, visit the Eventbrite registration: http://DeepKinect.eventbrite.ca/ 

Please share this with friends and collegues if you found it helpful

Copyright 2017 Deep Realities Incorproated