4 Game Changers from the TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon

A look at 4 teams who delivered innovation in under 24 hours

The TechCrunch Disrupt hackathon brings the best and brightest to New York City for 24 hours of hacking endurance. With a set of sponsors like Esri, Nexmo, and PubNub, teams are tasked with building a new product and presenting it in front of a live audience of thousands.

Some of those submissions go from hack to success, like GroupMe, which was created overnight and ended up acquired by Skype for $80,000,000.

So it’s safe to say, this hackathon is for real. Below we highlight four game changers from this year’s hackathon.

Elderly Alexa

Helps families care for their remote loved ones via voice.

Elderly Alexa is a voice app that runs on Amazon Echo, that offers an communication interface for families and their loved ones who need extra care.

For example, the user can ask “Alexa, medicine”, and the app responds with the correct dosage and time of day. The app even follows up with the user to double check that the medication has been taken.

In addition, the family member can send back the next item on their to-do list in an accompanying iOS app or call them to remind them about their medication. The idea is that, if this daily email doesn’t arrive, the family member will know something could be wrong and can network with others in a group chat room to discuss. For instance, a family could decide who’s driving over that day to check in on mom or dad.

Technology used:

  • PubNub: chat
  • AWS: DynamoDB, Lambda, SES
  • NodeJS: Alexa
  • Swift: iOS app


Early alert system to help find missing people.

Confidant compliments other systems for identifying and finding missing people to deliver early alerts when a person may be missing. The app is designed for users who are planning to undertake activities with elements of risk or danger, like long excursions, mountain trekking, or hiking, and allows the user to set a time for when you expect to return and provide the phone number of an emergency contact. There’s also the option to provide a location.

Technology used:

Github repo is available here.

EEG Hardware Hack

Blink detection and predictive text for hands-free typing.

The purpose of the project was to allow disabled people with limited manual mobility to type and interact with other systems simply by blinking. The blinking acts as a selector signal to move the on-screen selector. To allow typing, the project also included a predictive text system to reduce the amount of blinks needed to spell a word.

The digital keyboard on the project has 12 keys in basic HTML, that can be used to send and receive messages in the two way chat, powered by PubNub.

“If you take people for example with ALS, so if you take Stephen Hawking… he actually uses something mounted to his cheeks because he can still use his cheeks. He used to use something that he would tap with his finger but he can’t do it anymore.”


Turns student annotations into classroom discussions, tests, and comprehension.

Epigrammer’s goal is to improve reading comprehension by collecting annotations and opinions from students for teachers to use for planning. This allows teachers to aggregate student conversations on a specific text, then interact with the text through annotations in realtime.

The value in Epigrammer lies in giving the students direct access to their teachers, and to save time, to export student annotations to save time making tests and quizzes.

Technology used:

  • PubNub: realtime annotations
  • Elixir/Phoenix API: backend
  • Apollo: connects React JS front-end and in-house annotation libraries

Looking Forward

We had an awesome group of individuals using our APIs for their projects. In fact, 44% of all teams used PubNub!

As always, we were blown away by the variety of projects built in a mere 24 hours, and are looking forward to sponsoring more hackathons in the future!

Check us out at PubNub to get started with realtime today, and as always, we’re here to help.

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