World Tourism Day 2019 is Hacking Day

A retrospective of our Voice & Travel Hackathon 2019 in Berlin!

Workstreams.ai
Oct 14 · 7 min read

World Tourism Day is typically all about flying off to exotic locations. At Workstreams.ai, however, we decided to celebrate World Tourism Day a little differently this year.

To take the world of travel and tourism to places it’s never been before, we became part of a worldwide tech event designed to radically improve the way we all fly, travel and participate in the often hectic world of international transit. To that end, on the 27th and 28th of September, the first-ever community-driven Global Voice & Travel Hackathon took place in a whopping 85 different cities across the globe during World Tourism Day weekend. Our team at Workstreams.ai was proud to make our office the command center for all Berlin-based participants in the hackathon, and also organized the Berlin leg of the event.

A Look Around the World

Overview of all 85 cities 🌍🌎🌏

Global turnout was strong, with over 1,300 hackers participating altogether. Teams from each of the 85 cities competed for the grand prize of ten 500€ travel vouchers provided by Kiwi.com. Better yet, winning Berlin hackers also received a Google Home Device and an annual subscription to Workstreams.ai PRO, our very own task management solution designed to help teams set priorities, collaborate and get more done. As it turned out, there was quite a lot to get done, thanks to high expectations being set by previous successes from the previous Voice & Travel Hackathon, held in the Czech Republic.

Our Aspirations

So what are we getting out of all this? It wasn’t money, as the event was free to anyone interested, and it wasn’t prizes, as our company already has ample travel opportunities and some very nice Google Home devices :)

What motivated us was a strong belief in the good that travel can do, both for startups like ours, and for the world at large. Though based in Berlin, we are an international team with eight different nationalities working together every day, learning from each other, and growing stronger from the perspectives that we share. We have seen firsthand the many benefits that more accessible, sustainable and streamlined travel services can have on both building, educating, and strengthening our own team, and we are motivated to make these opportunities more accessible to others.

For us, that means sharing knowledge and building community with developers and tech enthusiasts who were as grateful as we are for the opportunities that accessible travel can provide. It also means diving into the complex and beautiful world of voice user interfaces, the topic of our hack, and the area that we are most dedicated to integrating into global travelers’ lives. We do this with the hope that it makes their next journey a little less stressful, a little more affordable, and a lot more enjoyable. Doing that while learning new things from a community of smart and passionate people makes it a win-win.

Hack Structure

Broadly speaking, the topic of our hackathon included any travel-related topic that involved the usage of the voice development framework Dialogflow and Actions on Google. Our local teams came up with ideas ranging from a voice-enabled restaurant picker, which locates the right restaurants for you at your travel destination, to a real-time local news service to help you be informed about what’s going on in the area you’re traveling in.


Hackathon schedule

Here’s how it all panned out over two very exciting days

DAY ONE: Introductions and Ideas

On the first day, we opened our doors at the Workstreams.ai office at 7 pm for the kick-off and introductory sessions about voice applications and the Google Assistant ecosystem.

Event Kick off with Workstreams.ai co-founder and CEO Roman Roznovsky 🎬

After a warm welcome from Workstreams.ai co-founder and CEO Roman Roznovsky, we immediately began with our first guest speaker, Roland Tiefenbrunner. Roland is our Voice UI Designer with long term experience in the field of voice. He gave an introductory speech about the world of voice applications and its massive potential in the coming years. Our second speaker, Oliver Heinemeyer, Digital Manager for Digital Channels & Services at Hermes Germany, gave a fascinating talk on the topic of Hermes’ platform selection on Google Assistant.

Our speaker line up during the hackathon 👨‍🏫

After the introductory talks, it was time to start the hacking process. During snacks and drinks, potential hack topics were pitched by the attendees and discussed in detail. Around those ideas, groups were formed and the first dialog examples were drafted. We could see how exciting those topics were for the participants (and just in general) and what possibilities these voice assistants could bring. After a couple of hours of prototyping with drinks and snacks, the journey ahead became more and more clear.

Here’s what our hackers settled on for each of their projects:

You can view the demo projects in greater detail also here.

Upon settling on some outstanding ideas, it then became time to prepare for day two, and transform our topics into something tangible.

DAY TWO: Hands-on Hacking

The second day was all about getting our hands dirty and implementing our ideas. We started early in the morning with a workshop about Dialogflow held by Wolfram Rittmeyer, Google Developer Expert for Google Assistant and Android. After that, things really took off for our travel concepts — pun intended.

Workshop time 🛠with GDE Wolfram Rittmeyer

All participants then had until 7 pm to bring their ideas to life and hack their prototypes. Our mentors were always nearby to give them a helping hand or answer questions. Midday we had lunch, which in the world of hackathons means a very passionate pizza break in between clacking out some code on some now slightly greasier keyboards.

During our small pizza break, special guest Dr. Ing. Stefan Hillmann from the TU Berlin’s Quality and Usability Lab provided insights on the state-of-the-art in voice research. Fun fact from our speaker: Did you know the first Voice-Controlled Device was already sold in 1920?

📚🍕

Work then continued until 7 pm. Then it was time to review the results!

The Outcome

On Day one, we had an attendance of 17 motivated hackers who joined our event and were eager to deep dive into the world of voice with the support of 4 speakers and 5 mentors during the whole event. After the ideas pitching and group building session, all attendees formed a total of 5 hacking teams with unique ideas waiting to be implemented into the Google Assistant world.

After those two days of knowledge sharing, hands-on sessions with dialog modeling and prototyping, and finally hacking the ideas, our Berlin Voice & Travel hackathon achieved an incredible result of three grand prizes (out of ten) from Kiwi.com for our local teams. Our three global winning teams were:

Our winners with the jury 🏆

You can read more about the winners here on the official Voice & Travel Hackathon page: https://www.voicehackathon.org/winners-2019.

The Thank Yous

As this article is also intended for our local participants, we want to first say, thank you so much for taking part! The event was unforgettable for us.

Special thanks also to the people who initiated this global event: Martin Krcek (Organizer — GDG Brno & GDE) and Denis Valasek (Organizer — GDG Ostrava & GDE). Also, big kudos to Kiwi.com for the grand prizes and all the GDGs of each city for help organizing this event and improving the tech community from day to day.

And last but not least, to every last participant, local organizer, partner and mentor who contributed to this grand global hack, wherever in the world they were. Without you, it would not have been possible to participate in this incredible event.

We are looking forward to our next big hackathon with all of you!

With that being said:
Get shit done & keep hacking 👩‍💻👨‍💻 and traveling ✈️🌍!

Workstreams.ai

Written by

Results-driven task manager / Agile Kanban board

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