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The MIT Media Lab building

The Roots of the Reality Virtually Hackathon

by Steven Max Patterson

The Reality, Virtually Hackathon evolved from the Boston Google Developer Group (GDG) that I organize with four wonderful people to serve a vibrant community of 3,300 developers. We satisfy the interests of good developers who want to spend their evening and weekend time to acquire the most up to date skills.

We focus on just three things: introducing new software development technologies, developing skills in new, most in demand developer skills, and providing a forum for developers engaged with new technologies to share their progress and experience. It’s all very kinesthetic meaning hands on. Programming isn’t something that you talk about it, you do it. We also foster a dialog between developers and employers seeking the best developers.

Hackathons have a place here. It is very kinesthetic and our version is hackathons with new technology. Give the designers and developers a crash course in the new technology and let them learn by building and see what can be built quickly with new technology. Things can happen fast. The Facebook Live prototype was built at an internal hackathon and three months later it was released as a product.

Our GDG team ran a virtual reality (VR) code lab one beautiful beach Saturday over a year ago sponsored by Google and Samsung that a hundred developers attended. The turnout proved it was a good topic. Then we ran two AR and VR hackathons, one on Google Tango and the other an open, build for whatever device you prefer. Again another good turnout and some very interesting project submissions.

Rus Gant, the head of Harvard’s VR lab attended some of the VR events. He broached the idea to run another hackathon. We started talking about scaling what GDG learned to be very large. In software, it’s all about building a proof of concept, refining it then scaling it. A few years ago I participated on a team at the largest annual hackathon at the Consumer Electronics Show with over a thousand participants. It was two days of elegant chaos and fun focused on delivering a project, meeting new people, being open to new ideas and just having sleepless fun. We placed too.

We had run a hackathon at the MIT Media Lab a few years ago building wearable apps for really new cutting edge technology with one of the Ph.D. candidates Scott Greenwald. Scott was immediately interested and keeping to with the Media Lab’s interdisciplinary style and disposition to act, they decided to back it by sponsoring, offering their facilities for four days over the Columbus Day weekend.

Now we have the biggest VR/AR hackathon in the works by a factor of 2X. We have workshops — crash courses to get people ready, passionate mentors to help teams deliver projects, vetted and qualified judges to pick the best, a ton of technology like Gear VR, Google Daydream, Tango, Hololens and Vive and a team of passionate organizers that are all heads down delivering a great hackathon experience with the help of some great sponsors.

Hacking VR

The Reality, Virtually, Hackathon brings together…

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