How the Cosmos[Browser] came to be

Let the record show, MHacks IV was probably one of the best experiences of my life. Not only did I learn a lot, but I got to meet some great people. From finally putting names from facebook to faces, to meeting Alexis Ohanian, it was all a great experience overall.

Frustration

Now to our hack: CosmosBrowser. Initially, my team was supposed to create a music collaboration app which lets friends collaborate on beats and create music together. It seemed like a great idea, we had everything planned out but just like every plan, this too got foiled. Our iOS dev team member couldn’t make to MHacks. We were sad but decided to give it a try nonetheless. After we said our hellos and such to each other, we decided to get down to business. Soon we realized, there was no way we could finish this in the 30 hours we had left so we decided to pivot. We were back at square one. We brainstormed for almost two hours but couldn’t decide on a single thing. It was probably the most frustrating moment of the entire weekend. We had access to awesome tech such as the MYO armband, an Oculus Rift, a Leap Motion, and Arduinos but we couldn’t think of a freaking hack!

Pivots

We decided to take a break and just talk about our travel to MHacks, hoping something would hit us. I shared my flight delays and stormy weather just like a couple other teammates. Our main Android dev was complaining about how on his way to MHacks, he couldn’t view the schedule because he had no 3g or wifi but he had cell service. Jokingly, someone muttered “if only there was a way to browse the web through cellular service.” Two of the team members decided to work on this, while I, along with the remaining team member decided to work on hardware with all those badass tech pieces. After relentless brainstorming and tinkering, we decided to join in with the SMS Browser.

Development

Fast forward ~8 hours and we had our first working version. So elated that it worked but it took forever to load a single page. This was no bueno. After tons of research and testing, we decided to go with GZip, a compression tool. After learning that the output of GZip can’t be sent as texts through Twilio, as they are not standard characters, we were stuck. It was 2 am and all the mentors had gone back to their hotel rooms to sleep. After napping for about 3 hours, I ran back to the EECS building ( AKA eeks!) and ran into one of the reps from Twilio. With a little thinking and some tests, he helped me decide that the best way for this would be to encode it in base64 and then send it back. Finally, after fixing a few bugs and syntax errors, we were able to load the MHacks website in 8 texts and in about 45 seconds.

Fin.

Fastforward a few hours and it was closing ceremony time. After a ton of great demos, we won the Twilio API prize: custom action figures of ourselves! MHacks IV was overall a great experience. It enabled us to create something as awesome as Cosmos and I’m grateful for it. I can’t wait for MHacks V ☺.

Checkout the project on

GitHub: Frontend && Backend

HackerNews

ProductHunt


Thanks for reading ❤,

Rohith Varanasi

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