Smart Recycling Bin Wins PennApps XVI

A smart recycling bin named “Sorty McSortface” took home the grand prize at PennApps XVI, beating more than 150 tech projects developed over the course of a weekend.

Hackathon contestants arrive on a Friday afternoon, form teams and come up with ideas for digital apps or hardware hacks, which they must complete before a demo session on Sunday morning. There, the projects are evaluated by a panel of tech industry judges, who rate them on originality, technical difficulty, polish, and usefulness. Almost $80,000 in prizes were at stake.

Sorty McSortface uses an internet-connected camera to recognize individual items placed on its lid. After determining what the object is made out of, it’s dropped onto series of tilting platforms that direct it into the appropriate compartment.

In second place was PillAR, an app that uses augmented reality to help people manage their medications. Floating information bubbles appear over pill bottles to tell users the correct dosage and the last time they’ve taken each one.

In third place was “Todd: The Inter-dimensional Robot,” a game where two players work together to control a physical robot and its digital counterpart. One player can see obstacles on screen and tells the other how to drive the physical robot around them.

The other finalists were:

Move IT, an augmented reality app that cut-and-pastes images based on the user’s hand movements.

Angstroms Matter, a home-made scanning tunneling microscope.

Shelf, a moving camera system mounted on the back of pantry door that keeps track of what’s inside.

The Lord of the Rings, a virtual keyboard consisting of a series of rings worn on each hand, allowing users to type on any surface or in mid air.

Grep Jobs, an app that visualizes job search results using multiple factors on an interactive map.

Enigma, a Chrome extension that finds matches news articles to ones on the same topic from sources with the opposite political bias.

InvenTe, a smart toolbox that automatically organizes small parts in a compartmentalized robotic bin.

Wher, an app that integrates Lyft with an augmented reality display that shows driver and destination information.