Go Hard(ware) or go home at a hackathon!

UNIHACK Melbourne 2016

Web and mobile apps are among the most popular choice of hackathon project, but why limit your creativity to just the digital world? Take 2016 UNIHACK entry The Magic Hand for example, a team decided to bring their own 3D printer and made a physical Piano Tiles solver.

Actual real world utility: 0. Awesomeness: 100!

With the availability of inexpensive and well-documented microcontroller such as Arduino, creating a hardware prototype had never been easier.

Here are some of the most popular hardware that are used in a hackathons according to a report by Techcrunch.

Arduino: With over a million board sold each year, Arduino is one of the most popular and versatile microprocessor. The projects page provide tutorial for various user designed projects, from beginner level to highly complex; whereas the documentation page provide handy references and examples for programmer. Arduino is also open source, which mean there will be Arduino products that are produced by different manufacturer under different prices.

Raspberry Pi: A general purpose single board computer that usually run a linux distro. To massively oversimplify, Arduino is generally good at executing a single set of instruction repeatedly, whereas raspberry pi are more complex but can run multiple programs. I won’t be going too in depth into the differences as there are an abundant of article online comparing the two products.

Myo: Myo armband is a gesture control device that you wear on your forearm that convert movement in your muscle to action that you wish your pre-programmed digital device to perform. I will admit that I’m rather divided on whether I should recommend this. While this technology is filled with potential, there are a small number of reviews that it doesn’t work as well as promised. I will leave it to you to do more research if you are interested in this technology!

***

Of course, there are plenty more choices of hardware that you can use in a hackathon that I won’t go through in details but I think you should check it out nonetheless.

Google Cardboard: An extremely inexpensive VR technology. The quality are fairly average but at less than $10 each, it’s an accessible way of experimenting with VR.

Oculus Rift: Relatively pricey but much much more advanced VR headset.

3D printing: Pretty self-explanatory. Some hackathon will let you use it if you bring your own. Don’t forget to consult the organiser first!

Square: A small device that you connect with your phone to process credit card payment.

Google Home/Amazon Echo: Voice-activated home assistants. Even if you do not intended to program these devices, incorporating it to some other project that you’re building can result in other interesting use cases.

Hope this article give you more resources to think outside the box! =)