Team Ideate AR, mentored by VR First, wins at MIT Hackathon!

Jacob Shepherd
Jan 31, 2019 · 6 min read

Widely regarded as the epicenter of technological research and innovation, MIT Media Lab recently hosted what many consider to be the most prestigious virtual reality hackathon in the world. Attracting over 1500 applicants, the Reality Virtually Hackathon event went through a rigorous selection process focused on ensuring diversity of ethnicity, gender and background. After weeks of in-depth review, organizers narrowed the field of competitors to 433 individuals from more than 35 countries, with 40% women and 20% designers.

Reality Virtually participant diversity

Held at MIT’s Media Lab over a five-day period, the first day started with a morning of registration and an afternoon that helped participants get ready to contribute to their team’s project by taming their favorite technology during workshops hosted by industry leaders from the event’s sponsors, who included: AT&T, Microsoft, Samsung, PTC/Vuforia, Magic Leap, Amazon, Oculus, HTC VIVE, Alienware, VR First and more.

Reality Virtually sponsors

After going through workshops, individuals broke out into categories of interest — Social Good, Mobility/Communication, Health/Wellness, Art/Media/Entertainment, Games/Learning, Industrial/Commercial, and Productivity — to pitch their ideas, recruit talent and form teams. Each group was encouraged to maximize diversity of skillset by blending developers, designers, UX and storytelling, creating a team with a maximum of five members.

Iris Rodriguez (left) recruiting for team “Ideate AR”

Over 50 mentors with expertise as developers, designers, 3D artists and SMEs were available to facilitate team formation and worked to provide support and guidance during the hackathon for feedback, ideation, project scoping and suggestions/tips. By the end of the first day, 105 teams were formed, including team “Ideate AR” which had members from four countries — China, Colombia, Mexico and the US — created with a goal of redefining the future of sharing ideas by building a collaboration tool to allow users to physically pull content from whiteboards, print material and their favorite devices into a shared holographic workspace.

One mentor, Ferhan Özkan, was impressed with the team’s ability to quickly rally around the cause, “It’s rare to see a team from this many backgrounds work so well together just minutes after meeting.”

Team “Ideate AR” receiving mentorship from VRFirst’sCEO, Ferhan Özkan (right)

Over the course of the next few days teams started working, keeping an eye on the judging rubric — which included a combination of innovation, technical merit, impact/potential, sharing/collaboration, artwork/story-telling and code commits — and worked tirelessly around the clock to bring their vision to life.

Eliana Mejía, Iris Rodriguez, Yuting Wang (left to right) work on wireframing the “Ideate AR” team’s storyline

With a strict code cutoff and “pencils down” at 1pm of the third day of hacking, teams were ready to be judged. Table numbers were assigned randomly for order and seven groups comprised of three judges each, with different levels of technical background, started making their way around the floors of the Media Lab. Teams were given a brisk 10 minutes to present, show their concept video and immerse each judge in the experience to demonstrate what they had accomplished during the last three days.

Team “Ideate AR” getting ready to demonstrate their holographic collaboration tool

Judging continued into the evening with sponsors coming around to evaluate projects that had been tailored to their brand’s platform, software development kit or area of interest — such as accessibility, data visualization and more. Once judged, teams were invited to unwind and socialize in a post-hack celebratory party, complete with hors d’oeuvres, an open bar and a dance floor. To help close out the night, Charity Everett, a joint Fellow at the MIT Open Documentary Lab and the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning at Harvard, and creative technologist, performed a dance about human migration and evolution from Go Back Fetch It — an episodic multimedia XR storytelling experience about the origins of humanity allowing the audience to follow the heroine Eve on a journey through the timeline of human evolution.

Teams unwind and celebrate at the post-hack party, anticipating the next morning’s award announcements

The morning after the party, attendees slowly crawled out of bed, regaining energy from the night before to fill the auditorium hosting the award ceremony. Broadcast live on the VR/AR MIT page of Facebook, organizers Arpit Gupta, Steven Patterson and Scott W. Greenwald opened the day by congratulating everyone for making it through the event, and provided encouragement to keep projects moving forward, asking the question “what are you going to do from here?”

Next, sponsors were invited to the stage, keeping everyone perched on the edge of their seats while announcing awards to the teams one-by-one. Umar Arshad, Head of Growth for PTC’s Augmented Reality Products, had the privilege of announcing the first winner:

Ideate AR

$2,500 Best use of Vuforia (PTC), mentorship and $30,000 grand prize finalist

Description: Ideate AR is a collaboration tool that allows users to physically pull content from whiteboards, print material and their favorite devices into a shared holographic workspace.
Technologies used: Magic Leap, PTC/Vuforia, Autodesk Forge
Team Members: Eliana Mejía, Yuting Wang , Jacob Shepherd, Iris Creative Lab Iris Rodriguez and Matt Bell
Watch the video and read more:

Over the next hour and a half, dozens of other prizes were awarded to teams, with the audience cheering along the way. Winners included projects built around: augmented reality in cars, social causes such as helping with disaster relief, health-enabled applications to help the elderly and disabled, physical therapy in VR and more. As part of ending the ceremony,, a venture capitalist firm, announced three teams — Ideate AR, Accessibild and Cosmos VR — as winners of a mentorship prize and finalists to come back to Boston to pitch, Shark Tank style, competing for a $30,000 grand prize.

Richard Dulude, Co-Founder & Partner at, announcing mentorship and grand prize finalists

For a full list of submissions, descriptions and prizes awarded, check out the Reality Virtually 2019 devpost here:

At the conclusion of the ceremony, teams were encouraged to round out the event by setting up for a public expo on the 6th floor of the lab, where they could demonstrate their creations to the other participants and over 500 invited guests from the public. Described to the public as “a chance to interact with novel and original AR/VR projects running on the most advanced hardware and software platforms, where you can meet the teams that developed these amazing experiences and congratulate the winners” the expo was a perfect way to facilitate networking within the local Boston area, inspire the next generation of ideas and celebrate the last five days of hard work.

MIT Media Lab public expo

“We welcome the opportunity to participate in community activities centered around diversity, and were thrilled to participate in the MIT Media Lab’s Reality Virtually event in Boston this year. We look forward to continuing to collaboratively drive thought leadership and innovation in the augmented and virtual reality industries, and would love to see IdeateAR be used in future hackathons to further extend reach and participation. Anyone interested in brainstorming the future of ideation, please join our IdeateARs Facebook group” — Jacob Shepherd

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