Mixed reality hackathon

Over the weekend Projectr hosted New Zealand’s first (and best ever!) mixed reality hackathon where teams of interested Wellingtonians came together to build a mixed reality experience, app or game.

Mixed reality (MR) vs Virtual reality (VR): an aside

Mixed (or augmented) reality is different to VR gear in that it overlays digital stuff on the existing world around you. Think GoogleGlass, Pokemon Go, heads-up displays in computer games etc. The idea is that you can interact with the computer without losing track of what is around you in the world.

The hack-a-thon

Jessica, who runs Projectr and organised the hackathon, managed to get seven Microsoft Hololense’s in one place for the team to work on! Not an easy task with a lot of borrowing from  all over NZ to get the kit here for the event.

InternetNZ sponsored the hackathon and as a part of that I got to go along and judge the teams work for some prizes. The teams did some amazing work in such a short period of time. Each team could only build the slimmest of Minimum Viable Products (MVP), but they all showed heaps of potential.

  • Team aMaze built an MR maze, with really good walls and excellent audio clues to help you try and find a cat

  • Team Wonder built a treasure hunt game that was a seriously cool example of mixed-reality involving hiding virtual items in a physical space

  • Team Ring created a visual, music creation and integration tool where the user had rings appearing around them which they could use to create drum-beats. The end concept was creating a music editing and creation studio that surrounds you.

  • Team Eden created a MR garden, where you could drop a seed, and rain on it to grow plants. The team had some clear, and cool ideas, for taking this further and using it was pretty fun!

All the teams did some really cool stuff and given there was only two people who had ever used Unity (the game engine they all used) before the weekend, they produced incredible work. You can check out tweets from the event here.

VR, MR and AR in New Zealand

So why do we care about VR/AR? Globally, VR & AR are going to be huge money. The Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality industry is projected to become bigger than the gaming industry and the movie business! Mixed reality is actually going to be the majority of what is shaping up to be a huge new IT sector with smart-phone based MR/AR making things very accessible. The creative potential with mixed reality technology is massive. And here in NZ, we have people who are working hard to make sure that our IT sector and businesses are a part of this new industry.

There is even a growing industry body - the VR/AR association of NZ.

This stuff gets me really excited. The benefits to the Internet, and to our society that VR & AR can bring is huge. From telling powerful stories to decision makers about what it’s really like to be a Syrian refugee, to creating new types of art in new mediums, there is so much we can do and so many benefits we can realise. We just have to be open to the opportunity and willing to try.