About 15 years ago I first started going to so called LAN-parties. An event that basically boils down to a bunch of teenage gamer nerds gathering for a sleep deprived weekend of unhealthy food, energy drinks and of course playing games until your face smacks into your greasy keyboard. Fun times.
Fast forward 5 years and I started my architectural education… which turned into 5 years of surviving on energy drinks, sleep deprivation, staring at buildings like a drug-addict and an eating pattern that makes Supersize Me feel like a vegan promo movie.
So after leaving architecture school almost 2 years ago I felt like I needed a good old sleepless weekend, drinking liters of energy drinks and some hardcore nerding. Together with two friends I participated in Emakina’s 2015 Emhackinathon.
A little birdie told me about a hackathon being organized by Emakina in partnership with Microsoft and it had IoT and Raspberry Pi as the main focus. Needless to say I immediately hit the apply now button. A few days later we received news we got accepted to participate, yay! So on Friday the 16th of October, after finishing a busy workweek David De Winter, Vincent Van Impe and I rushed through Brussels’ rush hour traffic to Emakina’s offices located in green and leafy Watermaal-Bosvoorde.
We had some basic ideas of what we wanted to play with, most of them boiled down to smart city initiatives. One thing all three of us really bothers are ad-displays in underground car parks, malls, stores, etc… Most of them are still dumb pieces of ancient junk requiring heaps of paper, are not engaging and do not measure engagement, are not flexible and can’t easily be updated.
There are examples of really funny and engaging ad displays however, like this brilliant campaign for Graubünden Tourism. So why aren’t more brands and displays doing similar things? For one reason, it would not be cost effective of course to place a bearded guy on a skype connection 24/7, but there needed to be other ways to try and mimic some of that engagement. So we pitched our frustration among the other participants and managed to recruit two more team members: Bram Beirens and Natasha Halflants.
Together we formed team AdEnhance with the sole mission to build a working MVP (Minimal Viable Product) within 48 hours of our starting idea.
So first off we brainstormed for an hour or so about what features we wanted to implement, what could go on the backburner and which features would be feasible to build in 48 hours because next to a presentation deck the jury also required a working technical demo.
So this is what we decided to build during the weekend:
- We started off by giving the dumb display some brains by hooking up a Raspberry Pi
- We attached a camera and a few other sensor devices to measure temperature, humidity, soundlevels, lighting, WiFi and Bluetooth signals.
- The camera captures images of people walking in front of the screen and pushes them to Microsoft’s Face API.
- Demographic info is returned and drives user-defined content back onto the screen.
- A front-end webpage running on Azure displays analytics and can be used to define content for the appropriate demographic segmentations.
This is what our demo looked like at the end of the weekend!
Busy kicking ass:
Long story short: we won! Make sure to check out the awesome video Emakina made of the event
So again, I would really like to thank Emakina for the flawless organization of their first hackathon (Emhackinaton) and above all I look back with a profound respect and gratitude towards my brilliant team members who made that weekend an unforgettable succes. You guys (and girl!) rock!
If after reading this you might be attracted by the notion of sleepless weekends filled with energy drink, coding, brainstorming and getting shit done, drop me a line and we’ll look for a hackathon to conquer together!