XR Ocean Hackathon

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PhD Researcher and VME Family Member, Vaiva Stanisauskaite, was heavily involved in the planning and coaching of the XR Ocean Hackathon this year. Afterwards, Vaiva took the time to interview the participants to gather their reflections of this great event.

PhD Researcher and VME Family Member, Vaiva Stanisauskaite, was heavily involved in the planning and coaching of the XR Ocean Hackathon this year. Afterwards, Vaiva took the time to interview the participants to gather their reflections of this great event.

Students from the University of Vaasa and VAMK took part in the international XR Ocean Hackathon. The hackathon was organized by holoNativeKieler Nachrichten and FLEET7. The municipality of Kiel sponsored the costs of travel for two students to Germany. The other students participated online at the VME Interaction Design Environment at Technobothnia.

The University of Vaasa was one of the partners of the hackathon together with other partners from Germany, Estonia and Denmark  TalTech Innovation and Business Centre MektoryFachhochschule KielTalTech – Tallinn University of Technology and Filmby Aarhus

The University of Vaasa students had a chance to participate in the survey and win a trip to Kiel. The lucky winners for the trip were Xiaotian Bi and Abdelwahed Mohamed from the University of Vaasa. There were 4 teams participating in the competition with 4 different ideas: Bee-R, VR for beekeeping (the team who worked in the VME Interaction Design Environment); Elli – VR for learning languages in different historical moments (the winning team); XR for ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder); and XR for learning languages using facial recognition.

The 4 days of intensive competition took place at several physical and virtual locations: Germany, Kiel FLEET7, Finland, at the VME Interaction Design Environment, Discord online, and in AltspaceVR online, where everyone had their own avatars and presentations were streamed in Youtube. Here is what the students had to say about the competition:

Q &A with Xiaotian Bi

How did you learn about the Hackathon?

Nowadays, hackathons are popular events arranged by many different organizations and companies, collecting groups of people with intensive brainstorming activities in a short time (normally 2-3 days), and producing something valid or worthy to be developed in the future. Relating to the XR Ocean Hackathon, VR and AR are the core technologies for establishing and validating ideas. This year, the theme of XR Ocean Hackathon was about future education, and the event was sponsored by the municipality of Kiel and in collaboration with partner cities in the Baltic area.

How was your trip to Germany? 

My trip to Germany is awesome, with well-arranged bookings and on time communication from Kiel’s side. The accommodation conditions were very good, and were located in the center of Kiel, just a two-minute walk from the Hackathon workspace. The food arranged for guests was also tasty. Team members from Germany side were very friendly, and they even arranged a tour of the city for us on the last day of Hackathon. Everything was perfect!

How would you evaluate the overall experience of the Hackathon? Competing with international teams? 

The overall experience of the hackathon was excellent! I met other people who are passionate about XR and who have strong motivation to change the world with new technology. Competing with international teams is a positive experience. This is because we can hear about other teams’ thoughts internationally. This is really eye opening. I was in a team consisting of people from Germany, Finland and Poland, and working with those people from different countries is an enjoyable thing.

Did you experience some challenges?

The challenges I met were that none of the team members were strong at programming or using AR, VR equipment for making prototype. It took a long time to make something simple under the instructions of mentors.

Did you learn something new?

Definitely, I learned much more than what I expected before the journey. I tired VR and AR tools to have a better understanding of XR technology. During working with other people from different countries, I gained a lot about marketing, selling ideas, presentation skills, project planning, etc.

Can you tell a bit more about your group’s idea?

Unlike most of the teams who concentrate on language learning, our group’s idea was to find a more efficient and effective way to focus on special human needs, such as those that emerge with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), with the help of VR technology. People with ASD have different ways of thinking and shaping the world, which may contribute to difficulties in communication or even merging into social life. As the costs of visiting therapists are increasing high, most ASD people are not able to get fast treatment on time. VR can create an initial environment and collect information from the individual based on his or her behavior. According to the data obtained from previous environments, VR adapts a new environment for him or her for further observation. There may also be built in learning elements for behavioral interventions. It does not mean that we find a solution to fully replace conventional ways of therapy, we still need therapist evaluations to ensure that the personalized learning paths established by the VR are set in the right direction. Yet, we can decrease the amount of time in which therapists are needed. The aim of VR-based learning enhancement for ASD is to cover 100% of the world’s population. And belonging to the ASD group can be seen as ‘cool’ since many people aspire to be like Albert Einstein and Bill Gates who also belong and belonged to the ASD groupings. If neurotypical people can improve their way of learning or thinking from high function ASD, will they become smarter? Very much possible! In summary, we want to combine VR technology with therapy and therapist expertise to help not only people with ASD but, also support other people in becoming excellent.

Would you participate again in similar hackathons?

Yes, for sure. I would like to attend more hackathons, since I really enjoy and acquire many outcomes from it.

Is there something else you want to add?

I do not have so much to add. I just wish the topic our group focused on can be funded and developed in order to continue the path to future realization. And I would say attending XR Ocean Hackathon is one of the best journeys I have ever had in my life. It has broadened my vision and offered me chance to meet other excellent people.

 

Q &A with Abdelwahed Mohamed

How did you learn about Hackathon? 

I heard about the Hackathon in an email sent from the University of Vaasa

How was your trip to Germany?

My trip to Germany was such an amazing experience. The architecture and the weather there are wonderful.

How you would evaluate the overall experience of hackathon? Competing with international teams?

Actually, the overall experience was so interesting because I felt like I was working on something valuable. Also, working with students from Germany was such an awesome experience for me as I learned some new skills. Regarding competing with international teams, this competition was a good chance for my team to learn how to work hard in a timely manner and be creative to come up with new feasible solutions for education systems.

Did you experience some challenges?

Yes, the competition was intense, and the time to complete the project was quite short, but overall, the competition was so good.

Did you learn something new?

Sure, I have learned how to work under pressure and manage time well. Also, the brainstorming within my team was really an interesting experience, and I think after this experience, I am a better team player.

Can you tell me a bit more about your group idea?

Shortly, the idea was about how to make learning languages much easier, enjoyable, and engaging by using virtual reality, AI, and machine learning. In other words, we want people to practice the four language skills (reading, writing, listening, and especially speaking) using what they are learning in a historical language course in a virtual environment at any time of the day even on the go.

How do you feel about winning the hackathon?

I feel so happy with my amazing team to win this interesting competition. Also, I believe that the other teams did really well and came up with interesting ideas.

Would you participate again in similar hackathons?

Sure, I would like to participate in the coming hackathons.

Is it something else you want to add?

Finally, I would like to thank you for contacting me and giving me the chance to express my thoughts, and I would like to thank everyone who brought this hackathon event to life in this amazing way.

Team VAMK’d (members Kunal Menon, Ali Aldulaimi, Sergiu Petrut, Mykola Zhabko, Gonzalo Araya, Bogdan Rudnevskii) were participating in the event from VME lab in Technobothnia Vaasa. Here are their thoughts:

Q&A with Kunal Menon

How would you evaluate the overall experience of hackathon? Participating in VME? Competing with international teams? Presenting in Altspace?

The XR Ocean hackathon was a very challenging event in which we had to really work hard on learning new technologies like Unity and Oculus Quest. The VME lab helped a lot with gaining the skills required to develop the prototype and create the video. The team at VME, Vaiva, Hannu and Rayko were very helpful in that respect. It was a pleasure to participate in the event. It also helped us understand how XR technologies operate and how there can be different use cases for them in real life.

Presenting in Altspace VR was a challenge as having to control the environment and present at the same time was a learning experience.

Did you experience some challenges?

There were many challenges, for example, how to technically implement our vision for the project and even us not taking the recording for the prototype from VME lab to showcase in our presentation. Hats off to Vaiva for saving our presentation in regards to the last point. Learning new technology when most of us hadn’t even experienced a VR environment was a challenge. Explaining how things worked to each other helped clarify the concept for us too and was a great learning experience.

Altspace interactions and environment was at start a bit difficult to navigate. Having to present updates or final presentations in such an environment where you cannot gauge the audience feedback as well was challenging.

Did you learn something new?

We learned a lot of new concepts and technologies. We also learned how to better operate as a team. We also learned about having to work more on the business aspect of our prototype and not just the tech. It was also really interesting knowing what types of projects are worked on at VME in collaboration with local companies thanks to Rayko.

Would you participate again in similar hackathons?

Definitely, as long as it’s not crunch time at college.

Is it something else you want to add?

Once more a very big thanks to Vaiva for saving our presentation 😊.

Q&A with Bogdan Rudnevskii

How would you evaluate the overall experience of the hackathon? Participating in VME? Competing with international teams? Presenting in Altspace?

It was really fun and exciting to participate in this hackathon. Hannu loaned our team a VR headset, which has improved our experience in VR development.

Did you experience some challenges?

The main challenge for me was that I had never worked with Unity and VR at all.

Did you learn something new?

Through the preparation week I have learned all the basic VR Unity development skills and what was really amazing was that me and the team could share our learnings and progress. This has leveled up our efficiency.

Would you participate again in similar hackathons?

Definitely, it was a fascinating event, it also boosts your skills.

Is there something else you want to add?

The main technical challenge was that not all PCs were compatible for VR development. Even at home I had to solve some technical challenges to connect the headset and start preparation.

Special thanks to you! It was a pleasure to participate!

 

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