Imagine living in a world where you could have an app that lets users donate to the homeless through wearable beacons, use a gesture-based tool to swap contact information with a simple handshake, and visit a site that uses data science to generate information on political candidates in real time. That world might be closer than you think: these were just a few of the innovative, exciting ideas presented by teams that participated in the eighth season of AngelHack Seattle.
What is AngelHack?
AngelHack is a pioneer in the global hackathon community, organizing and hosting hackathon events around the world. These events encourage innovation and foster connections between those with ideas for change and those that can make those ideas reality. The event uses the pressure of a tight deadline to keep focus tight and place an emphasis on ensuring the viability of a project.
This year, 192 developers, programmers, designers, and entrepreneurs converged on Google’s Fremont offices from June 27 to 28 to participate in AngelHack Seattle. Keeping true to this year’s theme of “Thoughts Become Things,” 46 teams had 24 hours to develop a project from an idea to a working demo. Teams that successfully completed their prototypes were given two minutes to deliver a pitch and answer questions in closed-room sessions. The top eight teams then presented their ideas in front of every team at the hackathon, as well as a panel of judges with extensive experience working with and founding tech startups.
The grand prize was the opportunity to join AngelHack’s HACKcelerator program, with the ultimate goal of sending the team to Silicon Valley for Global Demo Day. Representatives from Amazon, Twitter, Pebble, Clusterpoint, IBM, HP, and Respoke also offered teams special prizes for the most creative “hacks” that utilized their services and APIs, including Amazon Web Services, Bluemix, and Haven OnDemand. Teams that chose to work with the Pebble smartwatch were also challenged to integrate it into their projects.
The majority of the teams successfully completed and presented their projects. Here are some of the highlights of the event:
The winner of AngelHack Seattle 2015, Illumivote helps voters make more informed decisions about political candidates by combining data science with programming. Visiting the Illumivote site and looking up a politician’s name allows a user to find information about how a political candidate votes, how often they cross party lines, and how influential they are, helping them decide if they are a candidate they wish to support. Illumivote is powered by data, using information scraped from various sources and presenting it to users in a comprehensible, painless way.
AngelHack Seattle’s runner-up team addresses a pain anyone at a networking event has had to manage: how to exchange business contact information with someone without breaking the natural flow of conversation, or if you don’t have a business card. Users who have the Handshake app installed on their Pebble smartwatches can, with a single handshake, exchange information about themselves and connect to each other on LinkedIn. The team plans to work on the app’s cross-platform compatibility and integrate other gestures to add users on other social media platforms such as SnapChat.
GiveSafe proposes an intriguing way of using beacon technology to make it easy and safe for people to donate to the homeless. Users that install the GiveSafe app will receive a notification giving them the option to donate $1 (or an amount of their choice) whenever they pass by an individual equipped with a GiveSafe wristband. These wristbands act as beacons which identify the wearer as an individual in need, and would be issued by partner non-profit shelters. The shelters also assist the individual in creating a brief profile and biography. Donations received through GiveSafe can be used by individuals at partner businesses to redeem food, clothes, and services such as haircuts.
With two components, “flow” and “follow,” FolLOW aims to provide easily accessible, readable content on small devices such as the Pebble watch. The app extracts text data from predetermined websites and feeds, such as Yahoo or Twitter, and turns it into a scrolling feed on small devices. With the buttons on the Pebble watch and gestures that activate its accelerometer, a user can change the current feed, speed it up or slow it down, or stop it entirely if they see something they want to know more about. Utilizing the small screen to work for it rather than against it is what gives this app its potential, and it can be applied to all kinds of information.
This hack lets users turn on sprinkler systems remotely using their Pebble smartwatch, but that’s not all. After using the app for a few weeks, Amazon Web Services machine learning takes the information about the current temperature, time, and day of the week, and uses them to let the system be operated on auto-pilot. While this demo limited its application to sprinkler systems, it’s easy to imagine a similar system being used to manage more complex processes, such as beer brewing.
Hackathons highlight how new technology can be integrated in our day to day lives in novel and useful, ways. While not all the ideas showcased will necessarily see completion, they can give an indication of where we can expect future trends in technology to go.
Which was your favorite hack? You can see more of the projects that came out of AngelHack Seattle at this link.