Recapping the AT&T Casual Connect Mobile App Gaming Hackathon
We had the pleasure of being involved with AT&T’s Mobile App Hackathon leading up to Casual Connect here in Seattle and were really impressed with the quality of the hacks coming out of the event. We love Hackathons and think they’re an amazing way to connect with great developers, to break out of the ruts that can form with your thinking and to experiment with new technologies in the hopes of winning a prize.
The hook for this hackathon was that it was tied into Casual Connect, the world’s leading casual gaming conference. As a result, the major focus for the weekend was on making games, with the top 3 games being selected to present in front of agencies and publishers at the conference. The phenomenal exposure available to the competing teams was probably part of the reason for the 150+ person turnout at the Surf Incubator and the prizes offered by the sponsoring technologies like Sphero, Alljoyn, MHL, Mapquest, Medio, PhoneGap, MongoLabs and of course, AT&T’s APIs.
Over the course of 48 hours a lot of fun games were built, here is a short summary of all of them:
Using 9 Spheros, this team built a Tic-Tac-Toe game that hinged on something really cool: the ability to control multiple Spheros from one device. Including the location and the placement on the board was a really nifty piece of work and the added touch of having the winning Spheros “dance” when they were victorious was great.
Another Sphero hack, the Spherogatchi team turned their Sphero into a Tomogatchi. They stated that they wanted to “give the Sphero emotions” and sure enough, they programmed reactions into the device, making it react to various treatment and time spent with the device. Their idea to later on build out a marketplace where you could buy/sell/trade the personalized spheros was intriguing as well.
The team behind Wunkie has a really big aspiration: how to make lifestyle change easier to manage, especially with the influx of personal data available to us. They showed a prototype of what they called the “Mint.com for lifestyle data” and their use of PhoneGap and MongoLabs showed off the value of those tools.
It’s always inspiring to see students show up at hackathons. The team behind Alki is a group of CS students at Seattle University and they had never made an app before. Over the course of the weekend they made a simple app to manage trivia in groups, potentially enabling you to create an ad hoc trivia game out in public, at a bar or coffeeshop. Their rewarding of people who answer questions more quickly with more points was really smart and I hope that they keep making progress on this app.
Zombie Attack was an interesting concept built on Windows Phone 7 that wanted to make it easy to organize “zombie attacks” amongst your friends using location and data about who’d been “infected”.
If you’ve ever been to a nightclub you probably recognize the problem mGroove wants to solve: DJs in nightclubs don’t really take requests. Using Alljoyn, this app enables people in a nightclub to submit requests and use a peer to peer network to create playlists. In addition to their use of Alljoyn, they integrated the Mapquest API in order to actually map the events.
When I met the MobiMon team I was surprised to find out that no one has really done a good version on Pokemon as a mobile app. As a result, this team built the basics of a Pokemon game using Alljoyn to turn Pokemon into a massively multiplayer experience.
Cards Against Humanity
If you’ve ever played “Apples to Apples” you’re familiar with the concept behind Cards Against Humanity, a mobile app based upon the open-source “adult” version of “Apples to Apples”. The cool part of this game was its use of MHL to demonstrate a group playing together with the results being shown on the large screen and their use of socket.io highlighted the real-time nature of the game.
At Hackathons, the presentation often matters as much as what you’ve built over the course of the 48 hours. The team behind Battlenuts really took this to the next level, giving a fun and high energy presentation about their game. Using socket.io and node.js, the team built a real-time updating app that is fun to play with friends. The gist of the game is that you’re a squirrel shooting at your opponents and every time you blow one up, you race to collect their nuts, in the hopes of ending up with the most nuts. Terrifically simple and addictive.
Using the MHL and Alljoyn APIs along with Sphero, the Tarotshare team built a native Android app that allows you to create a tarot reading and share the reading with your friends. The audience really thought what they’d built was cool and pretty to look at.
Balls vs. Wall
Another fun MHL use, Ball vs. wall was a very simple game where the objective was to navigate a ball through a series of walls with ball-sized holes in them. Using Alljoyn this team demonstrated a simple but fun game that made a ton of intuitive sense immediately.
At Hackathons it’s always fun to see the non-developers get something built and working in a short amount of time. Using GameSalad, Jumpy was a fun and simple game created by a non-developer where the objective was to jump your character all the way to the moon.
If you’re not familiar with the real world battle of wits that is Liar’s Poker, you should look it up. This mobile app brought Liar’s Poker to the device, using Alljoyn to connect multiple players and turning an age old game into something new and fun that can be done asynchronously. Liar’s Poker is addictive, it’s no surprise that the connected version of it was as well.
SparkleMotion was a team that was really productive over the weekend. They created three things: the first was Customs – an iphone application for traveling, sharing the customs of the places you visit with you, making it easy to fit right in as you wander the world.
In addition to Customs, the team also created the Sphero SDK for Ruby, which hasn’t existed as of yet. You could see the delight in the Sphero teams eyes as this was unveiled.
Finally, they created Chatserver using AT&T Cloud, recreating a chatserver in the cloud to highlight the possibilities with the AT&T Cloud offering.
Another fun Sphero game, this game relied upon multiple people with smartphones who were each controlling a Sphero. The objective was to control your Sphero to first escape the common trap each Sphero started off in and then to navigate it back to home base. This was another app benefiting from an energetic presentation and demonstration – the crowd was able to get into the game and cheer on participants quickly.
Another student organized hack, these UW students built a labyrinth across multiple devices, where the goal was to collaborate with your fellow players to steer the ball through the labyrinth. Tough to demo, but really addictive, this was a fun piece of technology put together using Phonegap and PubNub
As with most hackathons, many of the directions that teams took were because of the possibility of winning the sponsored prizes. Here are the major prizes and the teams who won them
Cloud Architect Prize: Sparkle Motion for their chatserver
Sphero: $1k for Sparkle Motion’s Ruby SDK
RoarEngine: Gave Battlenuts $5k in services
MHL: Gave 3 prizes, with 3rd going to Cards against humanity, 2nd to Tarotshare and 1st to Ball vs Wall
AllJoyn: 4th: Tarotshare 3rd: Allnet; 2nd: mGroove 1st: Liar’s Poker ($5k)
AT&T: 3rd: Sphero Trap 2nd: Tarotshare 1st: Baller
Finally, the top 3 games, who won the opportunity to present at Casual Connect were:
Battlenuts, Ball vs Wall and Baller
Whew – as you can tell, there was a LOT of building going on over the course of 48 hours. Congrats to all of the teams, it was a blast seeing what you came up with.