Last weekend, I (as I have the last 6 years), attended the annual Hack Manchester Hackathon. Where over 200 developers form teams of up to 4 people to attempt challenges set by sponsors with prizes up for grabs.
I was particularly excited to tackle Dunhumbys Supermarket Sweep challenge using Xamarin and Arkit to develop an Augmented Reality twist on the game.
Xamarin and Arkit is a technology partnership that I have been trying to learn the last few weeks. I plan to document and share these learnings at XamarinArkit.com.
I had unfortunately not managed to form a team before the event, however as I have previously, I nominated my table to be the 'singles' table. It was then that I met a charming gentleman named Yak whom having heard my project idea and having knowledge of .NET and C# himself agreed to form a team with me. I was particularly honoured to have as Yak as a team member as he had flown all the way from Berlin to partake in the weekends hackathon.
Soon after, we were joined by a couple more solo participants, Romy and Natalia whom also seemed keen to join the team. So they did.
The concept we developed was an AR game for iPhone that would display images of 30 products on shelves in an AR space, as well as a list of 10 items on a 'shopping list'. The user had to find the products from the shopping list around them in AR and click on it to select it. The player would win if they managed to find all 10 items in 30 seconds.
We began dividing up the work using Trello. I handled the Xamarin Arkit part, Yak encapsulated calls to the Tesco API to retrieve products and wrote a 2nd game version. Romy and Natalia helped with game sounds, graphics, video production, some coding and presentation creation.
Interestingly, the Tesco Product API not surprisingly lacks the ability to return 'random products' so Yak had the clever idea of searching for a generic term such as 'red' which was great. It meant that we could display 30 red products from the Tesco API in our app.
We worked very well as a team, there was no ego or clashing of personalities and each person contributed to the end product. It was a real team effort. I wouldn't hesitate to work the same people at next years Hack Manchester.
Progress was severely hampered with the Visual Studio for Mac Debugger refusing to break on either break points or Exceptions, meaning whenever there was an error, the app just closed. Because of this I had to employ some nontraditional debugging approaches including 'debugging by sound' where I would play various sounds on various errors..
I learned how to do so much in Xamarin Arkit during the weekend which I can't wait to share on XamarinArkit.com.
The final app we created whilst lacking polish or panache was quite different to all the other hackathon projects over the weekend. We managed to incorporate the original Supermarket Sweep theme tune for nostalgia as well as the benny hill music into it to convey the time running out.
We were very proud to have our project shortlisted for 'best in show' during the evening awards ceremony, missing out narrowly on the award.
I look forward to next years Hack Manchester.
Here is our projects video (each of the 50 teams were required to submit a video showing/describing their project in no more than 90 seconds).