VR Hackathon NYC - Hacker Teams & Projects July 2015

Eighteen teams participated in VR Hackathon NY 2015. There was a wide range of rather stunning VR and AR projects - all of them considered and inventive. It was difficult for the judges to determine winners. Given that these hackers are pioneers in an emerging medium, every team won in our eyes.

Team and Project: ADream. Kevin Harper, Brandon Coyle.

Description: Live Action Capture, Virtual Reality. Excerpt: "We tried to emulate how we hope the future of live action capturing will be for VR...For our experiment, we manually captured the space with an outside-in approach. Using a camera we took 35-50 pictures of the space to process each ‘frame’ of the animated sequence. This required the motion to hold for each frame as it was captured. Each frame was then processed into a 3d mesh. And then scaled and lined up to step through and view. The viewer has an untethered view into the space, being able to crouch, lean, and even walk around the subjects in the space. Although people have already been exploring photogrammetry for VR - animating it is a crucial next step." To download the demo, go to: Live Action VR (Windows, Oculus SDK v0.6.0.1) Note: this experience works best standing.

Team and Project: "Starry Eyed." Grace Hu, Sophia Dominguez, Shriya Nevatia, Ayanna Seals.

Description: Space is a lonely place...experience space and worlds with someone else. Two or more users sit in front of their computers with Leap Motions plugged in. They connect to our web portal on their phone and put on a VR headset that is compatible with that phone (can be Google Cardboard, ViSR VR, or something else). They can then visualize their hand movements in the space environment and explore different places with their friends. They can be far away from one another because the environment is created over the web. For an in-depth description, visit Starry Eyed on Challengepost.

Team: W.I.I.P. Project: "Not You." Carolyn Jao, Charline Jao, Marga Javier, Erika Scott, Jaqi Vigil, Jeanne Kelly.

Description: Using point of view - via *augmented reality* and digital images that challenge cultural myths - to encourage empathy for gender equality. Value proposition: The idea of ‘otherness’ is central to the ways in which social identities are constructed. The representation of different groups within any given society is controlled by groups that have greater political power. In order to understand the notion of The Other, sociologists first seek to put a critical spotlight on the ways in which social identities are constructed. Social identities reflect the way individuals and groups internalize established social categories within their societies, such as their cultural identities, ethnic identities, class, religion, gender and so on. These social categories shape our ideas about who we think we are, how we want to be seen by others, and the groups to which we belong. They are however, first shaped by the Myths put in place by those groups hoping to maintain power. Many of these myths are not only damaging to the human rights and basic dignity of marginalized groups, they undermine entire cultures and diminish our society as a whole. For more info, see Verbal Plus Visual: "Designing for Not You" by Carolyn Jao.

Team: virtualstorycraft. Project: "Narratopia." Cindy Sherman Bishop, Stacy Horn, Jack Wilkinson, Gary Yau-Chan, Kit Swaminathan.

Description: A VR storyworld-creating tool for professional and casual users. Users can create a spall - pictures, sound, video and text. Let's make it easy for storytellers to make an online/mobile virtual 3D experience that doesn't require expensive equipment or knowledge of coding. By creating this online experiential/storytelling platform, we can open the gates of virtual reality to the traditional storyteller and her audience. How it works: Virtual worlds are created by a simple selection process. The storyteller chooses a 3D shape, uploads her story in the form of a digital video and photo flowchart, and then publishes that 3D story. Presto! her world is created in virtual space and she can give her address out to others to view. All she and her friends need is either a computer or a mobile phone, a $20 Google cardboard and Chrome browser to view in 3D. We'll be collaborating with LittlStar. Stay tuned!

Team: Virtual Space. Project: "Island Music." Guilherme Pena Costa, Avery Leider, Zeev Kirsh, Luna, Dhruvil Gandhi, Syed Adil Hasan, Taranjyot Singh Multani.

Description: You are the conductor of voices that you balance with Leap Motion and Oculus Rift to reach increasing levels of joy and harmony. Avoid and resolve discord on an island of sounds. See: Pace team takes home the prize at VR Hackathon. Excerpt: "The team decided to create a kind of virtual island that would incorporate musical features, which users could alter according to their own liking using their movements. The island played four different kinds of music in each corner, and users navigated the island using the Oculus Rift. Depending on how they moved, the music would change in volume, intensity or balance. Users could move around the island to figure out which kind of music they most wanted to hear. The team had originally planned to make movement possible through Dhruvil’s Leap Motion, but faced a big challenge in getting the software and hardware to interact seamlessly. Eventually, they had to cut out the Leap Motion and focus just on using the Oculus Rift and game controllers for movement."

Team: VR Andalou. Project: "un VR Andalou." Winslow Porter, David Lobser, Harold.

Description: “Un VR Andalou" places the viewer in the role of the heroine in the opening scenes of the infamous Dali/Bunuel film, "Un Chien Andalou". The scene is of course famously focused on "slicin' up eyeballs" (as the Pixies would later sing) and to accentuate this the viewer is actually sitting inside a giant eyeball. As the lashed lids blink, so does the scene change, advancing the plot to its inevitable and horrifying conclusion. The opening scene of the original was meant to prepare the viewer for what was to follow: a shocking series of events meant to challenge bourgeoise conceptions of rationality. In the same way, the vision we present in "Un VR Andalou" builds to a moment of terror meant to shake the viewer's preconceptions of what is possible in virtual reality and rally them to produce content that unleashes the forces of their subconscious.

Team and Project: "Dream Gallery." Lance Legel, Francisco Ramirez, James Hennessy, Miles Cranmer, Jeff Ho, Mehedi Ahmed.

Description: What happens when Mona Lisa meets a Starry Night? We used a computer vision library called DeepDream to make wonderful new fusions of art. To present these dreams we developed an interactive and immersive virtual reality art gallery. Our code is based on a deep neural network, which first considers an input "base" image (e.g. Mona Lisa), and then a target "guide" image (e.g. Starry Night). Basically, it looks for patterns in the first image that remind it of the second image, and then imagines projections of the second image's patterns onto these first image's patterns. For the actual gallery, we embedded 12 works of art into a Unity3D world. We coded LeapVR hand interaction, so a user could select 2 pieces of art to fuse by DeepDream in real-time. For more information, visit Dream Gallery on Challengepost.

Team: Subhuman. Project: "1,111 Days." Rehmat Qadir, Sisa Bueno, Andrew Kim.

Description: A tragic story of imprisonment in the notorious New York City Riker's Island jail, which follows an innocent black teenager lost in the system who is ultimately scarred mentally and robbed of his life. Inspiration: 1110 Days is a VR documentary tracing the tragic story of Kalief Browder, a teenager from the Bronx imprisoned in Riker's Island for three years without trial from 2010 - 2013, and the subsequent events leading to his death by suicide at the age of 22. How it works: The project was built using Unity 5.1 and the Google Cardboard SDK. Some of the scenery was built using Matlab and C++ code from academic papers on computer vision. This trick was used to reconstruct 3D environments from individual 2D still images to wander around and interact with in VR. It's one of our secrets that neither the VR nor the game industry seems to have caught on to, but very appropriate given the scarcity of visual material relevant to the story and the obvious logistical difficulties that would naturally arise trying to film inside Riker's Island and other venues. For more information, visit 1,111 Days on Challengepost.

Team: Hackmanhattan. Project: "Trust Fall." John Lee, Mykayla Fernandez.

Description: A co-op trust-based virtual reality game challenging the way people communicate in order to achieve a common goal. One player sees a bird’s eye view of the entire map in 2D on a tablet. The other player wears the VR headset and navigates the world. The narrative of this game is found within the communication between the two players. As players describe this unfamiliar world to each other, we can see how each player is perceiving the environment. They learn how to use each other’s eyes in order to clear the obstacles while avoiding the danger of falling. For an in-depth description, visit Trust Fall on Challengepost.

Team: Les Chiens Andalou. Project: "Oculus Riven." Matthew Goral, David Cihelna, David Gochfield, Harold Haroldson, Nicholas Hubbard.

Description: Les Chiens Andalous is a group of artists and theatre techs who are interested in making unique cinematic content for VR. The cinematic experience, Oculus Riven, was shot with three GoPro Hero 4 cameras set in a custom built headset that holds the cameras at specific angles to emulate the Human field of vision. The final edit was presented in an Oculus DK2.

Team and Project: FML. Sagiv Ofek, Jackson Doherty.

Description: Exploring the physics/motion of drawing and shooting an arrow via Leap Motion.

Team: Three Sisters. Project: Drone Operator. Anthony Marefat, Sam Snider-Held, Harry Thompson.

Description: A meta-narrative of someone (drone operator) doing the job.

Team: BlackHole. Project: Invitation. Shaun Axani, Will Field, Sweta Mohapatra, Isi Azu, Zhen Liu, Alejandra.

Description: A pop-up book experience on Google Cardboard.

Team and Project: Christ VR. Lex Dreitser, Rena Anakwe.

Description: Jesus walked, carrying his cross, on the way to crucifixion...as experienced through VR. For more information, visit Christ VR on Challengepost.

Team: Wilderness Road VR. Project: "My Name Is Te." Sherrie Robertson, Sean Hyland, Olga Poloukhine, Samanta L. Shi, Craig Elliott Brown.

Description: An exploration of a gender-queer homeless coder via VR. Inspiration - Based on a true story of a homeless, gender-queer virtual reality developer, who never gave up. How it works - Oculus/Game controller guides you on a journey through the nightmarish memories of a homeless hacker. Leap Motion triggers each memory you press along the wall as you move down further into the depths of the fun house. For more information, visit My Name Is Te on Challengepost.

Team: ETC. Project: "Eye to I." Loren Abdulezer, Susan Abdulezer, Zhien Li, Christopher LoBello.

Description: Using a home-made 360-degree rig, we are exploring ways to change the views from passive observer to active participant. The goal: to embody a character in a video story and to exert the same control of the imaginative experience as a linear story.

Question: how to keep someone engaged when he/she has choices? How do you add text in a way that means something in a 360-degree environment? How and why do you add, combine, incorporate 360-degree video and haptic devices to VR goggles?

Team: World Domination. Project: "Lost in Space." Elisha Dorsey, Garreth Dottin, Serena Jang, Paul Garcia, Vanessa Sergeon.

Description: An astronaut crash lands on an isolated planet only to find out he's not alone.

Team: A Team. Project: "A Moral Compass." Michael Martinez Campos, Molly Schwartz, Paul Paradiso, Janelle Miau and Karen KH Sim.

Description: A gaze-driven navigation through an abstract moral landscape.




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