Over the weekend of July 10-12, a team of four Pace students competed against 19 other groups in the NYC Virtual Reality Hackathon, a hackathon that took place as part of the LoNyLa/TimeWave Festival. The Pace team won the Best Wow Factor VR category and brought home a $500 prize!
Pace students and alums Taranjyot Singh Multani (MS CS ’15), Dhruvil Gandhi (MS CS ’16), Avery Leider (PhD CS ’18) and Syed Adil Hasan (MBA Financial MGMT and IS ’16) joined up with Zeev Kirsh, a litigation staff attorney at Paul, Weiss, and Guilherme Pena Costa, a Brazilian programmer who works at McCann Advertising Agency, whom they had met at a Sony sponsored Mega-Meetup the night before the hackathon. The diverse team used their individual skills to dominate in their category during the hackathon – just the kind of interdisciplinary focus we love to see!
The theme of the hackathon focused on “Mythos and Moxie,” an idea derived from the way technology changes constantly and rapidly while storytelling fundamentals have remained the same. The teams were challenged to create a VR platform that transcends technology and opens up users to a more human experience of storytelling, exploring the possibilities of VR technology while doing so.
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. Even so, their product was a great success with each of the five judges.
After all the groups showed off their projects, the Pace team received high praise from their category’s judge Chaki Ng, who is also General Manager for Viacom Labs. He stated that the team had successfully captured the essence of the hackathon with their project, and that their project was the most developed and complete out of the presentations that weekend. It turns out that music is a great way to provide an emotionally tangible experience for a user in a virtual environment. The team was delighted to hear this, especially considering the setbacks they had faced during their project. Nevertheless, their story and their content was strong enough to earn them their prize, and we hope they can continue to build on this project in the future to include all the cool features with Leap Motion that they originally wanted to use!