February 6, 2019

The Reality Virtually Hackathon @ the Media Lab took place January 17-21 2019. This event brought together interdisciplinary minds to explore the application of virtual reality and augmented reality technologies for building new experiences. Justin Berry, Winter Willoughby-Spera (‘20), Bobby Berry (‘18), and Jack Wesson (‘19) from Yale made the trip up to Boston to participate in the event.

Here’s what Winter and Bobby had to say about their experiences:

Winter’s experience

It was an incredible experience to be surrounded by hundreds of developers, artists, musicians, designers, and innovators from all over the world who came together to create moving, meaningful experiences in VR and AR. From the first moment of being with my team (who I just met) with a few ideas and some nerves to leaving the hackathon inspired, excited, and looking forward to continuing collaboration and creation back at Yale. The best part was when the team was together on the first day, ideating and talking about what moves us as artists and what we should create— I loved how we decided to shoot for the stars and go for the project we dreamed of, no matter how ambitious. Finishing a project with that in mind was empowering and moving.

We created FORM, an AR experience for Magic Leap that allows users to interact and play with their emotions using real time brainwave data from the Muse, an EEG band. The brain has five brainwave types, each corresponding to a state of consciousness which we then associate with an array of moods, feelings, and emotions We translated the user’s most dominant brainwave at a given moment into a particle system with unique interactions, personalities, colors, and forms. We wanted to create an experience that de-stigmatized mental health, an experience that allowed people to quite literally express, touch, feel, pop, hug, throw their feelings, the good and the bad.  In the future, I want to make FORM collective: every user who experience FORM can leave their feelings out there in the space for future users to engage with. With hundreds of particles of all sorts of colors and properties, sticking to surfaces, from all sorts of people, the experience forms an art piece that is the universal amygdala.

A large group of people working on laptops.

Bobby’s experience

I had been quite anxious going in to the MIT Reality Virtually Hackathon. Anxious that I wouldn’t meet anyone, that my team would be dysfunctional, that despite the time and effort I put into the event, I would not find it to be rewarding. However, I am glad to say that these anxieties did not become realities. The hackathon was a crowd of brilliant and passionate individuals and a mutual excitement over the potential of AR/VR made conversation flow with ease. I met my team during the (somewhat hectic) team formation event on the first evening. A small group of about 20 had gathered in a quiet corner to discuss possible MR applications for social good. I was torn between multiple projects, but ultimately found myself attracted to the notion of AR Headsets as a prosthetic/tool for the blind. Together with four others, we developed an application for the Magic Leap that provides audio directions/feedback to help individuals with poor vision navigate around obstacles and through doorways. Though our team did not win any of the grand prizes, we did win two prizes from the sponsors: Best Magic Leap Application, and the Wayfair Social Good Prize. We are still in contact with each other, as well as Magic Leap, to try to make our project a reality. Hopefully, one day I will be able to say I was the developer of the first Prosthetic Vision system.

Bobby working on a laptop.