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A hackathon attendee tests photo: Shawn Whiting, Pluto VR.
Hackathon judge Lisa Weeks tests Team Red Line’s motorcycle VR game, winner of the community choice award. Photo: Shawn Whiting, Pluto VR.

Seattle is poised to be a leader in new virtual and augmented reality tech, with powerhouses like Oculus setting up shop in the city, not to mention a vibrant and growing VR community.

This past weekend, 30 teams of VR enthusiasts put their ideas to the test at Seattle’s fourth VR Hackathon, a two-day event held twice a year, designed to make ideas for VR games and applications into realities. The event was the largest VR Hackathon yet in Seattle, with more than 180 people registered and almost 500 visitors to the project demo fair that closed the weekend.

“We run it specifically because we want to help people learn, build out the community and help people network, and because we want to have fun,” said one event organizer, Trond Nilsen.

Last weekend's hackathon drew 180 contestants and almost 500 attendees, making it the largest VR hackathon in Seattle to date. Photo: Booz Allen Hamilton.
The weekend hackathon drew 180 contestants and almost 500 attendees, making it the largest VR hackathon in Seattle to date. Photo: Booz Allen Hamilton.

Although there were seven prizes up for grabs, Nilsen said community is a huge focus of the event, and teams are encouraged to work and learn together instead of competing. Teams often spend the full 48 hours in the hackathon location, crashing on floors, sharing tips, and staying up to the wee hours to perfect their projects, he said.

While some teams are participating for fun, others may go on to develop these projects into full-fledged startups.

Seattle’s Invrse, a VR game studio, developed their flagship release Nest at a VR hackathon this spring. At he weekend’s event, members of that team came together to embark on a new game, “Witness Me!”, a Max Max / Guitar Hero crossover that took the prize for best sound.

The weekend’s projects featured ideas everywhere on the spectrum from a cat-herding game to applications for first responders in natural disaster zones, and much more. For those who didn’t make it to the demo day, some of the projects will also be on display at the Seattle VR meetup this Thursday, and some will be exhibited at the Bellevue, Wash., Immerse Technology Summit in October.

Read more about the hackathon winners below, as described by each team:

Humanitarian Assistance Prize: The Disasters

“DisastARcons allows responders using Microsoft HoloLens to assess damage as needing to be addressed for safety concerns, and to triage sites affected after an emergency event by visually inspecting and marking areas that need attention, or that are health/safety risks. This information is synced via the cloud to the Incident Command System that will use these data points to decide and lead deployment of skilled teams to the area. Subsequent responders will use DisastARcons to find and resolve areas which were tagged by earlier teams in a more efficient manner than conventional methods.”

Best Physical Interfaces: Lee & Sean

“I mocked up a concept where after a natural disaster a rover could be deployed to explore collapsed buildings too dangerous for people to enter. A camera on the rover relays a video feed to the Vive headset and turns naturally with the user’s gaze. The rover has a mechanical arm to grip and move building rubble out of the way, it has a spotlight to illuminate an area, all controlled from an old school arcade like control scheme.”

Community Choice: Team Red Line

“Ride a motorcycle using the Vive, trying to avoid traffic. Use the right hand to control the bike. Use the left hand to shoot the things.”

Best Tech Team: Team Waadel – Project “Pop Rocks”

“All the things in pop rocks, we figured it out. Come along for a musical journey in our fantasy land. Stay for a while and make a friend!”

Best Sound: Witness Me!

“Mad Max meets Guitar Hero. We have hopefully created a unique method where you can use a computer keyboard to create EPIC music while destroying your enemies in VR. Witness Me!”

Best Story: Yellow King

“Puzzle horror game with story telling, lots of interaction, light combat.”

Best Visuals: Down the Rabbit Hole

“Down the Rabbit Hole is a virtual reality experience that blurs the line between the digital world and the world around us. DTRH seeks to elicit different emotions and wonderment by presenting users with unique experiences that can only happen in VR.”

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