TROY — The Tech Valley Center of Gravity (TVCOG) is hosting about 40 hackers and programmers this weekend during a two-day hackathon and game jam this month.
The Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality & Gaming Hackathon will focus on the next generation of software, applications and technologies applied to Augmented and Virtual Reality (AR/VR).
“This is a great chance for hackers to get their hands on some VR hardware that they might not otherwise have access to, and to work directly with our mentors from companies that include 1st Playable and Daydream.io,” said Tom Tongue, executive director of Tech Valley Center of Gravity. “Some hackers will come with ideas and teams, while others will meet new people here to partner up with and brainstorm. It’s a rich environment for collaboration.”
The around-the-clock 32-hour event kicks off at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 16. Hackers and programmers will then have access to software development kits provided by 1st Playable Productions, computers with graphics cards provided by TVCOG, immersive rifle controllers provided by Ilium VR, and a cave automatic virtual environment or CAVE provided by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) Games and Simulations Arts and Sciences.
Participants will compete in a variety of categories and are invited to produce AR/VR applications and/or games to be demonstrated and judged Sunday afternoon. (Note: The general public and media are invited to attend and observe the hackathon either day; however Sunday afternoon is the best time to observe.)
There will be $1,000 in prizes as well as other giveaways including a free TVCOG membership.
Concurrent with the hackathon, there will be a Ludum Dare game jam in the TVCOG space, hosted by Tech Valley Game Space, a nonprofit membership organization of professional, indie, hobbyist, and aspiring game makers in the Capital Region of upstate New York.
Tech Valley Game Space will be assisting with the gaming portion of the hackathon. Hackathon and Ludum Dare participants will be encouraged to interact.
IS VIRTUAL REALITY THE NEXT MEGA TREND?
One of the Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality & Gaming Hackathon sponsors is Daydream.io, a mobile Virtual Reality software company that transforms personal media into fun and accessible VR experiences. The company is headquartered in Troy, N.Y. in the same building as the Tech Valley Center of Gravity.
“We are moving from the information age into the immersion age,” said V. Owen Bush, co-founder and CEO of Daydream.io. “Ten years from now things like laptops and cell phones will be considered antiquated. Everyone will be wearing some kind of glasses or contact lenses that give this holographic overlay or augmented reality.”
As a sponsor, Daydream.io will provide free daydream.io branded google cardboard viewers, and mentoring to hackathon participants. The viewers work with Android or iPhone devices and can be used to experience Daydream.VR, a direct to consumer Virtual Reality entertainment and communications platform. According to Bush, more than 50,000 users have downloaded the “freemium” (free with paid premium features) app, giving Daydream.VR one of the largest footprints in the Virtual Reality space.
“The next megatrend is AR and VR,” Bush said. “The reason I am a true believer in this is because VR and AR gives the entire tech industry an innovation roadmap for the next 40 years, until VR is indistinguishable from reality.”
TECH VALLEY CENTER OF GRAVITY AS A CENTER OF AR/VR?
Bush believes that New York’s Capital Region, or “Tech Valley” as some have branded it, where the Tech Valley Center of Gravity is located, is well positioned to become a “Major Hub for AR/VR technology” because of the academic and professional relationships between companies like 1st Playable, Daydream.io, Vicarious Visions and entities like Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) and Tech Valley Center of Gravity.
“If you have a game development company you have everything you need to create AR/VR because it’s all based on game engines they are teaching in the RPI Games and Simulations Arts and Sciences program,” Bush said. “There is an exceptional talent pool of highly skilled and motivated people in this region and there’s a very embracing culture of private and public partnerships that are working to give us every advantage possible to succeed.”
While Daydream.io has offices and team members around the world, Bush said the company relocated its headquarters from New York City to Troy, N.Y. last year because of the region’s START-UP NY and workforce development incentives, as well as assistance from the Center for Economic Growth. Daydream.io has office space in Troy for up to 40 employees.
HACKATHONS & TALENT SCOUTING
The Augmented Reality / Virtual Reality & Gaming Hackathon is the second of four quarterly hackathons scheduled for 2016 at TVCOG. One of the goals of the hackathon series is to support the development of new technology startups by introducing new talent and ideas to potential founders.
“Hackathons and game jams are a great opportunity for beginners and hobbyists to work side by side with professionals in the field to generate exciting new ideas,” said Ian Stead, producer & artist at 1st Playable Productions. “The game industry is very excited about the potential of the VR and AR space. This technology opens up the opportunity for completely brand new ways to play games.”
1st Playable Productions, LLC is an independent game development studio with a focus on handheld games for kids, a licensed developer for Nintendo 3DS and DS, iOS, Nintendo Wii, Xbox 360, as well as other embedded game platforms.
— Duncan Crary