Hackathon projects technology

Hackathon insights: December

On a bi-monthly basis, we organize a two-day internal hackathon during which wattx-ers dedicate their time to working on side projects and get a chance to explore new trends in design, tech, and data science. In December, we hacked on projects involving coffee, Arcade games, Augmented Reality, as well as connected lights.

Here’s the digest of what we learned:

Pushing Cophi to the next frontier

During the past couple of hackathons, Christian and Wen have been busy with developing a smart coffee scale for our office (read here and here for previous recaps of their work). For this hackathon, they set themselves the objective to add a sound sensor to their installation in order to know when the coffee is bubbling and ready to be served.

data scientist and engineer working on technology hackathon project

The idea was to continuously record one second sound bits and determine whether they are bubbling coffee sounds or just random office noise. To get some data for testing and training the model, they recorded some samples of office noise and the Bialetti, labeled them, and sliced them into one-second bits.

graphs to showcase technology backend of data science hackathon project

As a measure of classifying sound, they used the Mel-frequency cepstrum with 13 features. In the picture above, you can see the Mel-frequency cepstrum of a bubbling sound (left) and office noise (right). To facilitate the input for machine learning they applied dimensionality reduction using principal component analysis. In the picture below you can see that clusterings of the sound samples between bubbling sound and other noise are clearly identifiable using the first three principal components.

Plotting graph to show data for data science hackathon project

This input was used to train a Random Forest Classifier, which yielded good results in detecting the bubbling sound. Once some small issues with the Raspberry Pi and the microphone are fixed, the machine learning model can be implemented and tested live.

Building our app for connected lights

Here in the office, we own connected lights, but unfortunately, the stock application doesn’t work well. Therefore, our tech lead Mikhail decided to build his own app using react-native. To do so, he had to write a backend proxy that would talk to the lights first and was pleased to see how quickly he managed to create a simple application running in react native and expo.

Building our own Arcade Machine for the office

It’s almost Christmas and Rafal and Pedro couldn’t have given us a better gift. Over the course of two days, the two of them built a complete arcade machine from scratch.

Knowing that they only had 2 days to do it, Rafal focused on placing all designs on cardboard sheets and then cutting them while Pedro was playing around with the Raspberry Pi and looked for a way to install games in the system. They ended up choosing RetroPie, an awesome project that makes it easy to turn Raspberry Pis into retro-gaming machines.

two engineers working on an arcade game for the hackathon project

On the second day, everything started to take the shape of the machine we’re so familiar with. The Raspberry Pi had been wired together with joysticks and buttons and the cabinet was waiting for final design adjustments.

engineer working on his technology project for the hackathon

At the end of the day, people in the office stopped to play a game just before leaving for the weekend. Congratulations to our engineers who added a bit more fun to our office life thanks to their ingenuity!

two engineers playing a game on the arcade machine they've built for the hackathon project

Playing around with Augmented Reality

Tassilo wanted to experiment with the Vuzix M300 Smart glasses for Augmented Reality (AR). As you might know, AR has many potential applications as diverse as gaming, education, or manufacturing.

The M300 consists of a small display plus a camera, a gyroscope, microphone, speakers, and a processor, all put into a single device you can wear like glasses.

Augmented reality glasses used for the hackathon  technologyproject

His plan was to create a small app that shows off some of the AR capabilities, for example by detecting and annotating peoples’ faces in the office. To do so, he researched a few software frameworks such as ARCore, ARToolkit, OpenCV, and Unity3D. In the end, he ran a face detection example using OpenCV.

The major obstacle was setting up the libraries for Android. But some other challenges included:

  • The ARCore framework is unfortunately not supported on the device, nor on the Android version running Marshmallow.
  • With ARToolkit, you can’t run the precompiled examples. Maybe it is a problem that the Vuzix runs on an X86 Atom instead of the ubiquitous ARM processor?

In the end, OpenCV did not let him down. Next time Tassilo wants to expand on the OpenCV example and build something more useful.

The next hackathon is planned for January next year and we’re already looking forward to it! Feel free to reach out to us via julius@wattx.io if you have any further questions on a specific topic, or if you simply want to grab a cup of coffee and discuss technologies, data science, or design.

Future trends in the AR-based consumer goods industry

For AR to be fully adopted into the mainstream, it will require a breakthrough application, like on-site navigating in unfamiliar surroundings, e.g. big commercial centers or large train stations. At the end of the day, the business case will decide.
Read the article 7 min read
Hackathon projects technology

Hackathon insights: December

On a bi-monthly basis, we at wattx, organize a two-day internal hackathon to work on projects around design, data science, and technology.
Read the article 7 min read