MIT Reality Hack Hackathon: Part 2 – Thoughts & Impressions

This is part two of my coverage of the MIT Reality Hack (part one is here) where I talk about a few of the projects, and some high level impressions. Diversity rocks!! Such a pleasure to see so many women, people of color, and all ages represented..

I\’ve been using GIIDE\’s software to bring a multimedia approach to my posts; this is the transcript of that post.


So now that I\’ve talke about what being at the MIT Reality Hack Hackathon last week was like, I want to talk about some of the projects that I really liked. And general impressions of the event as well.

First off I want to say how heartened I was by how many women there were; my guesstimate is that about 25% of the participants were women. There were also a fair number of people of color, as well as a decent age spread. Two of the women hackers were 60 plus, which I think is fantastic. And a few men in their 50s who by their own accounts had been there for the first wave of the internet, and were looking forward to being involved with this next generation of Web 3.0.

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Hackers had an assortment of hardware and software products (sdks, APIs etc) to pick and choose from, including Microsoft Hololenses, Snap\’s augmented reality Spectacles, which are not yet on the market; Magic Leap\’s second generation mixed reality headset, also not yet on the market, and Looking Glass Factory\’s 8k holographic displays.

Skinetic was there with a haptic vest which is still in kickstarter phase and ARItize maps was there with their persistent augmented reality tools (you can create augmented reality and permanently tie is to a location). Seek XR was there with their the 3D asset AR configurator, mobile scene creator planner, and integrator, and Solana and Symmetry with their web 3, blockchain tools.

All this stuff that wasn\’t on the market yet, leads me to think the companies were using the hackathon to test their products with developers.

Participants could use any of these (or any combination of these) that they wanted to bring their projects to life (how much fun is that?!).

One of my favorites was the group designing responsive augmented reality. So, in the brower world, responsive websites reorganize themselves to most effectively and intuitively fit to the viewers screen. Think about how many different screen sizes there are, between all the phone, tablets, and computers. Responsive design automatically shifts everything around so that the viewer has the optimal experience.

But this hasn\’t been done for augmented reality yet. This group designed a 3d augmented reality installation for \”the Sanders experience\” – a riff on a Bernie Sanders meme. It was a fully 3d typography in the round that was interactive (you could play with the letters) and each line of typography had a sound. But their point was, I could be seeing this in a large space, where there\’s plenty of room to see it large. Maybe though, I\’m seeing it in my living room. They built a way to have it scan the surroundings and adjust the size od the 3D AR experience to automatically fit. Genius in my humble opinion; that tech has huge commercial applications for the future of advertising and experiences.

Another was technology that combined blockchain NFT art with community and geolocation. Their idea was to create a permanent community based augmented reality installation using shards – an installation that paid homage to the native americans who\’s lands MIT is built on. Each shard had an NFT token minted against it, and each one could be bought; once bought, it would be placed as a piece of the final, whole statue – which when finished, would permanently be available to see. Every time one of the NFTd shards sold, 40% would be paid to the tribe the statue honored. I love the community building aspect of this story, and could see brands doing something similar to create a community-based augmented reality project for fans of their brand.

And the third project that really stood out for me is the group that developed a voice directed programming interface for VR design- you said \”sofa\” and a sofa would drop in, you said, \”larger\” and it would get bigger, etc. Placement was still with your hand, but it was a fantastic step towards accomodating people with accessability challenges. It\’s essentially visual programming but with voice interaction.

So many other amazing projects – there were 80 projects and I didn\’t see all of them – but these three really stood out for me.

Participating is an amazing way to get noticed if you\’re a developer or designer. Every company was there to identify and possibly recruit a hot dev – or identify a project with commercial potential. a woman representing Apple literally stood up during one of the evening parties and announced point blank that she was there to recruit, and anyone interested should talk to her. In addition, I chatted with the people working on the projects I mentioned above and talked about the commercial possibilities of what they were doing, and they\’d already been approached by companies to do just that.

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So I hope you enjoyed my little wrap up of the MIT Reality Hack Hackathon; let me know what you think!

MIT Reality Hack Hackathon: Part 1

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This is the transcript to accompany a GIIDE post.

I just spent a wonderfully fun, intelligent, scintillating, and completely engaging 5 days at MIT at the \”Reality Hack\” hackathon as a mentor, and judge. 

This is part 1, where I\’ll be talking about the experience and what happens in a hackathon like this.  Part 2 will be about my impressions, insights and takeaways. 

But first, for those who aren\’t familiar – a hackathon is an event that takes developers, designers, UX people, and others, and throws them together for a few days to create and build something in the short time they\’re given. This hacktahon was focused on the virtual and augmented reality industry, and he companies that were there as sponsors  brought their latest tech with them, in many cases tech that hasn\’t hit the market yet. 

There were roughly 200 people participating; they had 2 and a half  days to come up with an idea of what to make, form teams, and then create it. And contrary to popular assumption, it wasn\’t all nerdy male 20 year olds; sure thee was some of that, but it was a refreshing mix of all ages, genders, and races. 

Each company had a team of people there to help with the technicalities of developing on their tech. Microsoft was a massive sponsor (thank you!) and were there with their hololense 2s, Snap was there with their not yet launched AR  Spectacles , Arctop with their brain sensing device (yes, it reads your brain waves!) as was Magic Leap, Solana was there with their blockchain infrastructure, Looking Glass Factory with their super cool 8k headset-free, hologram-powered displays, and a bunch more. Suffice it to say we got to play with some of the most cutting edge XR technology out there. 

The process is time honored, but a little chaotic: the first day was dedicated to workshops by all the various sponsor teams, to introduce hackers to their devices and software, and answer questions about developing something using them. That night (in a remarkably lo-tech way) large sheets of paper with various categories like \”health and wellness\” and \”the future of work\” were hung up and everyone ran around writing their ideas on the paper, and finding other people who were interested in working on that idea with them. It was a rush of frenetic chaos!  Eventually the groups formed and registered as teams. 

The next morning the hacking started in earnest. I was one of a few mentors there in person, but there was a village of virtual mentors available to help with any questions, technical, design, business, whatever they needed; it really does take a village. The organizers had set up a Discord channel and hashtags to \”call out\” a mentor when they needed one, but I found that walking around and just talking to groups was super effective. Plus I got to know a lot of people that way. 

Unlike many hackathons where participants furiously work all nighters, fueled by pizza and bad smells, this one was super well run and we were kept well fed and watered with delicious (and healthy!) meals 3 times a day. The first two nights there was a \”networking event\” at the MIT media lab, a few (alcohol free) hours where everyone was encouraged to come take a break and have some fun. Lucas Rizzotto of Lucas Builds the Future and AR House did a chill fireside chat with Sultan Sharrief, one of the organizers and Founder of The Quasar Lab  on the second night, 

The hackathon closed at 11:30 pm each night, as opposed to the usual 24 hours a day. Most went home to continue working well into the wee hours of the night, of course, but officially the day was over. 

The third day went to 2:30 in the afternoon, and judging kicked in! For me this was the most fun part. Each team set up at a numbered table to demo their project, and we used a software called Gavel to go from assigned table to assigned table with only one remit: did we think the current table was better or worse than the previous one we saw. Using that info, 80 teams were pared down to a semi final round, and eventually only a few judges went into closed doors to discuss and deliberate. 7 hours later (yes, 7 hours – they took this very seriously) the winners emerged. 

That night we were treated to a real party, at a club with a DJ and an open bar; and I\’m not embarrassed to admit that after 2 years of covid quarantining, I partied like I was 20 years old. And paid for it the next day. 

The awards ceremony the last morning was the final cherry on the top; the mood was convivial and very supportive. By then it felt like a big family, and we all celebrated each win. The excitement as each category\’s winners were announced – and the prizes revealed, some of which were pretty amazing – was palpable. It was a feel good experience as one ever gets to be a part of. 

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I want to say thank you to the amazing group of people who organized and ran this incredible event; Sultan Sharrief was an inspiration and his energy is infectious; Austin Edelman a fountain of organizational energy. Athena Demos kept the mood fun and from being too serious; I got to spend many hours hanging out with Dulce Baerga, Damon Hernandez. Mitch Chaiet and Ben Erwin, among others; what more could you ask far? 

Part 2 of this GIIDE series will be about my  impressions, thoughts, and takeaways from  the hackathon, as well as some of my favorite projects. I\’ll be releasing that later this week.

In the meantime, if you want to watch the final awards ceremony, click here.

MIT Reality Hack | Hackathon

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I\’m extremely excited to have been chosen as a mentor and judge at the upcoming MIT Reality Hack, March 23-27, 2022.

Five straight days of watching students and creators come together to create XR projects – the last one (in 2020) saw 75 teams create projects that included climate change visualizations in VR, AR storyboarding tools, spatialized hashtags, VR accessibility toolkits, VR games and much more. Am curious to see what they come up with this year!

Presenting at AWE 2020

Coronovirus or not, I\’m extremely honored to be presenting (on stage, or virtually! – not sure yet) at Augmented World Conference & Expo on May 29th, 2020 . It\’s the leading AR/VR event series in the world. and the epicenter of Spatial Computing; an event that brings the entire AR/VR industry together.

The title of my presentation is Augmented reality, digital intimacy, and the future of brands & interaction. I\’ll be exploring the digital intimacy created by AR, and extrapolate how these new realities will change the way brands and consumer relate. There will soon come a point where navigating our world without AR overlay will seem as impossible as currently navigating without mobile phones would be. Once the connectivity and information moves to our faces having it woven throughout our day will become indispensable. Join me as I explore the future of what brand means in an immersive world.

AWE has added \”digital only\” attendence as an option, which is $199 for the full 4 days of conferences (including 1 year exclusive subscription to session videos). You can watch sessions via livestreaming, interact with speakers, visit online exhibits and demos , and join video-based group meetings. A fantastic (and safe!) way to learn, connect, and experience all that the industry has to offer.

And please watch me! I\’ll be taking questions afterwards and would love to hear what people are wondering about.

Book published!

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Excited to announce that I\’ve joined the ranks of published authors, and some illustrious colleagues – I\’m Chapter 19, \”Immersive Media and Branding: How Being a Brand Will Change and Expand in the Age of True Immersion\” in the just-published-today Handbook of Research on the Global Impacts and Roles of Immersive Media.

My chapter explores the impact immersive technologies—augmented reality and virtual reality—will have on consumer branding and business in the near and longer term future. Weaving multiple use cases and examples throughout, I discuss the next phase of experiential marketing: how immersive branding will develop as spatial computing becomes more mainstream, and how brands can start thinking about how they can leverage the technology.

I also examine the rise of virtual influencers, how they will affect social media marketing—and how artificial intelligence will ultimately enable true one-to-one interaction with customers through virtual avatars. Finally, I outline and discuss the risks, rules and recommendations for how to successfully proceed as a brand curious about how to best harness the technologies.

This was a great experience, and I want to thank Jacquelyn (Jacki) Morie for the opportunity to be included, and for being an editor par excellence.

Link to purchase here: https://www.igi-global.com/book/handbook-research-global-impacts-roles/236585

CES 2020

In a week! – I\’m going to CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas for the first time; while I\’m increasingly daunted by the sheer SIZE of the event (multiple locations, miles and miles of walking) I\’m also increasingly excited about what I\’m going to experience there. Tons of amazing talks on the future immersive tech, entertainment, healthcare, living…and AI…and…and…phew, I\’m tired already 😉

Thankfully I\’m getting a tour with David Polinchok, an industry old timer who\’s been giving tours around the floor for a few years now.

Looking forward to seeing everything and anything about AR, VR, haptics, architectural applications for VR (something I\’ve been talking about for ages), new headsets, holograms, and a million other things that have been dutifully bookmarked in their floor plan / app.

And while the large companies are pulling out all the stops (which will be a-mazing to experience), I\’m particularly interested in seeing the startup section, where the small newbie companies will be presenting what they are working on; will be good to see the trends there. Where are people putting their efforts?

I\’ll be tweeting on the way, and while I\’ve not been a dedicated Twitter user think it\’s the easiest and best way to give quick update and insights. Follow me at www.twitter.com/decahedralist.

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TEDx RoseTree 2019 done and dusted!

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TEDx RoseTree 2019 done! What a fabulous experience – I met so many amazing people, and thoroughly enjoyed being in the middle of the vortex of ideas and creativity. My talk \”How VR will supercharge grassroots movements\” will be posted by TED soon, and I\’ll update it here when they do.

In the meantime, I\’d like to thank Stacy Olkowski and her team for the herculean amount of work pulling this all together must have been. Well done! It always takes one person with a vision and a lot of persistence to get the ball rolling on something, and she sure did deliver in a remarkably short amount of time.

https://www.linkedin.com/posts/lindaricci_tedxrosetree-vr-virtualreality-activity-6607083648019681280-q7te

#publicspeaking #tedxspeaker #tedx #tedxrosetree #vr #virtualreality #grassroots #LindaRicci #Decahedralist

Going to be a published author!

So my first professional book chapter\’s been officially submitted, \”Immersive Media and Branding: How being a brand will change and expand in the age of true immersion\” (could still be changed) for all those curious. It is about virtual and augmented reality, and what it will mean for brands.

Among other things, I talk a lot about how artificial intelligence and how it will inform digital avatars, which are fully fleshed out 3D interactive brand ambassadors. Fascinating thing to think about; literally fleshing out what your brand is, and what that will mean for interacting with consumers.

A shout out to the Cortney Harding of Friends with Holograms, Samantha Wolfe of We are Phase 2, Alejandro Mainetto of EY, Alan Smithson of XR Ignite Community Hub and Virtual Accelerator and Robert Spierenburg of All Things Media for their contributions! And to Jacki Morie of All These Worlds LLC for both accepting my proposal for inclusion, and being very kind for putting up with my questions throughout. She is very patient.

It still need to go though peer review, but should be in the January publication of the tentatively titled,\”Global Impacts and Roles of Immersive Media.\”

Creative Tech Week 2018 done & dusted ;)

On May 11th I was honored to give a lightening talk at Creative Tech Week around my artist journey with the Google Tiltbrush as part of my 5 day \”VRaycation\”.

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This fish is the first thing I made in Tiltbrush; I talked about the shift from object creation / CAD mindset, to a world building one.

The narrative explored how, as an experienced 2- and 3D artist I was exploring Tiltbrush\’s \”special sauce\”; how each medium has something it\’s particularly good for, and my journey to find it.

Hint: it involved giving up on precision, somewhat of a challenge for a CAD artist – but, as I said in the presentation, it\’s like karaoke: you\’ll have much more fun, and the results will be far better, if you give up any attempts at being good. Plus, think about building worlds – not objects, something I surprised myself by doing initially (there\’s a universe to play with, why am I making a fish?!)

For those who are curious, I ultimately ended up creating a world based on a 16th century Persian artwork, and titled it \”My Garden of Eden\” – complete with a handsome date in a turban (because who wants to be alone in the Garden of Eden?!).  It\’s the last thing I made, on day 5 of my HTC Vive rental. Enjoy! – I\’m particularly happy with the birds.

A heartfelt thank you to Hello World Communications in New York for the wonderful full room-scale HTC Vive I used (they even threw in a laptop! Their customer service is amazing) and of course, to Isabel Draves of Creative Tech Week for including me in this year\’s lineup.

A video of my talk hasn\’t yet been released, but when it is I will post it here as well.

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