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!

What follows is the transcript for a GIIDE entry, audio storytelling softward that makes audio fully interactive.

I\’ve seen so many articles and posts and pontifications and prognostications and just, well HYPE, about what the Metaverse means, since Mark Zuckerberg brought the concept into the public eye last fall with the Meta name change. Linkedin has caught FIRE with all of the experts.

I\’m generally speaking, hype averse – so have avoided adding my voice to the melee until now. As they say about opinions…everyone has one. And I certainly have my own – and thought, maybe, after all the initial hype has died down a bit, this would be a good time to actually say what I think it means.

But first, a short history. The concept of the Metaverse has been around for quite some time now, and the word itself was coined in the book \”snow crash\” by Neal Stephenson back in 1992 (30 years ago!). Basically he envisioned the future as a virtual reality-based successor to the internet, which in some ways spatial computing definitely is. In Snow Crash, people use digital avatars of themselves to explore the online world, often as a way of escaping a dystopian reality.

I have to admit – and this is HERESY in my world – I was never a fan of the book and have never actually got all the way through, as I\’m not a fan of dystopianism. But it was a huge hit, and continues to be a name that\’s often brought up.

So what is this \”metaverse\” we\’re now talking about?

For me it\’s not about virtual reality per se. It\’s about a bunch of technologies, working together, to bring us another dimension of interaction about and beyond what our physical bodies can do. Virtual reality – or, complete immersion in an alternative environment – is one. And yes, with avatars that are extensions of ourselves.

But there\’s also augmented reality: bringing things into the real world, and overlaying them onto it. Objects, sounds, information – all an extra layer or experience that enhances the physical. I\’m personally a big fan of Microsoft\’s term \”mixed reality\” because it really describes how it\’s a spectrum of realities, that go from complete immersion to lightly overlaying the physical world.

Neither of these will seamlessly integrate into our day without artificial intelligence feeding how these things work in context; no one wants 1000 things jumping out at us as we walk down the street. There needs to be a layer that acts as an intelligent mediator, gatekeeper and general personal concierge; this is table stakes in this game.

AI will also facilitate intelligent conversation with a brand\’s avatar ambassador, for example, who you will be able to chat with using natural language.

And finally – blockchain technology adds a transaction layer over (or under) all of these things, enabling you to credibly identify who you\’re talking to, or let you buy and own things in the virtual world. Cryptocurrencies and NFT enabled digital items, built using blockchain technology, will allow you to personalize your virtual experience with items that are personal to you, whether it\’s in a completely immersed space, or one that\’s adding data to the world you see around you.,

That, to me, is where the metaverse lives. Not in one destination, a \”let\’s go to the metaverse\” kind of a thing, but in the sum total of all the ways you interact with your spatial data. Everyone\’s metaverse will be their own, personal one that they create by engaging with and permissioning various parts of this experience. Just as the virtual world is intangible, so will the magic web of additional data we weave around us be something amorphous – and personal.

We are so. far. away from this vision technically. So many companies are trying to put up walled gardens, and interoperability will be key to making this work. But As Tony Parisi said in his epic \”Seven rules of the metaverse\” it cannot be owned. And that\’s because there is no one entity supplying it; it\’s your choices that make it real to you. It exists, and always will exist, as a concept that describes an intangible extra dimension of experiences; and I for one love the idea that we can create a life that\’s enriched with additional connection and experiences above and beyond the physical limitations that humanity has always had.

It\’s time to fly.

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The future of work is virtual

Originally posted at https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/future-work-virtual-linda-ricci

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#longpost #musing #futureofwork #XR #virtualreality

When #Covid first hit, I don\’t think anyone could foresee just how huge – and ultimately, permanent – its impact would be. I\’ve been thinking a lot about the ramifications, through the lens of XR among others (but ultimately, rooted in human behavior!).

From the beginning it seems apparent that many businesses would realize that a #distributedworkforce not only often works, but is an attractive option: cheaper than maintaining office space, but also the ability to recruit talent from anywhere. For people, many now prefer the humanity of #workingfromhome. Cue the home designer of the future, who will have to make sure that \”work space\” is built into living spaces of the future. Also, can only imagine the impact on human migration! If you can live anywhere, why wouldn\’t you?!

But our technology to do so is adapted from the before times. We lose a sense of community when interactions are limited to Brady Bunch-style #zoom calls, let alone all the \”soft interactions\” that came from running into someone in the hall, or sharing lunch time in the break room. It\’s difficult to harness soft skills when there is no informal interactions.

Virtual Reality has the ability to recreate that sense of community with 3D environments where people can interact much more like they would naturally. Platforms like ENGAGE XR Holdings Plc and Spatial are emerging to provide those environments; it is surprising how easily you interact and engage with others. They call it embodiment, & it\’s real: someone might physically be thousands of miles away, yet you feel like you\’re standing next to them. NB I\’ve honestly had more *real* conversations with people/avatars in virtual reality than I\’ve even had in a group on Zoom.

Not only that, but you can share visual assets and experiences just like the real world. Brainstorm with everyone posting visuals on a board, or gather around a 3d prototype, which everyone can walk around and try out – it\’s so much more than just sitting around a virtual table together.

{Big} Companies are starting to create immersive spaces that replicate their offices, as they are dealing with new employees who\’ve never met anyone in the company – and are not gelling and/or feeling like part of the company. Creating a sense of belonging is important to keep people productive and happy.

The future is quite clearly being brought to you by technology that will enable geographically distributed workforces to succeed. Send a new employee a computer, comfy chair and headset – no cubicle needed! Enhancing our lives, IMHO. A win for people, a win for companies. Not so much for commercial real estate.

Augmented reality (#AR), virtual reality (#VR), Internet of Things (#IoT) & Artificial intelligence (#AI) are increasingly converging to bring us the future where we seamlessly move between reality and digital, where digital will overlay and enhance our daily experience, and where real human connections will be forged across a still very large planet.

That\’s it for today out loud musing. A lot more to say though.

Note: I did not use the word #Metaverse. Intentionally. Because all of this is part of our enhanced digital future – hence, the Metaverse. \”Meta\”verse. Another dimension to our reality, brought to you by a set of  interconnected digital / sometimes immersive experiences. I\’m a bit allergic to all the hype though. It\’s a real concept that will really happen – but not as many think.

That\’s another #reallylongpost.

The end of loneliness

Reposted from linkedin


Heard a really sweet story today by Donna Z. Davis, Ph.D. at AWE (Augmented World Expo): she told the audience about an elderly woman with Parkinson\’s, who regularly \”meets\” her tuxedo clad physically distant son (avatar) in VR to go dancing with him. *That\’s* the power of VR for me. Not the whiz bang isn\’t it cool game stuff, it\’s the human element – and how much better it can make people\’s lives. On the We Get Real AF Podcast (airing in June) I was asked what I thought the ultimate benefit of VR would be: my answer, without missing a beat, was \”The end of loneliness.\” And I really believe that. 

#VR #loneliness #VRforhumanity #immersivetech #wegetrealaf #spatialcomputing #AWE2020 #Decahedralist

Younger me is calling

Just read this article: \”Through the digital lens: How VR can inspire better managers\”. Subheader is, \”Virtual reality has the power to change the world. But first, it has to change how straight white men think.\”

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It stuck a very personal chord. Doing my MBA at Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University, I was one of a small handful of women in a class of about 100 people. The professors\’ speech defaulted to \”he\” and \”him\” for everything – I started raising my hand at every opportunity to point out the inherent \”otherness\” this created, for the female students; and also how is feeds the unspoken attitude that the default is male, and women are just add-ons and afterthoughts.

My suggestion to have one day – just one – where the language defaulted to \”she\” and \”her\” (but we mean you too, men!) was met with truthfully, eye rolling and some mockery.

That was 30 years ago, and the memory of it still stings.

I wish VR had been around then, to expose the men to what women so often go through. That is the power of virtual reality: for the first time in history, you can ACTUALLY walk a mile in someone else\’s shoes. A powerful training experience not just for sexism, but racism, homophobia, all of it.

VR is such a powerful tool for education, and training: I hope to see many more companies create content and experiences, and companies adopt it as a tool to help employees learn in an experiential way that really can\’t be replicated, building empathy and understanding in a truly unique manner.

#VR #virtualreality #vrtraining #sexism

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.

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