Left to right: Lindsay Frost-Cleary with Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund, Cloud Play co-developers Ustin Zarubin and Tim Coy, and Glenn Ricart of US Ignite.
First cross-city Gig hackathon just lit up the Public Library
OK, first things first: Before the word hacker meant “criminal with a computer” to most people, it described someone who could make a computer do whatever needed to be done—up to and including singing, dancing and turning somersaults—even if no one had ever done it before or had any idea where to begin.
And those are the men and women who hacked their way through Gig Hacks last weekend on the Public Library’s Fourth Floor.
Gig Hacks was the first cross-city hackathon focused on gigabit innovation development. It was held simultaneously in five cities with community-wide gigabit Internet (Chattanooga, Kansas City and Burlington, Vermont) or a lab space focusing on developing bandwidth-intensive applications (San Francisco and Charlotte, North Carolina). Chattanooga sponsors include US Ignite, Co.Lab, GigLab at the Chattanooga Public Library, the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund and The Enterprise Center.
Seven teams started out Saturday morning with nothing but an idea, hacked through the weekend to code up a working demo and presented the fruits of their labors Sunday afternoon.
The winner was an application called Cloud Play that allows a user to stream a video game without installing the game software on the local computer.
“A lot of times when you go to somebody’s house or you want to try out a new app or a new game, you don’t want to go through process of having to install it, installing updates before you’re ready to play,” explains co-developer Tim Coy. “With Cloud Play you can just click on a link in your web browser and then the game loads and plays for you locally.”
Working with an existing game, Coy, Ustin Zarubin and Jonathan Williams created a prototype front-end system that allowed a user to play the game remotely. For their demo—which was simulcast live to the other four participating cities—the game was streamed over the Internet from a gig-connected server across the room in the Library’s Fourth Floor.
“As you can see, this is actually the full game playing here,” said Zarubin during the demo. “Instead of the normal streaming services, where the game is actually played on a remote server that uses a massive amount of hardware to manage these big graphics cards and then streams the video to you, this actually gives you the game files so you can test your hardware before you purchase the game to see if it’s compatible with your hardware. Or you can go over to a friend’s house and just start playing the game.”
Streaming video game software is a great application of Chattanooga’s gigabit Internet, according to Lindsay Frost-Cleary with the Mozilla Gigabit Community Fund.
“This is a lot of data,” she said. “If you think about your average video game, there’s sound, there’s movement, there’s video. It’s a bandwidth-intensive thing. In the demo, when they clicked the button, it streamed instantly, which is a really clear and relevant application of the Gig.”
Prizes for Cloud Play and the second place winner—a virtual reality application called Kinect Across—were spots in Co.Lab’s CoStarters or Accelerator programs.
A special award went to Adagio, a collaborative, multi-track sound-mixing program. Adagio began in 2014 at Co.Lab’s “Will This Float” business plan competition. Consistent with the hackathon ethic, Adagio’s coders insisted on developing a standalone app from scratch over the weekend that will eventually be a component of the larger application. Although they didn’t get one of the top awards, they got a nice consolation prize: a slot in the 2015 iteration of Gig Tank, Co.Lab’s summer accelerator program for businesses that make use of Chattanooga’s Gig.
Other teams included Yolo Ironman, a video game played across the Gig network; iVenture, a modernized version of geocaching that uses the Gigabit network to facilitate and track participation; Raspberry Pi Cluster, an effort to connect several of the popular Raspberry Pi microcontrollers for greater power; and ChattaNewbie, an application designed to make newcomers feel at home sooner by showing them shared paths through what the city has to offer.
“We’ve been doing these Gig-focused hackathons in Chattanooga for quite some time, and all of a sudden there are these other cities that either have gigabit networks or are coming online with gigabit networks, who want to play in this space, too,” said Frost-Cleary.
“It’s a great opportunity for Chattanooga to show what we’ve learned. I think in this space today you saw at least three of the tools that were presented using very, very advanced Gig applications. That might not have been possible in Chattanooga a few years ago. It really shows how our community has developed, and it certainly shows how our community has a lot to share with these new gigabit cities.”
Rich Bailey is a professional writer, editor and (sometimes) PR consultant. He led a project to create Chattanooga’s first civic web site in 1995 before even owning a modem. Now he covers Chattanooga technology for The Pulse and blogs about it at CircleChattanooga.com. He splits his time between Chattanooga and Brooklyn.