InsumHack18 – The teams and the apps they created
InsumHack18, our 3rd annual Hackathon was both the most challenging and the most rewarding to date. Teams had to develop an application for the Amazon Echo, as well as work with its personal assistant, Alexa.
The entries were varied and each of them, rich in possibilities.
A significant portion of the points awarded to each team during InsumHack18 was for the quality of presentation. In that respect, the teams did not let the Judges down. Presentations were well-crafted, despite limited preparation. They were often quite funny, too. Just about everyone was subject to Alexa’s difficulties in understanding the subtleties of accents and speech patterns. All teams prepared witty Alexa responses to key questions. Presentation time for each group was limited to 4 minutes this year, and this had a positive effect on overall presentation quality.
Throughout the intense Hackathon weekend, teams were fueled by Pizza, camaraderie, and the joy/frustration/satisfaction of having to learn a new technology and overcome its challenges in a brutally short period of time.
InsumHack18 was held March 22-23 at our offices in Montreal, Canada, Plattsburgh, NY , and Arequipa, Peru. Winners were announced March 26th.
Here’s a rundown of each InsumHack18 project.
#1 Devs”R” us (2nd place)
Pbé, Ramona Réginald
Devs”R” us, the first team to present, demonstrated “Gift Buddy”, an app used to list friends and loved ones, and that could suggest gifts for them. The live demonstration included Réginald asking Alexa to add friends’ names to his list and Alexa asking for their birthdays, and interests. Anytime Alexa is asked for Gift Buddy’s status, Alexa responds with upcoming birthdays and can be prompted for interests and gift suggestions. For one friend who was passionate about Football, Alexa suggested a “Maybe we’ll make the playoffs next year” Miami Dolphins T-shirt.
#2 Four of a Bind (3rd place)
Jose, Marlyn, Neelesh, Roldy
Four of a Bind presented a humorous video depicting the difficulties grocery shopping. Their Application called “Grocery Buddy” enables shoppers to keep track of their grocery list and their grocery shopping budget. For example, shoppers can take the device with them on their phone and tell Alexa what they are buying and it’s price. Alexa, accessing Grocery Buddy, responds with the totaled costs. Using Alexa, Grocery Buddy also lets them know when they’ve gone over budget such as when adding a $52 bottle of Tequila. Accordingly, an additional budget can be added on the spot, either by the shopper or someone else. Alexa then informs them of the new total (“your new budget is $196 dollars. Did you get a bonus?”).
The application provides detailed data when prompted. Users can find out what they bought, what else they need to buy, or how much budget they have left.
#3 Temp file
Ben, Cody, Marie, Ryan
The temp file team presented an application called “Food Log” that links the Amazon Echo to your Fitbit fitness tracker account. It enables users to enter food information into their Fitbit through voice command. The team cited the example of someone standing in front of their fridge eating leftovers after a workout. The Temp file team promises that by using “Food log” you’ll never get accidentally get Ranch dressing inside your phones charger port ever again.
On the technical side, the team used an http “get” request to access a Fitbit food library API, followed by a “post” request to add the food to the Fitbit account.
#4 How Santa and Los Grinches Stole the Hackathon
Bryan, Ivan, Jorge, Martin V.
This team’s app connected Alexa to Insum’s internal time management system. The user could use vocal commands to get their list of favorites (such as recurring tasks) and add time to an assignment, and even add time to their vacation (Alex: “ok, I added four hours to your vacation. Yaaaaay!”)
The Santa reference is because of Bryan’s striking physical resemblance to Santa Clause. For the Grinches, we suspect Jorge Rimblas might be their leader.
#5 Bad Hombres
Juan, Mouctar, Neil, Zach
The Bad Hombres team developed an unconventional use for U.S. President Donald Trump’s twitter messages in the form of a “Roasting” app. Designed for people with a limited ability to be snarky, this application could receive voice commands to create slightly modified versions of “Trump Tweets”. For example to the command “Alexa, roast Réginald’ Alexa responded, “Lying Réginald has the worst voting record in the Senate”. Upon hearing Alexa’s roast response for Maëli, Insum’s Human Resources Advisor (“Maëli is uncomfortable-looking”), the team quickly apologized, pointing out that the original Tweet is from Trump.
The App functions using two free APIs. One that generates random Trump Tweets, and another that replaces the name of Trump’s victim with any other supplied name.
#6 God Save The Queen
Danny, Daniel, Lucien, Zahia
God Save The Queen created a voice-activated IT infrastructure monitoring system, based on an ORDS datapoint. When asked, Alexa could provide information such as server status, as well as server alerts for disk space and CPU usage. The data could be extracted and sent to APEX monitoring and development apps. Their application could also visually signal alerts and give a vocal description when prompted. With more time, the team would have created alerts based on user profiles.
The team’s presentation was graphically enhanced with a Hollywood-style simulated cyber attack. Technical difficulties plagued this InsumHack18 team’s demonstration, although it wasn’t because of their mock cyber attack. Lucien suspected meddling by Copernicus.
#7 Might Morphin’ APEX Rangers (Winners – 1st place)
Doris, Guillermo, Mario, Omar, Trent
Starting from the idea of the flash-card system, drawn from Trent’s personal experience studying at university, This team created an Alexa tutor called Study Buddy. The product targets young children learning any new subject matter, such as timetables, for example. Using Alexa, even this tedious subject becomes interactive and interesting. It also frees up parents to cook dinner during the study session.
The product contained an admin application and a reporting application. Parents can add new questions based on what the child is currently studying and monitor progress. Easy visualization is provided through charts. The student could access a “practice mode” where stats are not recorded and a “study mode”, where they are. A deluxe version of the product was imagined, bringing in human tutors once the child achieved a certain level of mastery. As the Amazon Echo can support MP3 files, the team also envisioned language learning through self-evaluation with target-language words recorded with accurate pronunciation.
Angel, Gino, Gabriel, Willy
From an educational setting, we were taken to a shipping and logistics environment. AGMAN, a team entirely based at Insum’s offices in Peru, presented an easier way for warehouse workers to collect orders for their next shipment. Shipping operators with a huge list of orders need their hands at all times. Thanks to “Pick by Voice” workers receive their picking instructions through Alexa, which leads them to the correct picking location and exact item. Using a hands-free headset, they can control the pace of their work by prompting Alexa for the next item. But that’s not all. Supervisors could also use “Pick by Voice” to dispatch lists to the operators. At the core of the Application is an APEX web interface, which communicates with Alexa and displays real-time item and operator information
Finally, the application automatically refreshed information every 25 seconds to ensure accuracy and efficiency of operations.
#9 AJents for H.A.R.M.
Azzedine, Jeff, Hayden, Anton, Rich, Monty
AJents for H.A.R.M simulated interaction with a fictional Insum customer who needed an update on an Insum-run project. Since he had no access to a computer from his superyacht on the South Pacific Ocean, the team presented a voice-activated aural dashboard. Alexa could give information about a project’s budget and percentage of completion. In the event that the project required additional funds, Alexa could recommend a call to the Insum sales representative and put the call through using an API embedded in the database. The team imagined additional functionality such as using Alexa to list upcoming events and schedule meetings as well.
InsumHack18 in conclusion
InsumHack18, like any other Hackathon, was sort of a microcosm of the process of innovation. Working closely, participants leveraged teamwork and imagination. They dealt with time pressures and technical hurdles, squeezed their skillsets to their maximum, failed at some things and excelled at others. And, never gave up.
Most of all, they learned from their experience. And you can bet they’ll find a way to use that knowledge sometime in the future.
Learn more about the guiding principles behind Insum’s Hackathons here.
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