Last Friday the Yahoo University hack team (European division) went up to Dundee in Scotland to crown the winners of the third Dundee University hack day. In contrast to the Uni hack program in the US, hacku students in Europe get to deliver a mashup/hack as part of the course curriculum and have more time to deliver something really cool that makes a change in their own lives.
And deliver they did. All in all the students created twenty-three hacks, most of them working with technologies and APIs never covered in the university before. The judges (Chris Heilmann, Andy Cobley, Ian Pouncey, Dirk Ginader and Neil Crosby) had a hard time choosing the winners but in the end three hacks stood out:
The main winners
Main prize: IntelliSearch by Laurence Hole, Chris Brett and Matthew Ross a.k.a. iForward
Intellisearch is a search interface written in Canvas that allows for fast predictive typing without using a keyboard. Instead the interface builds on the Dasher research of Cambridge University which is "an information-efficient text-entry interface, driven by natural continuous pointing gestures". Dasher and subsequently this hack allows people to enter text and - with IntelliSearch - find web content without typing or using a mouse. Users could use any pointing device or an eyetracker to get to the same results. We were very impressed with the idea and the execution of the hack. That the team was wearing ties for their presentation was not taken into the equation with regards to their reckless age. We all made mistakes back then.
Pipersounds by Niv Dayan, Karlis Gertmanis and Stuart D Hamilton a.k.a. People Interacting Perfectly - Exploiting Ravishing Sounds
Pipersounds was a fully rounded web application that used a map to find musicians in your area that share the same styles and ideas to form bands. The interface worked swimmingly and easy from start to end and the team had great ideas how to take it further to include pubs that offer open stage nights and rehearsal rooms advertising for monetization. All in all this was a great example of wanting to have an interface on the web that wasn't available yet and using all kind of music APIs in the background to make results relevant.
Wii Nunchuck with Yahoo! Maps by Michael Crabb, John Brady and Kenneth McCreery a.k.a. Team Awesome!!
This was a hack that does exactly what it says on the tin. The awesome ones used Arduino and Flash to create a Yahoo Map that could be controlled with a Wii Nunchuck controller. We liked especially that the team went through quite a lot of tutorials and connected many different components to make the hardware work with the software and that their main driver was to build an interface to a map that is intuitive and works for users who are not computer savvy. The Wii's most successful component is the human interface and this hack showed that we can piggy-back on this success.
The honorable mentions
Hack Novell by Kyle Noad and James Dowie
Hack Novell was another hack that did what it said on the tin. The University uses Novell mailservers and students have a pitiful small amount of space to store their emails - thus missing a lot of them. Hack Novell was an extension that allowed you to bulk-forward your emails to a Yahoo account - thus scratching the itch of all the students.
Timeline TV by Calum McMinn and Hayley Swan a.k.a. Team Eureka
Timeline TV was a Yahoo widget that used Yahoo Pipes to pull several TV resources on the web and create a customized TV timeline for the next few hours.
Gamercard++ by Ryan Tocher, Blair Mongan and Euan MacLeod
Gamercard++ is a Yahoo widget that extends the information provided in a normal xbox360 gamer card with reviews, recently played games and other information relevant to the gamer.
As with the last few years, the students of Dundee once again managed to amaze us with a variety of hacks that covered territory not travelled in other hack days. The unique mix of Computer Science and Accessibility studies in Dundee are most likely the cause of this and of course the sterling job done by the people on the ground - first and foremost Andy Cobley who herded the students and gave them ideas and directions. None of the hackers got stuck, and some even re-booted and started a new idea the day before and managed to deliver it.
Check out the rest of the hacks and we hope that some of them will become products sooner or later.