As usual, hundreds gathered at the NYU’s Skirball Center for NY Tech Meetup’s 4th annual academic showcase, featuring 14 outstanding projects and startups, primarily from college and graduate students. Some of the evening’s more notable presentations:
The first three demos were made during a 24-hour hackathon back in September. Vinelist is a service that makes use of Vine. True to its name, Vinelist allows users to create custom Vine playlists by plugging in the individual video links and hitting a button. The project grew out of the work of various YouTube users who made up their own compilations of Vine vids.
If you’re the sort of person who has tried to solve the Rubick’s Cube by rearranging the stickers, you’ll probably love this one. By taking two photos – one of a jigsaw piece and one of the completed puzzle picture – JigSolver will show you where in the puzzle that piece should go. A live demo from presenters Zachary Newman and Conrad Kramer caused a ripple of “oohs” and “aahs,” followed by well-deserved applause.
So amazed by jigsolver at #hackny. How did you guys build it?
— Vaibhav Verma (@vwritescode) September 29, 2013
3. memo ring
After taking 2nd place at the Fall hackathon, the folks from memo ring presented their unique use of the ShapeWays 3D modeling API. After a user takes a walk around, – a walk to remember, as it were – memo ring makes a map of the journey and transforms that route into a ring you can wear. A well-planned proposal and a few skillfully-placed diamonds could make for an interesting wedding ring!
4. Scratch (@ScratchTeam)
The next couple of projects focused on the mission of bringing coding and computer science into the classroom and introducing it to younger audiences. Scratch works by using a combination of simple games and colored blocks of code that young people can see and move around to change their gaming experience. The presenters, Karen Brennan and Michelle Chung, demonstrated a simple Spot the Differences game, where users could move around blocks of code to change the images, sounds, and actions items take when the user clicks. The project has both government support and funding from several large companies, as well as a presence in classrooms, both domestic and abroad.
5. Scalable Game Design (@CUSystem)
Presented by AgentSheets creator and director of the Scalable Game Design Initiative Alexander Repenning, this idea left the crowd impressed and amused. The former was due to how quickly Dr. Repenning was able to draw up a convincing digital volcano from scratch using a simple touchpad; the latter came when he built a “game” that featured about 20 of those volcanos spinning around one another in loops.He did all of this through a tool called AgentCubes that allows for a “paint-then-shape” approach of turning 2D renderings into 3D models that can be manipulated into pieces of a digital world. See it in action:
6. News Rover (@NewsRover)
In one of my personal favorite presentations, Columbia University graduate students Joe Ellis, Hongzhi Li, and Brendan Jou presented what might be the start of a new way of consuming news. Their News Rover platform collects hundreds of hours of video and thousands of articles, social media trends, and Google topics together; this content is then sorted, categorized, and clustered together by topic and content. News Rover launches in your browser and can be launched by highlighting text from an article and selecting the News Rover tab. For their demo, the News Rover team went to a random news story from CNN on the situation in Syria. After highlighting the first paragraph of the story and setting some additional filters, News Rover was used to find the most recent clip from a completely different pundit who happened to be talking about Syria around the same time. The emphasis of this project is a more personalized way of getting news. The site lists three big ideas about the future of news consumption: it’s going to be topical and personal, from a mix of multiple sources, and accessible anywhere and at anytime.
During the Q&A session, the News Rover team was asked about the possibility of finding more diverse news outlets besides the more traditional CNN, New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and so on. The team responded that much of your content will depend on your applied filters as well as your point of entry into the News Rover platform. Further, while their content is currently only sourced from the US, they said there was every possibility for expansion.
Presenter Valentin Heun is apparently intent on making that Disney Channel movie Smart House into non-fiction. From their website: “the Reality Editor maps graphical elements directly on top of the tangible interfaces found on physical objects, such as push buttons or knobs.” In other words, by embedding small processors in common devices and furniture, Heun’s tablet could double as a remote control for a wide variety of settings and interactions with household items. Heun could, for example, change the color of light emitted by a lamp simply by selecting a different spot on the color grid. He could also link the light to the radio so that the light, when toggled on, would turn on the radio as well. The most amusing display came from linking a radio song to the color of emitted light–a link resulting in a strobe light effect for the crowd.
This technology is part of the internet of things. As we create more smart objects and powerful devices, the possibility of linking them all together is very promising. It won’t be long before you can prepare coffee and get your breakfast started by hitting the same button used to shut off your alarm clock.
Many more demonstrations from talented groups of young people made for an extremely fun and informative night. The atmosphere was light and informal–aided, no doubt, by the high school students who demoed their frisbee-throwing robot–and full of optimism for the future of the city’s tech community. With projects like these in the works, that’s an optimism we should all share.