Slalom hacks: code meets culture
February 9, 2016
Hackathons instill a culture of curiosity, collaboration, and continuous exploration. They encourage us to fail fast and prove quickly; unearth new ways to solve old problems; and engender collaboration, often across disciplines.
And, by challenging us to push the latest technologies to the edge, they build valuable domain expertise that can help us pair our clients with the best solutions for their business challenges.
Internet of Things
“Alexa, ask the team to hack the Amazon Echo”
Teams in our Boston, Chicago, Seattle, and Toronto Cross-Market delivery centers created apps for Amazon Echo, a hands-free technology that connects to Alexa, a cloud-based voice service.
“Writing an app that’s purely driven on voice interaction forces you to change your mindset,” says Jeremiah Dangler, solution architect in the Seattle delivery center.
After experimenting with voice design, Stryder Crown, solution architect in the Seattle delivery center, developed Sutr.io: a custom declarative language built for developing new Alexa Skills for the Amazon Echo. Sutr.io, short for Slalom Utterances, handles the generation of Intent JSON, utterances, and functional invocation from a common easy to read and maintain code file. The domain-specific language was used by teams during the Echo hackathon.
The winning apps balanced utility (such as asking Alexa to book a conference room) and fun, such as a flow meter for the office keg and an app that answers the age-old question of what do to for lunch.
“Now we know these things can be done,” says Slalom Boston’s Justin Lee, “so when developing software for clients, we can say, ‘With Echo, I was able to work around a limitation of being able to talk to something directly—and that might work here.‘”
The hackathon prompted discussion around Echo’s potential uses cases, such as the hospitality industry. “Echo in a hotel room? That’s a no brainer,” says Dennis Janek, Slalom Chicago practice area lead. Whether it’s providing sports updates, room service options, or a list of city attractions, the possibilities are untapped.
Forty hackers in Chicago’s delivery center spent 24 caffeine-addled hours bringing the office to life with technology. Teams hacked into a wide range of hardware, including proximity, magnetic door, vibration, pressure, and AC current sensors; Rasberry Pis; WiFi dongles; breadboards; photon kits and OLED displays; and Arduino microphones. Their creations truly made the office come alive, from providing commuters with CTA train alerts to gently reminding meeting attendees that their conference room reservation is drawing to a close.
Events like these are valuable, says Janek, because teams really get their hands dirty. Once they get past the theoretical, they can quickly become experts in the technology’s limitations—and possibilities—especially in emerging fields like IoT.
“It’s this idea of just taking the technology to the edge,” says Janek. When constraints are lifted, you learn so many valuable things along the journey. And it’s there—at that extreme—where you find the things that resonate with users.
LevelUp app gamifies the connected home
Slalom’s first VR hack
Engineers in our Chicago delivery center indulged their interest in Oculus Rift with an in-office hackathon. They wanted to make time to get inspired and collaborate with technologist from diverse backgrounds. Teams used Oculus Rift DK2 headsets with environments created in Unity or ThreeJS; some used external hardware such as the Razer Hydra, a handheld motion-sensing controller. The hackfest closed with interactive demos and live Q&A sessions, sharing VR experiences around Hungry Hungry Hippos (from a food ball’s perspective), Tron Motorcycle, Super Mario Brothers Level 1-1, Star Wars Jedi Lightsaber training, and a Live Snowglobe, to name a few.
Mobile and emerging technologies
5 apps in 24 hours at the AT&T Developer Summit Hackathon
For two consecutive years, a team from Slalom Atlanta placed second in the AT&T Developer Summit Hackathon. In their second showing, they raised the stakes: designing and developing five apps in just 24 hours, including Rescue Route—an intelligently illuminated emergency routing app. Code big or go home.
hlpstr places first at the AT&T’s Women in Technology hackathon
AT&T’s WIT Hackathon celebrates and promotes the critical role that women play in leading tomorrow’s innovations in tech. A team of Slalom Atlanta’s best and brightest placed first in two categories with hlpstr—a platform that connects people across the globe and provides real-time assistance with a skill or category of help, such as learning Portuguese from a friend in advance of a World Cup trip to Brazil.Learn more
Winning the data game, Iron Viz style
Tableau’s annual Iron Viz competition is the ultimate test of data dashboard prowess. Slalom San Francisco’s John Mathis, past winner of the Iron Viz competition, dishes on data nerdery, the quantified self, and his passion (and getting started recommendations) for Tableau.
Hacking the NFL: a strong offense for the win
Slalom San Francisco’s Colin Davy loves data and sports. Those interests led him to the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference’s hackathon—where his data analysis has earned the winning trophy two years in a row for the “nerdiest thing” he could possibly imagine.