Imisi 3D and AR/VR Africa Consortium powered by Facebook organise Africa’s largest Augmented and Virtual Reality event.
May 25, 2018.
From April 20 - 22nd, across 7 African countries, teams of enthusiasts and professionals of augmented and virtual reality gathered to showcase their skills and compete for prizes in the first AR/VR Africa Hackathon. The event set up under the auspices of the AR/VR Africa consortium convened by Judith Okonkwo, the founder of Imisi 3D, Nigeria’s leading AR/VR Creation Lab, was made possible by Facebook and sponsors including Unity, GitHub, Ingressive and VR First.
“During our first virtual reality hackathon in 2016, we had applicants from as far away as Zimbabwe apply. The goal was always to find a way to bring talent across the continent together to explore the extended realities technologies”. Judith Okonkwo explained. “Coming together in one location was a challenge; thanks to Facebook supporting us from the very start we were able to hold an event simultaneously in 7 countries”.
With initial support for prizes and logistics from Facebook, the foundation for the hackathon was set, country partners who would bear the responsibility for hosting and organising the event in their respective locations were sought. “We were fortunate to find extraordinary partners in Tunisia, Egypt, Cameroon, Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa. They were all aligned with the vision, committed to growing the adoption of extended reality technologies on the continent, and their use to create local solutions.” said Judith.
The theme of the event Creating Our Future, set the tone for the organisers’ goals. Participants could use augmented, mixed or virtual reality to hack over a 48 hour period. Their only constraints were to create a solution that tackles Education, Healthcare, Tourism, Social Justice, and the Environment in honour of the Earth Day weekend. Knowing there would be a wide range of extended reality experience from novice to advanced, country partners provided a range of pre-hackathon learning sessions from a demo hack in Nairobi to masterclasses in Tunis.
Country partners followed a general guide for the event, with only 2 all country sessions - a hackathon kick off hangout by Rob Jagnow of Google, and a Unity 3D session which consisted of an online technical Q&A with a support team following the watching of a custom hackathon guide video - there was considerable flexibility in the schedule. Flexibility that proved critical as Cairo kicked off the hackathon a day earlier, following Country Partner Maged Farrag of 5d VR pointing out the weekend in Egypt fell from Thursday to Saturday and not Friday to Sunday.
AR/VR Africa Hackathon participants in Maputo listen to the kick off by Rob Jagnow of Google.
The AR/VR Africa Hackathon allowed for firsts in Mozambique and Cameroon. BOP Inc manager and Country Partner, Gerwin Jansen, partnered with Manuel Rego of Ideia Lab to organise the Maputo event. Christian Yves Fongang of SDK Africa, Country Partner Cameroon, teamed up with the University of the Mountains to host the event. “We were really grateful for facilitating this opportunity for the first time in Maputo” said Gerwin Jansen. “To see VR being used for the service of society and to see that several different players - startups, developmental agencies, associations, private sector - understood the potential of Vr for their work was most satisfying”. Manuel Rego added “this hackathon was a seed planted in the creation of a Mozambican VR community”.
Trevor Snapp, Country Partner Kenya, Douglas Ogeto and the Black Rhino VR team worked together to create a weekend of extended reality activities around the hackathon in Nairobi, Kenya. The resulting Nairobi edition of the AR/VR Africa Hackathon and 360 Africa festival was a celebration of immersive technology. In Tunisia, Country Partner Samia Chelbi Director at 3D Net Info, and her team worked to bring on additional sponsors and support. They are providing incubation for the top three teams from the hackathon in Tunis, with a demo event for investors planned in September. This is in addition to the Facebook sponsored cash prizes of $1000, $600 and $400 for the top 3 teams in each country. Each country winning team will also receive a Unity Pro licence.
Nigeria’s hackathon winning team, Bad Guys, chose the mobile phone and augmented reality as their tools. Their hack AuthoPharm authenticates medication as a countermeasure against the supply and distribution of fake drugs. They explained the rationale behind their product. “The issue of fake and substandard drugs is a global problem but more severe in Africa and Nigeria where institutions are weak. Mobile penetration is high which encourages the proliferation of AR enabled solutions. Asides from authenticating the drugs it informs and engages the user” explained team lead Gabriel Okiya.
Winners of the Nigerian hackathon Team Bad Guys with the judges - Bosun Tijani, CEO Co-Creation Hub; Dzifa Biga, CFO Ingressive; and ‘Lara Yeku, Country HR Lead Accenture.
Following the hackathon a jury of select country partners voted to determine the overall winner of the event. The all female Team Haha of Egypt - Alaa Hatata, a game developer, Huda Rasmey, and Nada Samir - emerged the overall champions. Maged Farrag of 5d VR, Country Partner for Egypt expressed his pleasure at the win. “We are proud to have an Egyptian team as the overall winner of the hackathon. We believe such initiatives help explore the untapped potential of talents among the youth and empower them. Another big advantage is that the hackathon was a great opportunity to connect and network with AR/VR developers from the African countries. Faced by similar challenges, we believe our collaboration could help us succeed together.”
Team Haha, overall winners of the AR/VR Africa Hackathon with Maged Farrag, Country Partner Egypt.
What’s next for the teams? Judith has said now more than ever, she is committed to bringing the winning teams from each country together at an industry leading event. Hoping to facilitate interaction and collaboration between the teams as well as their peers globally, she is pursuing sponsorship options and is currently in talks with a global leader in extended reality. Her final words. “Thank you very much to all participants for joining us in exploring augmented and virtual reality, our judges, incredible partners who made the event possible; and our amazing sponsors”.
Judith Okonkwo is the Founder of Imisi 3D and convener of AR/VR Africa a trans-African platform for extended reality (XR) enthusiasts and professionals.
She can be reached on twitter @judithoko
First Place: AR Geo Discovery
An AR app that offers an innovative environment for creating a “located learning” experience.
First Place: Team Bad Guys
An AR solution for mobile phones that authenticates medication to counter the menace of fake drugs.
First Place: Team Haha
An HTC Vive experience that teaches children about the importance of the environment.
First Place: Team The Code Thinkers
A VR app that helps overcome the fear of public speaking
First Place: Team Burble
A 360-Video experience depicting an animal park.
First Place: Team Kidz Kare
A game to reduce the fear of children of certain pediatric services.
First Place: Team Code Gang
An AR solution for mobile phones that helps travellers navigate airports.