University of Illinois’ Augmented Reality Drawing App Wins Facebook’s Camp Hackathon Competition

Facebook hosted the finals of its Camp Hackathon competition last night through today, featuring a face-off between winners of smaller hackathons on five college campuses. Young developers came to Facebook headquarters to create new applications in one night, where they would be judged by Facebook leaders including vice president of engineering Mike Schroepfer, director of design Kate Aronowitz and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook engineers were on hand through the night helping teams surmount development obstacles. Each team was also mentored by an alum from their school who is now an engineer for Facebook.

The event was more casual than most at Facebook. Paul Tarjan, leader of the Camp Hackathon project, unicycled into the conference hall to start the prototype forum. The teams were surprisingly candid in their five minute presentations, discussing the development process, bugs, and things they couldn’t figure out how to build.

Here are the five teams, and what they created:

University of Texas, Austin – Fancy Checkin Stuff

The app allows users to check in to mark their territory, and view a map of which areas of their town they control. The creators explained that the game was designed to “compel you to socialize and meet your neighbors while wandering your town.”

University of California, Berkeley – Foto Inquest

A Facebook Photos search engine which allows users to search for photos by tags, and watch a slideshow of photos returned. Photos with more people tagged are displayed for longer, making the slideshow personalized based on the actions of your social network

Georgia Tech – FbMarks

A bookmarking system where you can bookmark any wall or news feed story. A bookmarking star appears next to each story which users can click to add that story to their bookmarks which can be accessed through a tab on Facebook’s top navigation bar. Bookmarks can be arranged into a playlist, allowing users to watch all their bookmarked videos or listen to all their bookmarked songs, turning Facebook into a passive content consumption channel. The app brings the favorites functionality of Twitter to Facebook, making it easy to return to content you don’t have time to experience when first discovered.

University of Illinois – AirChalk

An augmented reality app where users can use their phone to draw on a display, similar to a virtual white board. A phone’s camera can track a wand for drawing, or the phone itself can be used to control the cursor. Multiple users can collaborate and draw on the same canvas. While an interesting idea with great potential as mobile phone image recognition and accelerometer technology improves, the only Facebook integration is a Like button on the app’s home page.

University of Wisconsin, Madison – Cacophony

A top-down music shooter which turns different sounds into targets the user can shoot. The 80’s-graphic engine style generates polygon targets and sets trajectories based on tempo and the music’s wave form.  The Facebook integration allows users to compare high scores with friends. This independent game could become a compelling, shooter version of Guitar Hero with some polish.

Overall, we see FbMarks as the most universally useful application. We’ll update in a minute once the winner has been selected.

And The Winner Is…

Despite only a minimal Facebook integration, University of Illinois’ AirChalk won the Facebook Camp Hackathon. Mark Zuckerberg said that team members Islam and Hani Sharabash had an “interesting vision of how the app could be used in the future, though since there is the option to collaboratively draw, I thought you’d allow users to invite their friends.”

Still, the team’s app was the most ambitious of the entrants, and Facebook rewarded the two brothers with not only the official prize of $500 Amazon gift certificates, but a summer internship at Facebook. The Sharabashs cried out in joy upon hearing they’d get to spend more time with the company.

When asked how it was getting help on their app from Facebook’s engineers, Hani said “They’re like the brightest people in their field, they’re very social, awesome personalities. Tarjan was so down to earth. He folded up our paper tracker so we could have more time to code. The environment here is just awesome.” The team hopes to release their application publicly, and “ask people how they want to use it.”

Facebook’s Tarjan said that one of the best parts of watching the young teams during the development process is the “amazing ability to get feedback on the product…watching their pain points makes my role [on the Platform team] easier.” Of the university Hackathon program, he said “it’s a great recruiting tool and a great branding tool as well. I want students to think Facebook is THE cool place to work.” As for the future of apps created during the Hackathon, “the app is not the goal, the experience and the learning is the goal.”

Users interested in watching the presentation and judging of the hacks can check out the stream via Facebook Live.