We won the Hackathon Globo and are visiting to MIT!

09 Sep 2015

by Guilherme Berger

tl;dr: we won the Hackathon Globo with a project that uses Kinect to scan objects/people into a holographic display made using household items. The first prize was a trip to the MIT Media Lab.

The Hackathon

In this age of startups and shiny apps, you don’t usually think of a TV network as a very tech-y place. This is why, when I signed up for a hackathon hosted by Globo, the largest media conglomerate in Brazil and in Latin America, I was a bit skeptical about how it would go down.

Initially, I thought the hackathon was being organized by Globo.com, the network’s digital division, which has a stablished reputation as a contributor to open source. However, the terms clearly stated this was not the case.

But then they sent us this video showcasing the technologies developed by them to enhance the TV content experience: 360 cameras for sport matches, CGI favelas, automatic camera switching, among other cool things. I was sold.

This hackathon went down differently than what I was used to. In the 2014-2015 school year I participated in 6 college hackathons in the US. Those are usually huge, with hundreds of participating students, a couple dozen sponsors, and less than 100 organizers and volunteers. This one had two sponsors (Globo itself and IBM), 40 participants, and a number of organizers that exceeded that of participants. As a result, they were like helicopter moms, making frequent rounds to see if we needed anything.

The hackathon was hosted at the Big Brother Brasil house, a place that is kept under nationwide surveillance when the show is on air during Summer. A very limited number of people are ever allowed to set foot inside this house/TV-studio hybrid, and we were all pumped to be given that privilege.

Naturally, as it was hosted by a media network, they had cameras and reporters around us at all times. At first, it was a bit unsettling, but I got used to it. As a result, the event was thoroughly documented on TechTudo.

Our Project: Hologlobo

My team was composed of four people: me (Guilherme Berger), Danielle Cohen, Giovanni Marques, and Fabio Dela Antonio.

The hackathon’s theme was “how to change the way people create and consume content”. Our answer was holograms.

We already knew Globo had technology to create a 3D model of a sports match, like of a controversial call in a soccer match, but this was then rendered on a 2D TV screen. What a waste! We wanted more.

So we set out to create an app in which people can visualize holograms published by Globo. The way the holograms work is rather simple: anyone at home can watch a tutorial on YouTube and create their own mobile hologram viewing kit. And this is really great! Similar to Google’s strategy with Cardboard, we wanted a way to make this technology accessible to a large number of people.

Globo could, then, publish a hologram representing a clip of a soccer match, or of a popular actress posing with a special outfit, or any other infinite possibilities.

To create our own holograms, we used Kinect, Microsoft’s motion sensing input device for Xbox, to scan a person or object. The subject had to rotate while we had the Kinect aimed at him and connected to a PC running special software.
Globo, however, could use their own set of proprietary tech to generate the 3D models, such as the tech they use for soccer matches.

The business pitch was very important to the judges. We argued the tech could be used to raise engagement and viewership for Globo, who could distribute the plastic holographic pyramids for free and instruct people to download the app and receive holograms related to TV programming.

The Prize

We will spend 3 days at the MIT Media Lab, an appropriate prize for a hackathon focused on how to produce and consume media. The visit involves attending the EmTech conference at the Lab. We hope to learn a lot from the experience. I’ll post about the trip once we come back.


About the author

Guilherme Berger is a software engineer majoring in Computer Engineering.