March 15, 2018

Bottle Rocket’s Olympic Hackathon

Over the past week, our developers have been hard at work on (loosely) Olympic-themed projects using the latest features and resources available from Apple, Google, and anything else that caught their attention. Before we dive into the projects and who ended up winning, we wanted to explain the importance of hackathons to Bottle Rocket's culture.

Learn about our yearly hackathon, Rocket Science.

Taking a Moment to Try: 3 Reasons Hackathons Matter

Reason 1: Trial by Tepid Fire

Each year, the tech giants that power the computers in our pockets release a wide range of new features and capabilities for their platforms – though some features you might not see until the following year. Whether the feature is in Beta or because we haven't found a need for it in a client's app, it is important to take the time to learn and play with them anyway. We’d rather constantly run into roadblocks building an app that literally has no purpose instead of discovering the problems in an active project.

Reason 2: They’re Fun

When asked about hackathons, a Rocketeer involved in the event said, “I used to think hackathons were just for kids and college students, but I couldn’t be more wrong. They’re fun, fast-paced, and exciting, which is a great way to get students involved, but they’re still just as fun for adults.” Hackathons are a time away from the pressure of client work, where failure is without consequence. There’s no breaking of keyboards, just laughing along with the insanity of it all.

Reason 3: They Reduce Time-to-Market

Unknowns are the bane of project estimations. The more we know about the tech in question, the fewer variables there are in planning. Instead of jumping into a project that suddenly doubles in duration due to unforeseen problems with a feature or how to best implement it, hackathons give us the time to learn everything we need to know. Then, when the time comes to add a new feature for a client, we already know what to expect.

But enough about hackathons, here’s what happened in our latest event.

Results of Our Olympic Hackathon

In First Place: The PIPlads

This team (seen in photo above) explored the new Android feature Picture-in-Picture mode. The goal was to have a live scoreboard of country medal counts displayed as you use your phone for other day-to-day tasks. They were able to get a functioning prototype completed and even discovered a few fun facts along the way. For instance, they found that if you make the aspect ratio of the minimized screen to extreme, it’ll crash. Also, they found that you could make the panel transparent – a totally useless feature unless you want to confuse your users, but a cool find nonetheless.

Testing Connectivity in iOS 11 by playing a game on two different, emulated devices

Second: The Gas House Gang

Seeking to better understand the capabilities of connectivity in iOS 11, The Gas House Gang made a curling(-like) game in which you slide pucks into area marked with a target. The reason this is interesting is that they had it running in two different applications – not the same application on two devices, but two different applications. While this might not sound like a feat, it shows the potential of having two completely different applications updating in real time to display information from each other.

taking pictures of a muffin and watching it post to the application

Third: The Things

Riding off the concept of tracking athletes’ diets, The Things explored one of the newer sides of IoT devices in the Android ecosystem – Android Things. Using a Raspberry Pi, the team had a functioning prototype that allowed them to photograph the food they were about to eat and then automatically post it to a channel of their choice. This could, for example, allow athletes to easily snap a photo and share it with their dietitian with the click of a button.

Honorable Mentions

Everyone’s a winner in our eyes when it comes to hackathons. While some may not have finished, others found that the technology they were trying to leverage was actually not ready for the spotlight.

Brand New Wizbangs

This team put Apple’s ARKit 2D image detection and face mapping to the test with this face-painting experience. However, they ran into a roadblock trying to merge some features as the application would not allow it and crashed during each attempt to do so.

Javelin

Leveraging Android’s Autofill Framework and Firebase Realtime Database, Javelin worked to create an up-to-date, real-time database that could update information and provide it as an autofill suggestion on the fly.

Alloy

Alloy explored Metal, Apple’s proprietary graphics processing engine, and was able to have the five rings of the Olympics animated used 1,000 triangles.

Monads

The Monads used GraphQL and gRPC to solve API request issues and better refine the answer to a single request from a database instead of having to pull data in multiple requests.

Got an idea for your business but not sure where or how to start? Reach out to Bottle Rocket. We may just have an answer for you.

June 5, 2017

5 Key Takeaways from the WWDC 2017 Keynote

Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference (WWDC) is the tech giant’s biggest event of the year. It kicks off with a keynote where all the device and software updates for the year are unveiled and the rest of the week is spent training developers in attendance to leverage the latest features and API’s Apple has to offer.

While there was no shortage of announcements at this year’s keynote, we’ve picked the top 5 that we’re most excited about and that we believe will have the biggest impact on brands.

Preview of App Drawer in iMessage at WWDC

Quick-Access Drawer for iMessage Apps

Following up from last year’s addition of app extensions in iOS, Apple has now made it easier than ever to access and use iMessage Apps. There will now be a tape of apps featured below the text box in iMessage to quickly select which app you would like to use. This is great for users, but it's even better for brands. Users will be more aware of extensions and can use them faster than before – meaning they’ll also be looking for new apps to use in conversation. Since there is an app store specifically for iMessage extensions, your app is much more likely to be discovered. If you didn’t have an iMessage App before, now might be the time to consider it.

Apple Pay slide during WWDC Keynote

Apple Pay

50% of businesses across the US will soon accept Apple Pay. And we don't expect this trend to slow down anytime soon. Before the end of the year, its likely that businesses that do not accept Apple Pay will be in the minority. However, software is just as important as hardware. Apple announced that the App Store, which has now passed 180 billion in app downloads, has paid out more than $70 billion to developers and 30% of that is from the past year alone. There’s no longer a question of whether you should adopt Apple Pay in your app or in your store, but an imperative to implement both and as soon as possible.

WatchOS native core bluethooth support showcase

WatchOS 4

Apple announced today that there will be a number of new watch faces and workout options for the Apple Watch. What caught our attention was that Apple also added native core Bluetooth support. This may not sound particularly exciting, but we think it is. This opens up a number of opportunities for connected devices and is one step closer to making the Apple Watch a fully connected health and fitness ecosystem. For example, a glucose monitor could be connected to monitor blood sugar levels without having to manually add each test or you could connect a smart tennis racquet to more accurately track your swing. This integration could mean big things for brands, especially those that have already adopted the Apple Watch and are looking for more ways to connect with consumers.

Star Wars VR demo for Metal at WWDC


Metal 2

Metal, Apple’s graphics API, got an update this year – and it’s a big one. Apple not only improved the performance of the API, they added several new applications for it. Metal can now be leveraged for machine learning, it can take advantage of external graphics cards and hardware, and can now even power VR experiences. So, whether you’re playing a game or developing one, creating stunning art or rendering a CG short, Apple has new and improved tools to make it easier and export faster than ever. While gaming and entertainment brands will primarily use Metal 2, any brand looking to add polished animations or visuals to their apps will benefit as well.

Using AR live at WWDC


ARKit

As Apple stated, ARKit will be the largest AR platform overnight. Apps such as Pokémon Go and Snapchat had to develop software that could take what the camera saw and place objects in the real world accordingly. It might sound simple, but its actually quite complex.  Not only does it require immense computing power, but it also leverages complex algorithms to assess the space, as well as the distance of objects from the camera, lighting, etc. Instead of having to develop environmentally-aware software to dynamically place computer generated objects in the real world, ARKit takes care of the heavy lifting so developers can focus on the content. Brands can leverage ARKit for everything from expanding the components in an engine to inspect every element to allowing kids to take a photo with their favorite character from a movie.

© 2020 Bottle Rocket. All Rights Reserved.