Recently, my friends and I decided to attend ANova Hacks, which is hosted by a Non-Profit Organization within UC Berkley and sponsored by Facebook Techstart. We thought that we could try and build something that was very practical and useful, while impressing the judges and showcasing our creative uses.
We thought about different feasible ideas that we could code in a mere 12 hours, and we thought about a tutoring app, textbook selling app, and many others. These apps were all very practical and useful, but they did not really have a unique factor that set us apart from the ≈40 other teams that were participating.
We eventually found a real world problem that everyone has to manage, Time! We decided that we wanted to find an easy way for your phone to tell you the time without you turning it on and getting distracted by it. Using a table seemed like a good input device because it did not involve you having to look at your phone. By knocking on the table, we noticed that the phone could pick up vibrations from about 3 feet away. We then decided to use the accelerometer, which operate on a 3 axis system.
Since we live in a 3 dimensional world, the x, y and z axis provided real world data. X was moving the phone side to side on a table, y was up and down a table, and z was through the table. In our code, we added parameters to prevent the x and y axis from getting triggered if we moved the phone. By doing this, we were able to make the app only sense spikes in motion changes, which then cause the app to say the time if the spike was under a certain amount of time.
We then integrated a service to allow it to run silently in the background, so it could be triggered by a tap on the table even when off. The app worked very well on wood tables that could vibrate, so the phone could detect it. Our next challenge was adding notifications if the user tapped the table. We got close to finishing it, but an issue we ran into was that we could not call for notifications to be read when we chose, but only when they arrived. Another problem was that we could not get the notification service to bind properly with the app making it very hard to integrate.
Overall however, the judges were very impressed with our app and loved the unique functionality and UI, as it could be expanded beyond time and implemented in other projects. We ended up winning first place and taking home Gear VR headsets, which was very nice. This hackathon was very fun and I hope to come back next year with new skills and create something even more helpful for our daily lives.