How I ended up at a Hackathon in Tokyo

Imagine it’s 4 in the morning and you’ve already been working for about 28 hours, short naps here and there. Your teammate approaches you and asks, “Shouldn’t we all get some proper sleep?”. You consider, after all you feel deadly tired, but when you look at the clock that sudden injection of adrenaline makes you awake again, there are only 8 hours left to deliver the project!

That’s how I felt on the second night of this Hackathon. If you’ve never been to a Hackathon, it’s an event at which you only have two days to create a whole new product/service/business from scratch and you’re expected to have at least a working prototype at the end.

Said to be the largest Hackathon in Europe, Junction had the confidence to invade Asia and set up an event in the heart of the land of the rising sun, Tokyo, Japan! And I was there, at Junction Tokyo!

How did that happen?

That’s the kind of great and unique experience that can happen when you work at Leadin! When I saw the possibility of going to Tokyo and being part of this massive tech Hackathon, I imagined how cool it would also be for Leadin to have someone in Japan for a couple of days, participating in something big, making interesting contacts, and bringing back some fresh knowledge to the team. Guess what? The guys at the top also loved the idea and sponsored me! Yay!

This edition of Junction had three tracks: Sustainable Development, by iamtheCODEDMM, and SaharaSparks; Logistics and Storage, by Terrada; and Robotics, by SoftBank. Also IBM had a special challenge that could be combined with any of the tracks, with IBM’s Cloud Platform, Bluemix.

In a multidisciplinary team, along with two Japanese and three Thai, I embarked on a combination of the Robotics track and the Bluemix challenge, and we worked with Pepper, the super friendly SoftBank’s humanoid robot.

picture credit: Junction Tokyo

Changing the way people work

With the original challenge of “how can we change the way people work?” we have created an office buddy. Pepper would be responsible for arranging people’s schedules, propose different times for appointments, and be a friendly buddy to create a more relaxed and fun environment in the workplace.

At the end of the two days, the main working functionality we created with Pepper was the ability to book meetings with a voice command, say for example “Pepper, I’d like to have a meeting with Jake and Jane, on May 5 from 10 to 11”.

Under the hood, the voice would be recorded by Pepper and sent to IBM Watson’s Speech to Text API, to be turned into a text, processed in a series of scripts run in the Bluemix cloud with Node-RED, and turned into an HTTP request to the backend, which would finally send a message via Socket.io to the user interface to update the schedule in real time. Phew! I really couldn’t imagine we would achieve all of this in such a short time.

Coffee, energy drinks and pizza

Some more technicalities in case you are interested (sorry, I’m an Engineer, I can’t help), SoftBank’s Choregraphe was used to create nice interactions and answers from Pepper (like quoting Star Trek while the whole processing was happening), both the backend in Python and the frontend in ReactJS were hosted under different domains at Bluemix, and the frontend had an automated process to build and deploy as soon as a new commit was detected in GitHub. A kind of Frankenstein of technologies, but with such a short time everyone ended up using something that is more familiar, and then we figured out a way to integrate everything in the end.

picture credit: Junction Tokyo

In short, plenty of coffee, energy drinks, pizza, back pain, sleeping on a beanbag, going for a walk under the Sun or in the middle of the night to get some fresh air and stretch, a surprise yoga session in the morning (I don’t remember which morning anymore), learning a couple of words in Japanese, meeting and working with great people, programming a robot, and a lot more! I just don’t have enough words to describe how amazing this opportunity was.

Thanks to Leadin I had a blast in Japan! ?

This post was written by Fabiano who attended the Junction hackathon in Tokyo in April 2017 Picture credits: Junction Tokyo http://tokyo.hackjunction.com/

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *