HackDayParis – Hacking the language barrier…


This past weekend I went to HackDayParis – mainly scouting for developers, but also seeing what cool stuff people could come up with. Upon arriving, I stumbled through a conversation, trying to explain in French that I was an invited journalist, and thus not on the attendee list, only to look down and find out that the event was entirely bi-lingual and that I was in fact speaking to the TechStars Boston talent recruiter.
One of the more enjoyable parts of talking with French developers is their uncanny English skills – oh yeah, and they are geniuses! Nonetheless, I was little surprised to see how few people had brought ideas out on the first day. I expected to see a Startup Weekend-esque Friday evening pitch, but, to my dismay, this was probably the least well organised part of the event. Developers were expected to seek each other out and form their own teams – not to rag on developers, but they are not stereotyped as the most social bunch in the startup world. Needless to say, but dinnertime, I didn’t meet anyone who was sure they knew what they were going to do.
After popping over to Startup Weekend on Saturday to check out what was going on there, I came back Sunday assuming that the presentations would be few and disorganized, but, to my surprise, 48 demos were ready to go (about 45 of which ultimately worked). Among the prizes available were a chance to go to TechStars Boston as a HackStar, a free ticket to LeWeb (though it required using the Viadeo API), and some sentimental awards, such as “longest demo name” award.

While the winners were decided by a panel of judges with plenty of qualifications, I thought I’d give MY winners for the competition:

Ninja Chess: That’s right, Ninja Chess.

Take Chess, get rid of the turn-based aspect, add in delayed movement of pieces and cooldowns, and you have Ninja Chess. Boasting an average time length of 1:00-1:30, I recommend everyone get on Ninja Chess so I can play you. I took the opportunity during their live demo to jump on the game, which is live, and play some other Ninjas, and I gotta say: take away everything you ever knew about Chess, and you might just have a chance at winning at Ninja Chess.

Google Maps: Good for finding fountains AND CCTV cameras

Two of my favorite projects used a Google Maps API in order to deliver information to people based on where they were and where they were going. One, developed as a web-based supplement to Eaupen, a social startup creating reusable water bottles, shows you where in Paris you can find the nearest of 600 public drinkable water fountains. The other, called Public Walk, allowed you to type in your walking route, and it would simulate the route, calculating where in the route you were being spotted by CCTV cameras, and where you were “in private.”

NoiseBox: It’s a box… that makes Noise.

Equipes (51).jpg by Olivier EzrattyOne of the more interesting Hacks involved creating a box which would play music when certain objects were places upon it. It may sound like just a shoe box connected to the a computer connected to the internet along with a few RFID tags attached to random household objects, but in reality… well, it’s everything I just said. Nonetheless, the demo was interesting, the tracks changed seamlessly, and there’s nothing Hackers love more than combining Hardware with Software.