UB’s Let’s Get Flappy creates innovative interactive gaming experience

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Back on April 5-6, the University at Buffalo’s chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery hosted its third annual 24-hour hackathon — which, for those who may not be 100 percent sure, is when computer programmers get together to code new software or produce new tech elements in a short period of time.

The UB event is held for the benefit of student developers looking to use their creativity and knowledge outside of the classroom. It’s also a great way to spark interesting and innovative ideas, crank through a lot of work, and complete projects that — in some cases — let the user see the world in a different way.

The hackathon was also a competition. Around 70 students took part — developers, entrepreneurs, and designers raced against the clock to see who could successfully complete projects that would be judged on their technical difficulty, polish, creativity and usefulness.

Team Redtooth took first place ($1,000 and two TimBuk2 backpacks) for their hack, which involved combining the computing power of Bluetooth-enabled devices in a room into one “virtual” computer.

 AGNEW Secure Shelf finished second ( $500 and two TimBuk2 backpacks). The team created a device that allows a user to safely store books on a bookshelf with a secure alarm system. If a book is removed from the shelf, there are sensors that will automatically set off an alarm and alert the owner via email and text.

We thought that the third place finisher, Let’s Get Flappy, came up with a particularly interesting hack. The crew — comprised of Andrew Hughes, who is currently studying for a Ph.D. in Computer Science; Nils Wisiol, a Computer Science master’s student; and Anand Nandugudi, also a Computer Science doctoral candidate — created a multi-player game called Flappy Birds.

Flappy Birds in action

The idea? To create a game that could be viewed and played, using your Internet-enabled mobile device, tablet, or computer, on walls in public places like malls, schools, or airports. Gamers interact with other players at the same location, and when it’s time to leave — you have to board your flight, or class is about to begin — the game plays for you, meaning you’re able to jump in and out of a game without screwing up your competitor’s gaming experience.

This means, however, that there are not “winners,” since individuals start and end playing whenever they want — but these individual users could also build reputations as the most ferocious players, and there would be a serendipitous element as you run into legendary competitors in random locations, or stumble onto someone else’s “turf.” The physical world and the world inside the game become intermingled — it’s like a step towards the video game in the movie Her:

The Movie “Her” Video Game Scene! (Hilarious) from Mike Schaefer on Vimeo.

Although the UB hackathon is over, the Let’s Get Flappy team continues to improve their hack (when time allows, of course). There are some major flaws at the moment — hey, they built it in a day — but it looks like they are on an exciting path, and it’s cool to know that it is happening here in Western New York.

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