Hacking to solve social issues brings out great ideas from developers. The ideathon held last week, featuring POP and Kinoma, was an opportunity for participants to learn new hardware and software tools and apply them to prototypes designed to improve the quality of life. Japanese Technology Professionals Association (JTPA) and Silicon Valley Innovation Forum (SVIF) hosted the event, with many of the participants from the Japanese Student Society.
Attendees were asked to solve a social issue using Kinoma or POP prototyping platforms, and at the end deliver presentations of their solution. POP is a mobile app that allows designers to link wireframes, so gridded paper and colored pencils were supplied. We provided various sensors and several Kinoma Create devices, and a few members of our team were available to answer Kinoma-related questions.
First: Workshop at Kinoma
Before the ideathon, several JTPA members came to our office for a short workshop. Andy walked them through the main features of Kinoma Create such as connecting to Wi-Fi, running sample applications, and attaching sensors. Everyone downloaded Kinoma Studio and Basuke taught them how to build UI elements and program hardware modules in KinomaJS. A couple of developers brought their own Kinoma Create devices to the workshop and got them up and running for the first time.
Hacking for good
Like most meetups, the night started with networking, pizza, and drinks. Then, the attendees learned the basics of POP and Kinoma and spent some time brainstorming with their groups. Post-its, hardware sensors, and beer bottles covered the tables as attendees tossed ideas around. It was fun to see groups waving their hands in front of infrared sensors, tapping capacitive touch sensors, and flashing LEDs while running the Pin Explorer application on Kinoma Create.
After about half an hour members from each group stood up and explained their ideas, which varied greatly. They included:
- An app that will help users track their spending habits. When creating a budget, it would be particularly useful for hidden costs—such as transportation—that are difficult to plan ahead for since prices constantly change.
- An education app to make learning more appealing. A teacher in this group raised the issue that students do not always realize that lessons in school can be practical in the real world. So they chose to solve this problem. They used an accelerometer attached to a Kinoma Create to demonstrate a real life problem related to trig functions, a subject that many students reluctantly learn about without understanding why. Their goal was to make a Q&A style app with answers that incorporate videos and other media—much more expressive than simple text.
There was only about an hour left to start making the actual apps, and only a small subset of the room attended the workshop before the event. Despite this, almost all of the teams successfully hooked up sensors to a Kinoma Create. Three teams used them in their final presentations.
Improving care of elderly patients
The winning team used Kinoma Studio and Kinoma Create to start an app that will alert hospital/retirement home assistants if an elderly patient is away from their bed for too long at nighttime. A complete version of the project would include a Kinoma Create connected to a motion sensor and accelerometer that goes in the patient’s room and communicates with a mobile app to alert the caretaker of the problem. They managed to start writing code despite the time constraints and very little experience with Kinoma Studio and Kinoma Create.
Returning to JTPA
We were delighted to be invited back to the JTPA meetup. JTPA hosted the first meet-up with Kinoma this past January, where it was great to see people with both software and hardware backgrounds interacting with Kinoma Create. We had a great time joining such an enthusiastic group of makers for the second time and hope to see some of them continue working on their apps!
The Japanese Technology Professionals Association (JTPA) is a non-profit that supports technology-oriented Japanese professionals working in Silicon Valley. JTPA also shares technology information between Japan and Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley Innovation Forum (SVIF) is a non-profit organizational committee striving to be a part of the innovative spirit of Silicon Valley and bring that back to business partners and ventures.
JSS is the Japanese Student Society based at San Jose State University to promote education about Japanese culture, and help students learn from and network with business professionals.