Zenbag cruises to victory with OpenTok at CruzHacks

One of my favorite parts of being a developer evangelist is getting to meet fellow developers and share their journey to building awesome products. And there’s nowhere better to meet developers than a hackathon!

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend CruzHacks at my alma mater, the University of California Santa Cruz. It was great to be in a position where I could support an amazing event through sponsorship, mentoring, and judging.

I recruited my colleague Hashir to join me and we came up with a plan for how we could help the participants make the most of the weekend.

Introducing OpenTok to the hackers

The weekend was non-stop but we had a total blast. Hashir and I hosted two workshops to introduce participants to the OpenTok platform and the endless possibilities of live video. We worked with students on setting up Video Chat Embeds and the OpenTok API depending on their experience level. We also interacted on a more personal level with many developers ranging from students who didn’t know how to start a server to experienced developers who dockerized their server instances.

opentok workshop at the hackathon

I was really impressed with the wide range of ideas the students came up with for using live video. Education was one of the most popular use cases. Developers built applications ranging from 1:1 tutoring apps to full on virtual classrooms where teachers had the option to ‘kick’ students out the room! We also saw an app for doctor-patient interaction, an app for connecting to someone speaking a foreign language, and an app which can only be described as “Chatroulette for Venting and Roasting”.

A well deserved win for an OpenTok team

After a whole weekend of hacking, we were really proud that when it came to the final judging, one of the teams using OpenTok emerged victorious. Zenbag created an AR paint brush using ARKit on iOS and published their screen where users on a browser could see what they’re drawing. They then used the OpenTok Signaling API to send the drawing data and recreated it on the VR app using OpenGL.

Hackathon closing ceremony

The Zenbag team is comprised of Max, from San Jose and Spencer, all the way from Wisconsin. Their meeting was meant to be, after they both misread the instructions for the hackathon and turned up at 8am instead of 8pm! I caught up with Max and Spencer to find out about their experiences at the Hackathon.

The CruzHacks hackathon experience

Team Zenbag at the hackathon

They both said that they chose to use the TokBox API to try something new. and because of the simplicity of integrating it with their project. They took advantage of some of the sample apps available, such as ARKit and ScreenSharing on iOS.

As they only had 48 hours to develop their app, there is still plenty left to play around with. If they were to continue developing, they would try having more than one feed coming into the app at once. Perhaps they would also find a way to be able to walk around the cube and see four different people drawing.

One of the topics we chatted about was favorite hackathon foods and they both chose chocolate, but Max specifically loved Awake chocolate, aka a caffeinated chocolate bar.  

Hackers’ heroes

Of the many things we discussed, we talked about video chatting with famous people. Spencer mentioned that he would love to video chat with Elon Musk, Larry Page and Sergey Brin because he found them very inspiring. He found Larry and Sergey particularly inspirational as they were grad students who were just having fun but managed to grow their company into one of the biggest in the world.

Elon Musk was on Max’s list too, along with Bill Gates and Peter Thiel. He said he found it amazing how they all have different political viewpoints but work together in the same industry and share a belief in getting the fundamentals right and growing from there.

Overall, Hashir and I had a great weekend. We left feeling inspired by the creativity and energy shown by all the students. I’m really looking forward to meeting more developers at HackMentalHealth, but in the meantime, why not have a go yourself? Our Video Chat Embeds are really easy to get up and running in no time at all, and our Developer Center is full of resources for building applications with our API!