UnifyID @ HackMIT

I just got back from HackMIT, and what a crazy, intense experience it was. For those who don’t know, HackMIT is a 24-hour hackathon with over 1,000 students from all over the country and the world, all hacking on some very cool stuff. I was on the judging panel as well as acted as a mentor, helping students debug issues with a wide variety of technologies like node.js/Express, cocoapods and Swift 3, Ethereum smart contracts, Angular and Javascript, 502 errors on HTTP requests, and a bunch of other issues. A few students came up to me after they recognized UnifyID from our TechCrunch video and wanted to take photos together.

I met a lot of great students from all over the US, Europe, and South America. I also gave a tech talk where we demonstrated our implicit authentication technology in action with a volunteer from the audience. Being a technical crowd, I was able to dive deep into the technical aspects with some of the actual data in a Jupyter notebook. People were amazed by some of the unique aspects to human movement and how much information you can get from the accelerometer and gyroscope in your phone!

HackMIT had tons of free food/drinks/activities. They had no soft drinks because they were encouraged to avoid unhealthy drinks, but they had plenty of Red Bull (?). And unlimited Soylent, too. Plus food/snacks at all hours of the day and night, like fresh smoothies at midnight and hot waffles with chocolate in the morning. And crazy activities like the 2am shakedown and the 7 minute workout outside in the wee hours of the morning.

Many/most teams stayed up all night hacking. There was a wide variance in hacking ability but the top teams were truly astonishing in what they were able to build in 24 hours. All of the top ten were amazing and it was hard to choose.


The ultimate winner was “WindowShare”. They built an awesome cross-platform tool where you can drag any window between computers and it seamlessly copies the program’s file and opens it on the other machine. Like if you open a text file in TextEdit on a Mac, you can drag the window over and the contents appear in a Notepad window on the Windows machine. Likewise for images and Chrome windows/tabs. They also implemented remote mouse so you could move your mouse on the other screen as well and control it without messing up the original mouse. They implemented in Java with JNI and socket communication.

The runner-up was a book-reading bot that used the phone, OCR, and text-to-speech to read (physical) books aloud. It also used a motorized mechanism including a computer fan to reliably turn pages.

We also added a honorable mention: “Fretless”, an MIT team that built a Guitar Hero like contraption that hooks to your violin. It takes a MIDI file and lights up where you are supposed to press your fingers so you can learn how to play real songs.

All of the top ten projects were amazing and the teams got a ton done in 24 hours! To everyone who participated, I say “Hack on!”