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“Smart Home: Accelerate Our Smart Life” - A Report from the Online Hackathon “HackTrek 2022” Aiming for Social Implementation to Conceptualize Digital Future City

Overview of article
  • HackTrek 2022, the latest edition of Epson’s constantly evolving hackathon, took place online.
  • The event aims to co-create products for smart lifestyles by connecting the home and community with people and society.
  • This article reviews the hackathon, where contestants used the Epson Connect API to redefine “paper”.

Epson is working to build the “city of the future,” where people can live comfortably. HackTrek 2022, the third of it’s series, took place completely online between March 5 and 13, 2022. The theme this year was "Smart Home: Accelerate Our Smart Life" Participants worked to redefine the home– the “What” and ”How” a home should be–which is the basis of people’s lives. Each worked to propose products aiming to achieve smart lifestyles, in which each person can live safely, securely, and comfortably.

Each time it is held, HackTrek gets updated. As a first-time experiment, the hackathon this year allowed an entire week between the orientation and demos. The challenge assigned to contestants was to propose products that could be implemented in the real world. The total possible work time was 192 hours. Read on to learn of the participants’ innovations and feel the excitement of the Demo Day.

“Accelerate the Development of Smart Cities and Lifestyles!” - A Report from HackTrek 2022, the Online Hackathon Seeking to Implement Solutions in the Real World as We Build the City of the Future

HackTrek 2022 overview
Schedule: March 5, 2022: Orientation Day, March 13, 2022: Demo Day (two meetings in total)
Entrants: 13 teams / 30 individuals
Development requirement: Must use Epson Connect API

What is the Epson Connect API?
“The API that aims to redefine the relevance of paper and lets users freely explore between the digital and the real”
A programming interface for controlling printers.
It provides a means to remotely control and execute actions on an Epson printer connected to Epson Connect. Users can easily print their local files to a remote printer.

Orientation on the first day of the hackathon

The participants gathered online from all over Japan, feeling a mix of hope and uncertainty. 30 individuals from 13 teams joined HackTrek in its pursuit of solutions that could be implemented in the real world. Participants came with a variety of backgrounds, ranging from startup executives who already have real-life experience working in app development to engineers in their first year on the job and even students.
On the first day of the event, Epson gave the participants some input along with case studies on the theme of "Smart Home: Accelerate Our Smart Life" Participants got a hands-on training with demos using the Epson Connect API. With that, ideas about how to put the API into action started to take shape.

With the hands-on sessions done, at last it was time to start hacking!
The online hackathon with 192 hours of work time started! The whole field of participants got to work.
Teams were free to use the one-week interval any way they wished. During this time, Epson provided product development support in a variety of ways. They held product consultation sessions, enabled participants to share information with each other, lent out the Epson Connect-compatible printers that participants would need for printing, and made Epson engineers available to provide API development support through Slack. When the Demo Day finally came, the organizers felt a mix of excitement and anxiety regarding whether this approach had helped the contestants come up with better-developed product proposals.

At last, it was Demo Day! There was a lot of excitement in the air to see who would seize victory.

4:00 p.m., March 13. At last, the long development period was over. All that was left to do was enjoy the presentations and product demos.
Every participant waited with anticipation to see who would win.

This year we had another high-caliber group of judges at the demos.
Everyone was eager to see what kind of products would come from the smart home theme!

At last, it was Demo Day! There was a lot of excitement in the air to see who would seize the win.

    Judging criteria

  • Will the product lead to smart lifestyles?
  • Does the idea reflect real-world testing and a market launch?
  • Is the user experience outstanding?
  • Is the idea rich in originality?

Lots of appealing products got presented. Here we introduce the winners.

G’s ACADEMY Award
“Mecha-Raku NFT Owner Shop” by Team Mecha-Raku

G’s ACADEMY Award “Mecha-Raku NFT Owner Shop” by Team Mecha-Raku

Team Mecha-Raku won the G’s ACADEMY Award for building a platform to trade the right to print NFT data.
This solution is for people who purchase NFTs but don’t know what to do with them. Now, owners can leverage their NFTs as a business by selling the right to print the data. Great job for focusing on the popularity of NFTs!

Japan Research Institute Award
“Meeting Report Card” by Team Spica

Japan Research Institute Award “Meeting Report Card” by Team Spica

The Japan Research Institute Award went to the entry “Meeting Report Card,” which lets users print out a meeting report based on participants’ expressions, behavior, vocal tone, and conversations. Congratulations!
This entry proposes a new form of online meetings based on AI expression analysis, loudness of voice, and other factors.

“Are Doko (Where is that?)” by Team MakeJam

Japan Research Institute Award “Are Doko” by Team MakeJam

The Japan Research Institute Award also went to “Are Doko (Where is that?) ,” which lets users easily digitize and manage user’s manuals and other household documents. So this year, two teams took the Japan Research Institute Award. Nice job!

Epson Award
“bansoo! (Accompaniment)” by Team qualia

Epson Award “bansoo!” by Team qualia

The Epson Award went to “bansoo!” This service motivates users to develop good habits by linking the activity they want to do with the act of printing daily photos.
The service combines digital and analog aspects. Users can print out and display photos of themselves pursuing goals and practicing habits that they might not otherwise keep up, which helps to change their behavior. Congratulations to the winning team!

Second Place
“ARBUM” by Team Pied Piper

Second Place “ARBUM” by Team Pied Piper

“ARBUM,” an app that displays AR video on top of printed photos, took Second Place. It realizes a combination of analog (photographs with AR markers) and digital (video) for an imaging experience that lets users move back and forth between the digital and the real realms, and makes them naturally want to create many memories. The idea was praised as an effective way to encourage a new boom of picture-taking among the Gen Z.
“Pied Piper,” the Second Place winning team, is also notable for its unique name, which should easily click with anyone involved in the startup world. Congratulations!

Winner
“PRENO” by Team Atata!

Winner “PRENO” by Team Atata!

The winner went to “PRENO,” an app that aims to create a world where users have plenty of pattern choices and can switch between them frequently and as easily as trying on new clothes in a fitting room. “PRENO,” whose name is a cross between “print” and “renovation,” is a content providing and printing platform. Using the PRENO app, creators can output their registered kits and easily redesign household items, wallpaper, and more.
One unique aspect is PRENO’s enhanced value as a platform, since creators will be able to share with each other the content that they make. Another is the fact that the entry took the smart home theme and hacked the very idea of “home” itself.

Many appreciated having a theme that seeks to solve a societal issue and aims for real-world implementation.

Though they were totally exhausted after their 192-hour hackathon, when the participants were asked how satisfied they were with the experience, they gave an average score of 4.46 out of a possible 5.0.

Participants’ comments
“Most of all, it was just fun. And the event was run very well.”
“One of the biggest restrictions was that we had to use a printer. That actually made it more interesting, because it brought out ideas that we wouldn’t ordinarily have considered.”
“One week was a long development period, and it felt sluggish to me. I would rather pack that time into a weekend.”
“I just want to give a big thank you to the people running the event! A week gives you time to really think about your ideas, so it was fun in a completely different way than a hackathon that takes place on two consecutive days.”

While some were disappointed that they could not make full use of their weekday time to work during the one-week hackathon, overall, this format was quite popular.
Good job to all who participated!

Judges’ comments
“Overall, the level was so high and the energy was overwhelming. It was splendid, without question. Nowadays technology is progressing so rapidly and it’s hard to predict what the future holds. In times like these, when you think about the kinds of services people will need in the future, the important thing is to ask what values are unchanging. Services that can offer unchanging value will survive, I believe. This was a good opportunity to think about material values such as printing and paper.”
From Mr. Shogoro Fujiki, CEO of Biome Inc.

“I was really impressed to see how everyone presented and developed with a lot of energy. Just wonderful. And thanks to the hackathon, I learned about the existence of Epson Connect API.”
From Chomado / Ms. Madoka Chiyoda, IT engineer and manga artist

“What made this so interesting is that it was not just an ‘idea-thon,’ but there were actual moving things to look at. It was such a fascinating time because the contestants started with product ideas and are developing them into a new future. I want to thank everyone who organized the event.”
From Ryosuke Nishiyama, CEO of FOODCODE Ltd.

As in previous years, HackTrek 2022 delivered a lot of unique ideas. We hope you picked up on the enthusiasm that was on display at the product demos. It brought together many teams who embraced the concept of “real-world implementation.” Those teams used the interval to come up with a large number of highly developed products. Each team took on the task of redefining “paper.” From that inspiration came products that move back and forth between the digital and the real and try to provide comfortable lifestyles while enhancing the value of life experiences in the home.

At the close of HackTrek 2022, Junkichi Yoshida, Seiko Epson Executive Officer and Chief Operating Officer of the Printing Solutions Division, who also served as a judge for the hackathon, addressed the contestants. He said, “You must be enormously tired. One week is a short time to take on a battle like this, and you really needed a lot of concentration and mental and physical strength. I’m sure we could never measure just how hard you worked. Thanks to your efforts, every product that got presented was very highly developed. Every concept was wonderful.
“More than a competition to determine which entries are superior, a hackathon is really meaningful in the sense that it encourages teamwork and workshops where people come together to create something. I encourage you to take the relationships you formed here and the ideas presented here and recombine those ideas to create something together. Let’s offer the world and our communities context and services that link the real to the digital. And if you have any ideas that you would like to work on with Epson, please let us know!”

Many appreciated having a theme that seeks to solve a societal issue and aims for real-world implementation.

If this has piqued your interest, please consider entering next time!
Going forward, we will continue to further update HackTreks and develop it into an event that advances new product ideas for solving societal issues.

Thanks to everyone who participated and were involved!!

Article provided by: Seiko Epson and G’s Academy

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