Hackathon Explores the Future of Learning through Virtual Reality

The Isobar NowLab kicked off the summer with a VR Hackathon: Learn By Doing.  For the first time our Hackathon was office-wide, incorporating offices throughout the US and South America.

Right now the future of learning is at a pivotal moment with regard to VR and so, we arrived at our theme, Learn by Doing. There is so much out there – so many innovative ideas that inspire us and propel us to create something even better.  Collaboration in virtual reality fosters a new social integration of learners and we set out to explore just that.

The Hackathon also kicked off our new partnership with Unity, the number one platform for mobile and desktop games, virtual and augmented reality and other next-generation types of apps for emerging hardware platforms. By sharing expertise in engineering resources, training and education, we are working collaboratively to understand how brands can best take advantage of all the changes ahead of us.

Over fifty participants, across all five offices, with participants from all disciplines, were charged with creating a room-scale VR experience and accompanying website, in one weekend that allows users to “Learn By Doing.”  Ahead of the weekend, participants received the following as food-for-thought to inspire their projects:

  • Political Intelligence: Through combining VR with big data.  By creating a digital world of political actors, influencers, and networks using big data, users can have better insight into the global political system, and become more engaged citizens.
  • Architectural blueprints: So architects can better communicate their ideas – to their clients, or governments, and people who will use their buildings.  Instead of struggling to visualize a floor plan, walk through a VR simulation of a building, and give feedback directly to the architect as you go.
  • Early education: So children can visualize abstract concepts, such as coding. Even small children can have a concrete understanding of how to program, if it is visualized in a compelling way.

The end result? Five innovative, comprehensive VR campaigns that truly brought the future of learning to the next level. The final projects all took a different approach, making it truly challenging for the judges to arrive at a winner. Alas, after hours of deliberation, they chose the one that has the potential for massive impact.

In first place, Porto Alegre: The team created an experience that puts users in someone else’s shoes, allowing them to experience the world through their eyes. The three initial simulations a user can go through include: white male, female (no race indicated) and someone from a social minority group. This group took VR to a new place by telling a story and making social commentary in a way that provided humor while also tackling a very serious and important subject. This was not just an application, it was art. Learn more about their experience here: https://thegameoflivesvr.tumblr.com

Coming in second was the Boston office team: The team out of Boston had a unique set of circumstances – no developers.   Of course, they didn’t let that stop them. They created an experience that gave users a first-hand look at what it is like to experience every day activities, like grocery shopping, with a disability. The disabilities they focused on, given the short time, were glaucoma, macular degeneration, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, height restrictions and vertigo. Though they had no developers, they were able to create an application that takes advantage of one of the most powerful abilities of the HTC Vive / VR – The ability to create empathy. There are many future implications from this app and what they were able accomplish in a short period of time without a lot of technology horsepower shows what a unique tool Unity can be. Check out their site, here: https://braydenvarr.wixsite.com/commonground

In no particular order, the New York, Detroit and Chicago offices all followed the previous two. For a quick look at those…


  • New York: The New York office took a bit of a different approach, choosing to look internally. Users going through their experience will learn about themselves by making choices presented in the game. At the end, users are given one of four personality types based on their choices throughout. Inspired by psychologists, this project took a look at the future of self assessment – learn more here: https://willcyphers.wixsite.com/loko
  • Chicago: What can be really boring to learn sitting behind a school desk? Chemistry? Check. With that in mind, the Chicago team built a project that brought the Periodic Table to life. Their interactive experiences allows users to “create” compounds and see immediate results, such as Starbucks labels at the creations of coffee. Taking classroom learning to a new level, the future is promising for applications such as this – check out more here: https://derickdavis123.wixsite.com/chicagovrhackathon
  • Detroit: As we all know, learning a language can be very difficult with a textbook. The Detroit team took that to heart by creating an experience that brings conversational language learning to the user. Starting with French, users are transported to a café in France to have a conversation with a local, learning how to order and a bit of history along the way as well. For more on that, click here: https://languageleap.tumblr.com/

We are already excited to build on these projects, take them to clients and see what innovative ideas the team has next. Thank you to all who participated – your dedication and hunger for innovation is inspiring.