I have been eagerly waiting for the last weekend. The reason was the Samsung Smart TV Hackathon. Roman Brunner and myself signed up a long time ago. Originally the hackathon was planned for february. But they couldn’t find enough participants for that date. So it was postponed and took place last weekend.
On Friday 6 PM the whole thing started. 6 Teams with up to 5 people were ready to start working on their projects. After a short introduction we could get our hands on the Smart TVs. The goal was to build an application running on a Smart TV. It didn’t matter what, but it had to work (and look beautiful).
The timeframe was 40 hours until the project presentations took place on sunday 11 AM. At this point we already knew that this amount of time would not be enough to make our application ready for sale. We decided to only implement the core features and fake everything else. As I mentioned before, finally it needs to look pretty. 😃
Broadcaster vs Smart TV
During the contest many different additional ideas arised. Imagine an application that displays additional statistics on your TV screen while watching the UEFA Champions League final or an “Ad Blocker” to get rid of the endless advertising interruptions. Sadly these ideas cannot become reality. As we were told by the Samsung engineers, this is not allowed in europe. The broadcasters don’t want anything on the screen while watching their channel. The situation looks completely different in the US or asia, where these things are allowed. In my opinion these features would make it worth buying a Smart TV.
The result of 40 hours
I can’t say I had slept enough in the last two nights, but it was enough for our presentation on sunday. Around 10:30 we “finished” the work on our application and started to prepare the short presentation.
I was very excited to present our result, but also to see the other applications. The applications where spread over many different areas. Starting from easy photo displays up to a Social TV application which allow people to watch the same movie on multiple TVs while chatting over their smartphones.
When the presentation finished it took around half an hour for the jury to decide who should win. We didn’t really hope to win something as we just participated for fun. That’s why we have not been very surprised when the german team with their social TV application won the first prize: (not) surprisingly a Samsung Smart TV. But we have really been surprised when Christoph Burgdorfer, one of the organizers, revealed the second team: Us with our application “Tournaments on TV”.
We are very proud of this result and happy with our prizes. For the second place we got a Galaxy Tab 3 and a Galaxy Note 3.
Are Smart TVs smart?
It wouldn’t have been a hackathon if there was no fun. So we also needed to play a little bit with these TVs. I was really impressed by the gesture control. When I started playing with an EyeToy for PlayStation 2 a few years back. It was just a toy and half of the time it didn’t work. But during this weekend I realized, that gesture control is still a toy, but works 99% of the time. It is very accurate and most of the time much faster then controlling the TV with a remote control.
On the other hand, the voice control didn’t convince me. For simple commands like “Up” and “Down” it worked pretty well. But from time to time the TV did crazy things, like starting Twitter and searching for random things. I’m sorry Samsung, but Siri is quite a bit ahead of you…
But the major drawback on TVs is still the keyboard. As soon as you have applications on your TV you need some sort of keyboard to enter text. E.g. for your Facebook and Youtube accounts. The only way to insert something is to use your remote (or your hand via gesture control) to select single characters on that ugly keyboard. After no more than 2 words you get annoyed.
Overall I think, Samsung’s Smart TVs did a huge step forward during the last 2-3 years, but there are still a few problems that need to be solved (e.g. text entry with “non-ugly” keyboards).
Thank you Samsung
…for this awesome event. Special thanks to Daniel Schwarzl and Christoph Burgdorfer, the main organizers. But also the technical stuff, who helped us with the TVs and its sometimes tricky API.
I really enjoyed this weekend and I already look forward for the next Hackathon which I will join for sure!
If you want to have look at the application we made during the hackathon, checkout the backend and the frontend repositories on GitHub.