Google Glass hackathon in Islamabad

An edited version of this article was first published in The Express Tribune on Dec 29, 2013.

Islamabad – They have seen through the “Glass” and now they want the world to know about their skills.

Pakistani web developers, programmers and students, who attended a Google Glass bootcamp and “hackathon” in the federal capital on Friday and Saturday, seemed excited and committed about putting Pakistan on the global map for designing applications for Google’s yet-to-be-commercially-launched wearable technology.

Google Glass is a “wearable technology” device — a computer, basically — which Google started testing in 2012. It is worn like normal eyewear and the display appears in a lens attached to the device. Glass is controlled using voice commands and a touch pad on the side of the Glass frame.

The two-day hackathon — an event where programmers and coders collaborate on software projects with the goal of creating a workable software by the end of the event — was organised by Moftak Solutions, an IT services and web development company that has been around for the past 10 years, at its Islamabad office.

“It is the first-ever Google Glass-related code jam in Pakistan,” said Fakhar Abbas, a marketing manager at Moftak said. “Only around 2,000 hardware pieces have been sold or handed out by Google for testing so far, so

The limited availability of the device means most Pakistani programmers and web developers do not have much exposure to Glass or the way its apps work, said Najam Sikander

Najam Sikander, a Project Manager at Moftak, said Moftak Chief Executive Officer got a chance to acquire Glass when he attended the 2012 Google I/O Conference in San Francisco.

Some Islamabad developers who had worked on Glass-related projects for foreign clients had to send their code abroad for testing because they did not possess Google Glass hardware, Sikander said.

Abbas said after acquiring the Google Glass hardware, they decided to share it with other web developers instead of greedily using it by themselves. He said the idea was to get others to code applications for Glass so that Pakistan could have a representation in Glass app development.

A hackathon is an event, which could last from a day to a week, where web developers and programmers get together and collaborate on software projects, often with the goal of creating a working software or application by the end of the event.

For example, a student hackathon at Princeton University, USA, in November 2013 led to some students creating the popular website “What would I say?” that uses words in existing Facebook status updates from a user’s profile to create quirky sentences.

Hackathons have gained prominence worldwide over the past few years, with even technology bigwigs such as Google and Microsoft holding their own hackathons.

Participants — around 20 to 40 people attended the hackathon over the two days  — seemed warming up to that idea.

There are only 10 to 15 Glass applications or “apps” available so far, Abbas said.

“Pakistan is an emerging IT country and it would be real nice if we can get a Pakistani app up on Google Glass,” said Jehanzeb Malik, a Senior Software Engineer at Red Buffer, who attended the hackathon.

Malik said he and his team, which comprised of other hackathon participants including students, were trying to get a basic idea of Glass and they hoped to build a basic gaming app for such as tic-tac-toe for Glass by the end of the event on Saturday evening.

In another room, a four-member team of hackathon participants was working on designing an app for Glass that users could use to get access to web services such as finding out the local time at a given geographic location.

Waheeduddin, a 7th semester electrical engineering student at the National University of Sciences and Technology, said attending the hackathon provided him the opportunity to connect with professional web developers and learn from them.

Abid Khan, a final semester Computer Science student at National University of Modern Languages, said the event was a good motivation factor and they were able to learn about the

Participants thanked Moftak for allowing them to have a hands-on training and development session with Google Glass.

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