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What it took to win the tvOS Hackathon

by Basil Shikin on Apr 22, 2016

While the two winners of the tvOS Hackathon couldn’t be more different in terms of utility, they had one very solid thing in common: they were built by teams of two, each one consisting of a hard-core UX designer and a hard-core iOS dev.

Runtastical

During the Hackathon, we wondered why 16-year-old Carter Sande — the youngest participant at the event and a junior at Livermore Valley Charter Prep — kept running in place. When he and his teammate Daniel Schwartz, a UX designer, unveiled their app Sunday morning, we understood why: they’d built an app that you can use to go for a run in your living room.

“When I came to the Hackathon, I had the idea for an app you could run with on rainy days,” said Carter. At first, he said, he was going to try to build it on his own, but then he met Daniel at the event, and they were both excited about collaborating to build the app.

Daniel said that storyboarding the app was crucial, and really focusing on key goals that the users can get out of it. “Great software comes when great engineering and UX work well together and you iterate,” said Daniel.

Runtastical1

With Runtastical, one of two winners of the tvOS Hackathon, the Apple TV remote detects the user’s pace.

The result of “iterating together”? Runtastical: an app built in fewer than 24 hours that offers an immersive, stationary running or jogging experience, detecting how fast the user is running in place (thanks to the remote, which stays in the user’s pocket) and “slowing” the immersive environment accordingly. It even notifies friends and rewards the user with relevant GIFs when milestones are reached.

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Runtastical users can choose the landscape through which they run.

“The main thing I learned is that at first glance, the Apple TV remote seems like it would be limited and hard to work with,” Carter said. “But you can use it in easy, effective ways.”

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Milestones are called out and friends can congratulate users.

Tune Pop

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Tune Pop‘s graphics were done by Ki Han, a creative director.

With Tune Pop, the other $5,000 prize winner at the Hackathon, users can collaborate to create dynamic music playlists by submitting tracks and voting for them; users’ phones function as remotes for interaction on the Apple TV screen via a companion iOS app. Users can also share animated GIF reactions to songs as they are played. The creation of Ki Han and Chase Acton, a creative director and iOS developer respectively, Tune Pop was designed with house parties in mind.  

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With Tune Pop, users can give tracks the thumbs up or down.

Chase and Ki work closely together at Propeller Health, where just recently they built and submitted the company’s re-designed app. They came up with the idea for Tune Pop over lunch one day about a month ago, and given their work relationship, slid right into their usual roles while at the Hackathon: Ki did the wireframes, design spec redline, and final design while Chase did the engineering. “All features and tweaks were a total team effort,” said Ki.

The tvOS Hackathon was the Tune Pop team’s first hackathon and it helped them transform their idea into an actual app. “The tvOS Hackathon motivated us to get it done,” Ki said, adding that he and his teammate are now hard at work updating the app as they plan to submit it to the app store within four weeks.

What great work! We’re so glad Runtastical and Tune Pop came together so beautifully at the Hackathon, and we look forward to staying on top of what these talented developers do next. 

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Basil Shikin is AppLovin’s VP of Engineering.

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