Last weekend I was in Waterloo, Ontario for Hack the North 2017, the largest hackathon in Canada. Justin Trudeau showed up, so you know it’s a big deal! I love traveling to hackathons, meeting new people, and working on cool projects, so it was a fantastic weekend!

The Project

We built an app called AR Planes that lets you visualize and discover the planes flying around you. It uses ARKit to show all of the planes nearby in augmented reality. You can tap on a plane to find out additional information, like the airline, origin airport, and final destination.

None of my team had experience with augmented reality before, so it was a big learning experience for us. We had to build out a system that ingests all of the planes in the sky every second, finds the nearby planes, and then maps the longitude/latitude/altitude information to actual points within the augmented reality scene.

That gave us the 3D planes in the sky, but getting human-readable metadata about the flight itself (airline, destination airport, etc.) was a different story. There doesn’t seem to be freely available API that suits these purposes, so we resorted to scraping for the information we needed. Once we had that, we could render the information as a card overlay in the scene.

Once it all came together at the end of the hackathon, it worked great! We placed Top 14 (out of 220 teams!) and got to present our hack at the closing ceremonies.

Video Demo

The Team

AR Planes wouldn’t have been possible without such a great team! I worked with my friend Mantas, who I met while I was working at Airbnb this summer, and our new friend Olivia, who we met on the first night of the hackathon. It’s always a treat to work with such skilled people and be able to trust that they’ll deliver some great work.

Next up is HackGT in October!