KC Digital Drive is giving all those interested in the field of augmented reality or virtual reality a new opportunity to solve real world problems through innovative solutions, explained Aaron Deacon.
“[KC Digital Drive’s Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality (AR/VR) Heartland Developer Challenge] is a series that goes from the early ideation phase to project development. We really want people who want to have a hand in developing applications that are going to have some benefit to people’s lives,” said Deacon, who serves as the managing director at KC Digital Drive.
The nonprofit works to make Kansas City a digital leader, while addressing issues at the intersection of social need and emerging technology, Deacon shared. In working toward the organization’s mission, it launched the (AR/VR) Heartland Developer Challenge — a workshop series that aims to connect entrepreneurs, hackers, graphic designers, developers and other creative minds through AR and VR.
Click here to check out KC Digital Drive.
The challenge is divided into several months, starting with the Design and Discovery workshop on March 30. KC Digital Drive will host presentations and discussions, as well as form teams and give them the opportunity to create a project canvas, Deacon explained. At the end of the workshop, three teams will be awarded $1,500 to develop their idea.
All teams (even those not receiving funding) will start developing their products for a Hackathon slated for May 14-16. KC Digital Drive will provide teams with tools, mentors and educational resources. There will also be high-tech equipment for teams to experiment with, Deacon added.
At the Hackathon, teams are expected to develop their full-functioning product and then present the work completed and business concept to a panel of judges. First place will be awarded $10,000 and second place will receive $5,000.
Finally, come August 26, teams will have completed their minimum viable product to be presented at Demo Day.
“It’s a great chance to develop new skills, while also expressing the skills you already have in a meaningful way,” Deacon said. “… Also there is some money available to help with the development which is a nice incentive to keep going.”
Click here to sign up for the augmented reality / virtual reality developer challenge.
Joining Deacon in organizing the six-month-long challenge is Kansas City serial entrepreneur Jim Starcev, who started with KC Digital Drive as a program manager in October 2020.
“I love what KC Digital Drive does,” Starcev said. “We touch a lot of different things in a lot of different ways in order to do good for Kansas City. … We bring together a lot of different groups of people who may otherwise not have a way to connect; [for example], bringing the enthusiasts who want to do AR/VR with our health innovation team to solve some real problems.”
U.S. Ignite, a national partner with KC Digital Drive, inspired the AR/VR Heartland Developer Challenge, Starcev noted.
“They launched this challenge last fall and were calling different cities to do the same,” he shared. “So we got involved with a lot of companies in this area to help us raise the funds and get this off the ground.”
The premier sponsor for this challenge is T-Mobile. Other sponsors include: Intel, 1623 Farnam, Code for KC and Unite Private Networks.
The duo is hoping to attract both students and experienced professionals to the challenge. Because of the virtual nature of this series, anyone in the United States can register — but funded teams must have at least one team member in either Kansas City or Omaha, they noted.
For anyone who is interested but on the fence, Starcev suggested joining the Design and Discovery workshop to connect with others and learn more about the possibilities.
“We are really trying to bring together all the people who are interested in this field,” Starcev said. “It’s a chance to meet other people who are curious [about AR/VR] or have been working in it for a while. It’s a great networking opportunity.”