This article was taken from my column at Technical.ly Philly: https://technical.ly/philly/2014/10/02/3-penn-freshmen-build-future-vision-pennapps-x/
“What if a piece of software could tell you what exactly was in front of you with one simple command?” was the pitch that won ThirdEye a spot in the top 10 at last month’s PennApps X.
ThirdEye is an image recognition system for the visually impaired that takes a picture using Google Glass, recognizes what it is and tells you about it through an earpiece or speaker.
The hackers behind the innovative Google Glass app were first-time hackathon participants: Ben Sandler, Joe Cappadona and Rajat Bhageria. They were also the only all-freshmen team to make it to the top 10.
With Cappadona programming since 8th grade, Sandler having interned at a couple of tech startups and Bhageria having build his own media startup, CaféMocha, which he describes as the SoundCloud for creative writers, these three computer science majors were all excitedly anticipating their first hackathon.
Forming the ThirdEye Team
Bhageria, Cappadona and Sandler weren’t initially part of the same team. However, a few hours before the competition started, Bhageria and Cappadona’s team members backed out, so they were looking for more team members. This led to them wandering around and running into Sandler who wanted to work on a hack for the Google Glass.
Remembering the struggles that his grandfather faced as a blind man, Cappadona was hit with an app idea they could work on — an app that would allow Google Glass to recognize whatever was in front of it.
“Blind people want to be independent. They don’t want others to think that they are physically inept because they lost their sight,” Cappadona said. “They’re still fully capable of most things. This really inspired our project.”
The team now had an idea, the only problem: they barely had experience building an Android app, let alone integrating it with Google Glass.
This is where the hackathon fun came in.