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AR/VR Africa Holding First Augmented/Virtual Reality Hackathon Across The Continent

Judith Okonkwo gives her insight into how immersive technology is expanding in Africa.


Imisi 3D is the leading extended reality creation lab in Nigeria founded by Judith Okonkwo, it was set up to help build the ecosystem and community of virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) content creators in Nigeria and across the continent. VRFocus spoke to Judith Okonkwo on her ambitious hackathon event, which will be held across seven countries across the continent.


Okonkwo is a business psychologist and futurist who decided in 2014 that she wanted to move back to the African continent. She ended up in Lagos, Nigeria where she met one of the co-founders of a new company called Andela. Their aim was to pay, train and get ambitious young people with or without experience in coding to become world class developers within six months. Returning to Lagos in 2016 she set up Imisi 3D, hoping to branch out from Nigeria and collaborate with other countries across the continent. She spent a year helping them set up in Nigeria, before heading back to the UK. Returning to Lagos in 2016 she set up Imisi 3D, and in 2016 held Nigeria’s first Virtual Reality hackathon.


Initially Okonkwo was hoping to have participants and workshop leaders all fly in to Nigeria, however she realised that this was too expensive without a sponsor on board. Participants were chosen and prepped two months before the hackathon took place, with full access to the Imisi lab to prepare for the event. 2016’s hackathon winners were a team that created LEVRN, a VR experience where you learn how to code through hand gestures. This was done by putting a Leap Motion onto a Samsung Gear VR. The team are still working on LEVRN, developing it so that it may be used it locally. Another example of a solution that came out of the 2016 event was a tourism VR experience that used 360 degree video and additional graphics to showcase various tourist locations around Nigeria. The plan was to have a feature to help you subsequently book a trip to a featured location if the user wanted to go there.


“What was really exciting from the last hackathon, people create solutions that we can start to implement in place like Lagos.” says Okonkwo. “AR and VR can have a tremendous impact on the African continent but only if we are able to adapt these technologies to our own needs.”


The 2018 hackathon is more ambitious. Being held on the 20th to the 22nd of April, it will take place across seven countries: Egypt, Tunisia, Nigeria, Cameroon, Mozambique, South Africa and Kenya. It will last 48 hours and will have over 35 teams participating. Okonkwo now has the support of Facebook, GitHub and Unity and the hackathon also has over $15,000 (USD) worth of prizes. Okonkwo says she’s doing this to, “get people to understand that these technologies are there and available for them to use. And even more importantly get them to start thinking about how they can use them to apply to their realities locally.” With the team of Creating Our Future, she hopes teams will build VR and AR solutions for sectors in education, healthcare, tourism, the environment and social justice. Similar to the hackathon in 2016, participants will benefit from a series of learning opportunities and access mentors in the run up to the hackathon.


All applicants will expect to be able to travel and be available in the seven countries the hackathons are hosted in. Okonkwo isn’t sure where participants might be coming from but she says, ” I think it’s likely a place like Kenya you’ll see participants from Uganda or Tanzania.” - www.vrfocus.com


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