Abbey Road Red Hackathon 2019 - ‘The Power of Immersion' - Winners Announced!

In the same studio that witnessed some of the biggest milestones in audio recording, from the first ever stereo recording in 1935, to the pioneering quadrophonic recording of Pink Floyd’s The Dark Side of The Moon, over 80 hand-picked developers, designers, artists and music producers experimented with spatial computing, Facebook’s Spark AR platform, game engines, light hacking as well as spatial audio and the legendary gear of Abbey Road Studios to create new dimensions of artistic expression.
 
Hackathon 2019 took place over 36-hours in the iconic Studio Two, across Saturday 9 and Sunday 10 November and centred around the theme ‘The Power of Immersion’. The strategic partner for this year’s Hackathon was Facebook, whose Spark AR technology was key to allowing hackers to develop their solutions. Spark AR provides the tools for designing, developing and publishing custom augmented reality effects across the Facebook family of apps.

Dominika Dronska, Head of Digital at Abbey Road Studios said: “Today for us is a celebration of collaboration, the perfect blend of technology and creativity. As on many occasions in the Studios’ history, we are building tools ahead of their time, preparing for future generations of artists. With the rise of virtual and augmented musical experiences, we challenged the room to push the boundaries of immersion, to spatialise audio and augment musical performances.”
 
 
As the 17 teams worked through the night, they drew inspiration from innovators and artists presenting their newest work to the room. Professor Kelly Snook, a former NASA researcher, data sonification scientist and music producer presented the first prototypes of Concordia, an immersive musical instrument for scientific exploration based on the work of Johannes Kepler, which allows people to experience and play the music of the planets.

Halina Rice, an avant-electro music producer, artist and remixer showcased an immersive soundscape on Saturday night with projections from visual artist and interactive designer Jan Petyrek.
 
 
The Hackathon also welcomed Dutch producer, songwriter, singer and performer Chagall, who first gained recognition as an early-adopter of the MI·MU wireless data gloves and a motion capture suit giving her full body presence in her music and 360 visuals. Adopting the theme of immersion, Chagall explored new ways of immersive performance and closed the weekend’s events with an incredible live show, incorporating new technologies and techniques built during the Hackathon.

Chagall said: “Everyone who steps into this space has this historic sensation and it’s amazing to think about all the beautiful and time-changing music that has been made here, and that it is still happening today as part of the Hack. There’s all this history, but we are focusing on the new things. I came here to do a performance and I ended up hacking myself because I was inspired by all of this stuff happening and all these genius minds in one space, so I wanted to be part of it too.”
 
 

The Winners!

After 24 hours, the teams presented their concepts to the jury, who were assessing creativity and technical innovation. The expert jury comprised:

Isabel Garvey, Managing Director, Abbey Road Studios

Jay Katsuyama, VP Technology, Universal Music Group

Steve Kelly, Senior Director of Innovation and Technology, Universal Music Group

Edgar Neto, Partner Engineer, Facebook

Mirek Stiles, Head of Audio Products, Abbey Road Studios

Guillaume Le Nost, Executive Director, Creative Technologies, L-ISA
 

Pocket Venue & Cros Crowd Singer FB Filter

The Best Hack of the Year was from team Pocket Venue who won both the Spark AR first prize, having broken all the rules by going against the mentors’ advice and combining three separate technologies to drive each other to create an interactive AR music player. Pocket Venue walked away with prizes comprising four Oculus Quests.

Spark AR’s second prize went to Cros Crowd Singer FB Filter, whose app allows multiple players to control sound in the room through facial expressions applied through a face filter.
 
 

Hear The World & Dy\nSpac

L-ISA's prize was granted to Dy\nSpac who extracted specific audio features (e.g. onset, root-mean-square, spectral centroid) and using a set of rules, use this info to create a spatial audio configuration, and achieved spatial smart mixing in one prototype app.

An inspiring example of accessible design was shown by team Hear The World who sought to empower the visually-impaired by leveraging the power of soundscape design. Their system analyses images for known objects, translating them into sound textures relevant to each one. As a result, they won both L-ISA’s second prize and the Audio Commons prize of a free recording session in the Media Studios at Queen Mary University, London.
 
 

Alive, Beat Buddies AR & Abbey Road In A Box

The next prizes awarded were:

The Tenzing Prize for the Best Energy On Stage went to Sian Cross’ Alive, which is a multi-sensory experience that navigates human reality through functional music.

The London Field Brewery Prize for the Most Immersive Experience went to Beat Buddies AR, which is a shareable, collaborative music game, immersing users in an environment inspired by the track.

The Unity Prize for the Team with the Best Game On went to Abbey Road In A Box, which is an interactive spatial recreation of Abbey Road’s Studio Two.
 
 

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