My first Hackathon! Jazz Hands

I had my first hackathon three weeks ago. So much fun! 
So what did I build?
An app to display pre-existing captions in the cinema for the deaf and hearing impaired. Sounds cool? Read on.

The Problem

Deaf people can’t hear movies. I’m deaf. I use this. It is essentially a giant dongle that sits in the cupholder and displays the captions of the movie. For me it is awesome.

A wonderful concept, but executed poorly

A wonderful concept, but executed poorly

However this large paraphernalia is large and embarrassing to parade around with. None of my deaf friends use it. Sometimes I arrive at the cinemas and the dongle is flat. That really ruins my evening. A flat dongle is pretty useless. I wish I could just pull out my phone and watch the captions like this instead…

Got my captions on my phone!

Got my captions on my phone!

I already have the subtitle file (its online). So I made an auto syncing caption player.

I decided to use a voice recognition API, and listen for parts of the audio, and “fire” the caption player in time with the movie. It sounds so simple, but it took a whole weekend! (A more detailed explanation of the problem)

The cool things I learned while doing this hack:


Delegating to other team members is difficult. But if you find a nice chunk of self contained work and hand it off properly you can literally clone your efforts! Haha super powers!

Swift is changing swiftly

Swift (the iOS language) is a slippery beast. A wonderful clean language in violent flux. Every snippet in StackOverflow, needs a few dozen changes before it works which tends to shake my confidence.

Also, searching for answers to 'swift' problems tends to get this result:

Searching for answers on swift related problems...

Searching for answers on swift related problems...

Apple loves squeezing money out of you

Signing apps in Xcode sucks. I had so many headaches trying to deploy to my actual device. Apple is starting to restrict the usage of certain API’s (siriKit) to those with a $150 paid developer licence. That really sucks. Apple also only allows 10 app IDs every 7 days for an unpaid developer. Be warned.

Apple charges  you  to build things for  them  : (

Apple charges you to build things for them : (

People with different skill sets teach surprising things

While my dad (yes he was hacking away too) was building the subtitle player, I paired with Brian, a fellow from Queensland Health IT. He works in IT support. He was dubious about his value as a hacking dev but together we were awesome.

Go Team!

Go Team!

Pairing with Brian kept the up the momentum and armed me with a fresh set of eyes. As an administrator he had excellent experience in making sense of error logs and hunting down hidden configurations when we were wiring things together. I learned a lot from his approach.

With 2 hours to go, I finally had a viable demo to show the judges! Commit! Push! Beer!


We got second place! However the real reward was enjoying my Steve Jobs moment in front of the judging panel. I played the movie, started the app… and hey presto! The captions appeared and synchronised perfectly!


Thanks to all who helped run the event. I will be a big advocate for this one next year!
And a very special mention to my Perth counterparts who completed a beautiful user interface in a sister project during the same hack!