Waiting made fun through VR and event packaging took the spotlight at THack Berlin

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Mobile technology and travel services – including two twists on the definition of mobile information superhighway – were front and center at last weekend’s THack Berlin travel hackathon.

Four developer teams presented prototypes for mobile apps in leisure and business travel and commercial opportunities that include messaging, chat bots and virtual reality.

In one case, a clever pitchman won acclaim from fellow developers with his “airport lounge on wheels” concept hack titled “Busy Bus.”

APIs and connectivity software tools were provided by Air Berlin, Distribusion and Xapix.io.

Air Berlin is exploring new business developments in airline and other merchandising services through online and live hackathons.

Distribusion, which raised €6 million in investment early this year, presented its inter-city bus services API to developers for the first time in an open hackathon.

XapiX.io, which has partnered with Tnooz in three THacks this year, supported both APIs by connecting Air Berlin and Distribusion endpoints to software that enables rapid development of digital prototypes.

XapiX.io has joined the current portfolio of Tech Stars companies in New York and has released the first version of its software.

Developers were asked to tackle one or more of the following challenges:

  • Business travel and its related issues of time/cost management and work/life balance
  • Consumer travel and the messy nature of multi-modal transportation that needs sorting on every leisure trip
  • Mobile travel services and how messaging and virtual assistants can help with inspiration and support before and during a journey

The winners

Best in show, determined by a panel of three judges, was an engaging mobile app by a team called “Bubble Hub.” Two US-based developers created a working app that addressed both the consumer and mobile challenge.

bubblehub

Bubble Hub’s premise is to make waiting in airport and bus station lounges more fun and practical. For a captive audience in these space, the app presents a gaming environment of virtual reality with tasks than can be commercialized by merchant advertising or travel supplier loyalty programs.

The Bubble Hub concept is a working prototype with the VR elements available to view via smartphone on its website here.

strv-cheetah

Highly commended honors went to STRV Cheetah, a five-member team from a Prague digital workshop that created an events-themed tour packaging application for concerts.

Air Berlin and Distribusion each awarded STRV their best-use-of-API prizes based on the flight-booking and bus routes built into the Cheetah app.

FRU, a team of five developers from Poland took on work-life balance within the business travel challenge.

Its mobile app used various sensors and notifications in smartphone  and wearable devices to suggest stress-reducing exercises abroad flights. One judge pointed out a more complete use case would link such on-board advice to pre-travel planning and in-destination healthy lifestyle activities.

Winning hearts and minds of developers for the THack People’s Choice award were Busy Bus and Weekend Out, two twists on “mobile travel.”

weekendoff

The four-member Berlin team at Weekend Out built a curated short-term holiday app based on three prices points and several holiday themes (for example, beach, nature, culture)

busybus

Busy Bus defined “mobile” quite differently.

The brainchild of a solo developer with a vision of an “airport lounge on wheels,” Busy Bus provides doorstep-to-doorstep delivery of business travelers from home or office to airport terminal or tarmac. Use cases extend to corporate retreats, team-building, office parties and conferences on wheels.

The Busy Bus founder plans to test market his first mobile airport lounge with his winnings.

THack Berlin hackathon winners:

  • THack overall winner (€1,500) – Bubble Hub, mobile app by US team of two developers that uses messaging, chat, virtual reality and gaming for users in airports and bus station waiting lounges.
  • THack overall highly commended project – STRV Cheetah, mobile app by Prague team of five developers that presents full-journey packages of concert and other live event information, air and bus ticketing and accommodations.
  • THack People’s Choice winner (tie, €500 each) – Weekend Out, HTML5 web and mobile application by Berlin team of four developers that curates short-term getaways at specific price points and holiday themes for spur-of-the-moment travel. Also, Busy Bus, a concept hack for “an airport lounge one wheels” by a solo Berlin developer, who presented use cases for conferences, corporate retreats and other business meetings aboard a fleet of connected buses.
  • Air Berlin API best-use prize (flight vouchers for team members) – STRV Cheetah for an elegant, functional flight-booking element within its multi-modal and events app.
  • Distribusion API best-use prize (€800 gift cards) – STRV Cheetah for use of bus routes in its multi-modal events app.

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