Vodafone TOBi Hackathon – A Winning Experience for All

Kevin Mobbs impressions, interviews

elastic.io and mVISE at Vodafone TOBi Hackathon

It has been a week since several of our mVISE and elastic.io developers attended the Vodafone TOBi Hackathon at the Vodafone Sky Lounge in Düsseldorf. Some of them were in the 3rd place team and all contributed greatly to the future success of the TOBi Chatbot. Teams formed, ideas flowed, problems were overcome, and the air was filled with the sounds of developer’s keystrokes!

Winning solutions created included:

  • TOBi as challenge-based game – including an elastic.io integration with IBM Watson
  • TOBi as an emotionally responsive assistant – including facial-emotion recognition
  • TOBi as a digital Shopping assistant – including WhatsApp integration

Here is how the TOBi Hackathon happened!

An intensive 24-hours of ideation, development, and pitching started with the formation of teams by Vodafone. Each of the 8 teams was selected so they contained at least 3 developers, 1-2 UX or conversation designers, and 1-2 ‘business brains’. This meant that not all 8 mVISE and elastic.io developers were able to work together, but they did get great input from their new team-mates.

Teams with mVISE and elastic.io experts

The teams got an extensive briefing from Vodafone managers who presented TOBi’s current status and defined the scope that ideas should address. The core challenge was to improve the level of engagement with TOBi and of course the perceived quality of conversations between TOBi and Users.

We had really interesting guys in our team and they generated a lot of great input.

Nick Shkarupa, elastic.io

What followed the briefing was a session of wild creativity within each of the groups. This ideation phase lasted as long as 4 hours, as teams collected ideas and prioritized them for impact and feasibility. The next phase was modelling, where they would make mock-ups and select technology stacks. It was starting to get dark before each team member understood their responsibility and the coding could begin. The next phase of the TOBi Hackathon was realizing the idea!

Seeing how the teams combined a range of different technology stacks was really incredible for me. I am inspired now to explore these technologies at home!

Oleksandr Zosyck, mVISE AG

From dusk till dawn

While development was ongoing, part of the Design and Business members responsibility was to start preparing for pitching their work at the end of the sprint. Many ‘business brains’ were also busy acting as Product Owners, helping developers understand requirements and often redefining them as new challenges were arising. Several of our mVISE software developers also experienced this role by providing direction and priorities for fellow developers.

Early morning in the SkyLounge

As the night continued into the early hours of the morning, many teams started to tire but worked on to meet the deadline of Saturday afternoon when 10-minute pitches had to be delivered. As dawn broke across the Düsseldorf skyline, there remained only a few hours to finalise code, run tests and coordinate the pitches. Tension was high, but each team was rightly proud of the ideas, and of the code they developed in such a short time. Would the judges of the Vodafone TOBi Hackathon feel the same?

It was a totally different way to work, but I really enjoyed intensively coding all of our integrations and features

Arsenii Zhdanov, elastic.io
New Chatbot avatar sketches

Here is how the Vodafone Jury decided:

1st place – New Application of TOBi in Stores (Prize: iPhones)

TOBi is present in Digital advertising screens as an assistant for shoppers.
Image recognition O2O.

2nd place – Emotionally responsive Chatbot for online shopping (Prize: Cameras)

Using emotion recognition to steer the interaction.

3rd place – Gamification of the chatbot interaction (Prize: Tickets for Counterstrike Event)

A more human-looking avatar using image recognition to create games for users.

Several of our elastic.io developers were present in the team that received 3rd place.  An important component of their solution was an integration with IBM Watson using the elastic.io iPaaS. This enabled a gamified interaction with TOBi in the form of Pokemon Go types of challenges. TOBi would suggest a location or object as a challenge and users would receive rewards when they uploaded a selfie of themselves at the location, or with the object. Here, an elastic.io connector to IBM Watson enabled the all-important image recognition.

Congratulations to Arseni and Nick for their 3rd place award at the Vodafone TOBi Hackathon and to all our developers and managers who contributed!

We learned that we can deliver a lot of product in a very short time

Dmytro Pugovkin, mVISE AG

About the Author

Kevin Mobbs

Kevin has a background in Molecular Microbiology research and technological product development. Following a brief academic research career Kevin first experienced product development with the succesful startup Genera Technologies. This was then followed by seven-year’s experience as a Product Manager with QIAGEN and Lonza in the biotech devices industry, over 5 years successful innovation consulting for crowd-sourcing SaaS pioneers InnoCentive as well as the world’s largest re-insurer, Munich RE. Kevin is an advocate of design thinking methods and enabling ‘dumb questions ‘ to be asked and answered. ‘If something cannot be made fun, then it may not be worth doing!’


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