As a team committed to enabling growth and innovation, we feel so honored to create opportunities that drive value for global developers and creators - and the projects, businesses and ideas that matter to them.
By curating events like hackathons and developer jams, as well as providing access to technical resources and our product teams, we’re able to connect innovators with experiences that strengthen their expertise, supercharge their solutions, and offer some great perks and prizes as well.
After running a series of in-person hackathons at the end of last year, we kicked off 2020 with our first-ever Facebook Online Hackathon in February - where we welcomed participants to submit entries across PyTorch, Messenger and Spark AR. We were struck by the potential of so many of the submissions - including a winning entry by Harry Banda of Zambia who used the power of Spark AR to gamify a learn-to-code experience called Rabbit Coder.
Harry, who has competed in all of our hackathons this year, said, “I’ve learned how to create mobile and web applications with React Native, boost my Messenger experiences with artificial intelligence components from Wit.ai, and implement complex gamification using Spark AR. The balance of competition and collaboration within the hackathons motivates me to become a better innovator.”
When the pandemic triggered widespread lockdowns around the world in March, we put our heads and hearts together with peers from the tech industry, as well as health and science partners including the World Health Organization and UNICEF, to support the #BuildforCOVID19 Global Online Hackathon. This virtual event brought together nearly 19,000 innovators to address a broad set of challenges related to the pandemic.
There were so many important and impactful solutions that came out of the hackathon, but one that continues to move us is high school student Gina Choi’s project, Notes for Support - an online platform for sending notes of gratitude to frontline healthcare workers, and well-wishes to COVID-19 patients. Gina’s web application has so far powered over 11,500 notes to more than 160 hospitals. She even received support from major organizations including the San Francisco 49ers football team, who promoted the service via their Instagram and Facebook channels. You can check out more details on Gina’s solution on this highlighted projects website created by our friends at Hack Club, a student-led coding organization.
In May, we continued with our second Facebook Online Hackathon, providing opportunities for developers to build with Messenger, Spark AR and - for the first time - our artificial intelligence product, Wit.ai. The momentum continued with some truly groundbreaking solutions including Indonesia-based Dimas Nashiruddin Al Faruq’s project, HayLingo! - an immersive language learning companion built on Messenger.
“We set out to create a valuable education experience that was both conversational and intuitive. We leveraged Messenger features including Quick Reply, as well as Wit.ai’s natural language processing capabilities, to create a virtual classroom designed to entertain and challenge students. The access to expert resources and documentation provided throughout the hackathon really helped us polish the final solution - so much so, that I’ve now taken the next step and launched HayLingo! as a startup!” - Dimas Nashiruddin Al Faruq
Our third and final hackathon of the year kicked off at the end of July, with a continued focus on supporting builders who are passionate about Messenger, Spark AR and Wit.ai. The hackathon coincided with the launch of Instagram Reels, prompting a range of entertaining and imaginative Spark AR submissions, but we also saw some brilliant Wit.ai solutions too - like Spanish developer Javier Campos’ project, Fitness Voice. Fitness Voice is an AI voice-controlled ‘personal trainer’ for web browsers, leveraging Wit.ai’s natural language processing capabilities, as well as body pose recognition and a strong focus on user privacy.
“I believe that artificial intelligence and natural language processing have the power to revolutionize so many of our day-to-day activities for the better. I created Fitness Voice for people who might not feel safe or healthy working out in public right now. During the hackathon, I was able to join Q&A live streams with Wit.ai product experts, and tap into the buzzing Facebook hackathon community to test out ideas.” - Javier Campos
Javier was also a participant in October’s Wit.ai Developer Jam. This week-long, online event brought together leading Wit.ai developers in late October with the goal of immersing them in AI technology, and providing support as they created solutions for a Design Challenge.
Another participant, US-based AI developer Yu Sun, said, “The troubleshooting advice I received helped me take my solution to the next level and equipped me with a bunch of learnings to apply. Having this direct forum with the Wit.ai team connected me with insights across custom models and built-in entities specifically, which were crucial for my project goals.”
You can learn more about the Jam in the Wit.ai team’s blog here.
Rounding out our final opportunity of 2020, I wanted to recognize the inspiring submissions we received in this year’s Developer Circles Community Challenge.
This time around, we tasked participants with uplifting their fellow innovators by creating tutorials about solutions and code that leverage Facebook products. After our regional winners announcement in November, we were thrilled to reveal the overall global winners last Friday December 18 and shine a light on some brilliant, ecosystem-led documentation across Messenger, PyTorch, React, React Native, Spark AR and Wit.ai.
Our first place winner in the intermediate/advanced category was Taiwan-based creator Hsing Huang, who developed a detailed, step-by-step guide for empowering artists to dive into the technical world of augmented reality by crafting playful pop-up cards with Spark AR.
We can’t wait to continue raising the profile of the winners and their work by showcasing the tutorials on our social and digital channels as catalysts for innovation.
Throughout such a challenging year, we’ve been deeply inspired by the resilience and resourcefulness of our ecosystem - and it’s been our privilege to offer support and guidance as they #BuildwithFacebook.
Coming up next year, we have so many fresh and exciting opportunities lined up for our thriving community of innovators. To be among the first to find out about all of the latest experiences, don’t forget to register for our Facebook for Developers newsletter.
And, lastly, on behalf of the whole Facebook team - I just wanted to thank and celebrate everyone who took part in our programs for some truly amazing innovation this year, under the most difficult of circumstances.