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Technologies have the potential to change society for better or worse. Immersive realities, such as Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and Mixed Reality (MR), are some of the most pressing emerging technologies, as prominently represented by the "metaverse". VR, for instance, offers the unique possibility of immersing oneself in a different world generated by nothing more than a computer. From simple concepts like "binocular vision," the technology has evolved to shared, real-time, and pausable or non-pausable virtual environments where people can even engage with each other.

This technological development presents a nearly endless realm of possible use cases. Immersive realities allow us to simulate surgeries for doctors without human involvement, simulate climate change to raise environmental consciousness and open completely new doors regarding individuals' social and cultural inclusion. They also allow us to cooperate around the globe without flying.

But not all of it is shiny and bright. Immersive Realities also come with challenges that need to be overcome to reach their full potential for good, including bridging universal access and digital divides, establishing responsible technology governance frameworks, navigating economic disparities, safeguarding privacy and security, and understanding the ethical considerations and cognitive impacts.

We must convene bright minds and innovative thinkers to harness the power of virtual worlds in driving progress towards meaningful societal outcomes.

This is the motivation behind the Immersive Realities Hackathon - to bring together bright minds to unleash the potential immersive realities for society, keeping in mind that equitable access, sustainable practices, and a balanced approach to innovation and responsibility are the keys to responsible immersive realities.

Details & Logistics

The 4-day hackathon from October 10 - 13 at the TUM Think Tank in Munich will bring together on the one side (at least) 100 students and 20 mentors, and on the other side policymakers, industry (from start-ups to large companies), civil society representatives (NGOs), and academia to explore challenges and opportunities of immersive realities.

The Hackathon

Interdisciplinary groups of students and young professionals will register individually or in teams to “hack out” a solution to a challenge along one of the following three thematic tracks.

Based on the following tracks, our goal is to encourage and enhance the discussions and solution finding processes along concepts like ethical implications of immersive technologies, responsibility of technological innovations and policy frameworks on privacy, data governance and fairness by implementing these questions horizontally into all of our challenges.

TRACK 1 - Pairing Artificial Intelligence and Immersive Realities: Bridging the Human Gap.

In this track, we will explore how AI and XR can work together to enhance human experiences and capabilities such as through the integration of Generative AI powered assistants in augmented environments. The general theme would revolve around the human-AI-XR relationship. A challenge could be “Develop an AR assistant that helps emergency responders during disasters”.

TRACK 2 - XR for Games, Skill Development & Learning: Playing Differently.

In this track, we will explore how immersive technologies can be applied to transform education, training and entertainment. XR offers unique possibilities for making learning more engaging and skills development more interactive. The general theme would revolve around innovative education and skill development through gamified immersive worlds. A challenge could be "Create an XR experience for refugees to learn a new language and cultural skills in a gamified format".

TRACK 3 - Virtual Society: A New Community Thread.

In this track, we will explore how interconnected immersive worlds experiences could impact traditional and form new types of online societies and communities. The general themes would revolve around the future of cultures and community identities, governance and societal processes (e.g., ownership) and global citizenship (e.g., peacekeeping). Emerging technologies like digital twins and IoT in the context of, for instance, smart cities, open up possibilities for shared virtual spaces that transcend geographical and accessibility boundaries. A challenge could be "Design a virtual democracy where citizens of different countries can participate in town hall discussions on global issues".

Parallel Activities

Surrounding the hackathon, different activities will be organised with the engaged stakeholders.
Engaged stakeholders will be offered the opportunity to co-define the hackathon challenges in a participatory manner.

Launch Event - Thursday 10th of October

To kick off the hackathon, an (open to the public) launch event will be organised on Thursday 10th of October in the afternoon/evening, starting with demos and short presentations from stakeholders wishing to share their technology and knowledge and a panel discussion on societal impacts of immersive technology. This will allow us to discuss the challenges previously defined and explain their complexities and relevance from diverse perspectives.

The Think-athon: Friday - Saturday, 11th & 12th of October

While the hackathon is ongoing, workshops will be organised on invitation for the engaged stakeholders to discuss the challenges raised for the Hackathon, problem identification, and ideal next steps concerning immersive realities research, governance, and industry. The outcomes will feed into the hackathon's outputs through potential reports (policy briefs,industry briefs, and other publications) and hopefully be the first step to advancement in the field and greater collaboration between relevant actors.

Closing Event: Sunday 13th of October

On the final day of the hackathon, in the early afternoon, a final (open to the public) panel discussion will be organised to close the hackathon and share the main takeaways. Students and mentors will be welcome to discuss their experiences in a few words, and pitch will be presented. Winners will be announced in the evening.

Engage as a Stakeholder

Want to get involved? You can join us as:
Sponsors: Organisations that provide financial or in-kind support for the hackathon (Sponsor Package: up to 5000 euros).
Partners: Entities that help organise the event and lead workshops with participants while the hackathon is ongoing.
Participants: Participate in the parallel activities as a panellist or workshop participant.
Mentors: Experienced individuals from the stakeholder groups who will guide and support the participant teams during the hackathon.

All partners, participants, and sponsors will have the opportunity to serve as challenge givers and jury members and provide mentorship if they wish. They will also be invited to join the workshops covering the 3 main hackathon tracks.
If you wish to participate in this adventure, please contact Auxane Boch at auxane.boch@tum.de.

TL;DR

This is the motivation behind the Immersive Realities Hackathon - to bring together bright minds to unleash the potential immersive realities for society, keeping in mind that equitable access, sustainable practices, and a balanced approach to innovation and responsibility are the keys to responsible immersive realities.

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