The last Coding Battle of the autumn season

The Hack League season that started off in October has reached its end with this last Coding Battle that took place at Microsoft.

super powers

For this event, we wanted something that was in line with all the feedback that we managed to gather since the beginning of the Hack League.
We wanted something that would meet our community’s expectations.

The main points we had to work on were

  • allow space for more creativity,
  • less configuration – more plug and play,
  • keep the tech learning part.

This is a challenge that we took with great pleasure. Especially as the theme of the Coding Battle was super exciting: Cognitive Services.

Cognitive Services, your new off the shelf super powers

When announcing the theme of the Coding Battle, we were really surprised to see that more than 50% of developers in the community had never heard about Cognitive Services.

And even among those who did, only a few percent already had the occasion to try and experience the APIs.

If you’re reading those lines and you’re wondering what the hell Cognitive Services are, well basically they’re like super powers.
Like super powers, you’ll be set in no time and they’ll stretch the possibilities of what you can do.

super powers

Ranging from speech to image recognition, they’ll open you the doors to a whole new world of opportunities.

There are already many examples where such technologies are used and they have the potential to disrupt many industries: shopper analysis and retail experience in supermarket with emotion APIs, ID verification with voice and face recognition…

Space for creativity

During “long term” (understand more than 1 day), being creative with Cognitive Services is fairly “easy”. But when it comes to 3 hours competitions, that’s a lot more challenging. Especially if you take into account the fact that most of the participants never used Cognitive Services.

After several brainstorming sessions, we found a nice way to include cognitive services in a fun and competitive game: a poker-like game.

The bluff part inherent to card games like poker would allow us to make use of the cognitive services.

How? By creating players (bots) who’s strategies would be linked to the way they react when they receive a card.

winners-cb-cs

By analyzing their facial expressions, participants could adjust and build their strategies accordingly.

If you want to have more details on the game and the rules, here’s a link to the description of the challenge.

How it happened

After an insightful introduction on Cognitive Services from Nick Trogh, Senior Tech Evangelist at Microsoft, Olivier and I stated the rules for the challenge.

In a nutshell here’s what we explained: there are 4 players (bots) against which each team would have to play against. Each player has a different way to react to cards that they receive.

All the teams receive a NodeJS boiler plate that they have to improve and tweak in function of the strategies that they deduct from the emotion API’s data.

For the first player, BOB, the teams were given the images of his facial expressions. They would have to implement and use the Emotion API to get the data from those expressions and build their strategy accordingly.

nick-cb-cs

For the other players, the data were given directly. No need to call the API.

Teams were able to implement the emotion API very fast. More than two-third of the participants found it super easy to get going with those.

After two hours, some teams started to get results. We had a scoreboard with all the teams’ results accessible online where everyone could see each other’s progress. That was fun!

Eventually, all the teams managed to get their bot player running and scoring points. It was fun to see ranking changing as teams saw they lost positions and tried to improve their code a little more. Great atmosphere.

Eventually, it’s Sam and Nicolas who manage to get the highest score and therefore win the Coding Battle and the prize (80€ gift Card at FNAC). Kudos to them!

winners-cb-cs

Conclusion

We were really happy with this Coding Battle. The feedback were excellent, participants got the chance to experience a great technology and imagine other new potential use cases for those.

Interesting enough, 90% of the participants said they would use Cognitive Services rather than other similar APIs if they were to use such technologies for future projects.

Distance, conflicting activities, bad timing or even unexpected events (one team had a small car accident on the way) can prevent some community members to attend. That’s a pity.

That’s why we are now working on bringing our Coding Battles also online! That’ll be our Christmas gift to you (expect some delay though, the Christmas elves are pretty busy^^).

What do you think about this Coding Battle’s format?