Gamification took center stage at the third annual Miami Bitcoin Hackathon this week, with the first place winner demonstrating a Pokemon Go-inspired, location-based game that earned its team a 15 BTC grand prize.
Using GPS and BLE technology, the BitTag app facilitates virtual games of "tag" based on distance, rewarding players with small amounts of bitcoin while enabling local business exposure. The team consisted of seasoned developers who impressed with their ability to ship a working prototype.
Members included David Hartmann, Emanuel Guerrero, Rob Doischen, Ryan Pineo and Vasilii Muravev.
Discussing the effort, Hartmann, team lead and CEO of development firm The SilverLogic, told CoinDesk:
"We wanted a fun and simple way to get people into bitcoin."
Judges included Bitstop ATM co-founder Doug Carillo; Bitcoin Uncensored co-host Joshua Unseth; Satoshi Labs CEO Alena Vranova; Breadwallet CMO Aaron Lasher; and local developer and tech educator Nelson Milian.
Fun, fun, fun
The focus on making bitcoin easier to use was common among hackathon attendees.
Second-place winner Coinbar, for example, demoed an app that enables the querying of various types of bitcoin data using the unique interface of the new Macbook Pro Touch Bar.
The finished prototype could also be used to set price alerts, and the team plans on even adding on-chain bitcoin transactions to the app's future functionality.
Breadwallet's Aaron Lasher noted its potentially addictive appeal and remarked, "I can see myself just messing around with this all the time."
Other strong showings in gamification included Swolebit, which uses wearable technologies to track fitness stats, and help users achieve daily goals by rewarding or penalizing them with small bitcoin rewards depending on performance.
Elsewhere, Crypto Ranks perhaps attempted to take the idea of gamification the farthest by building a first-person shooter using an open-source gaming engine and assets.
Designed as a type of onramp for gamers attempting to enter the professional circuit, the game deducts a small amount of bitcoin for every shot fired in a multiplayer match and places it in a pot. At the end of the round the top performer wins the pot.
While the prototype was unfinished and unable to place, judges and notable attendees expressed interest in the unique dynamics the incentives of the game would create.
While a major focus of the event was adoption through "fun and simple" gamification, others continued to focus on solving hard problems through the unique functionality made possible with bitcoin's underlying technology.
Setbounty won third place doing just this with a Chrome app that interfaces with GitHub to allow users to place bounties for features and bug fixes in open-source projects.
Users can also set bounties for the same tickets, aggregating the funds and incentivizing developers to focus on the most in-demand requests while rewarding them for their effort.
Like BitTag, the Setbounty team consisted of full-time development firm co-workers, in this case, a team that had previously won first place at the Miami Hackathon.
"Originally, we wanted to build it using a system of smart contracts… but that was pretty ambitious," remarked team lead and CEO of Setmusic Jesus Najera. "With the current prototype, we're the middlemen, but the goal is still to build this out as a totally decentralized bounty system for developers."
Fourth place winner Rigid sought to use bitcoin's secure and time-tested blockchain to tackle the clinical trial industry, which consists of a labyrinth of consent and other legal paperwork.
The prototype aims to allow easy proof of record using the blockchain to streamline the paper trail and organization of records.
Another notable entrant included Quick VPN which sought to purchase VPN uptime in bulk and sell it to users for flexible custom slots of time, say 15 minutes, in exchange for the exact proportional amount of bitcoin and a small fee.
But, if the event lacked for anything, it wasn't lack of creativity.
Ask a room full of developers and bitcoin enthusiasts what the ecosystem's biggest challenges are and you'll get many answers, and even more possible solutions.
Attendee Austin Alexander, an employee at bitcoin exchange service said it best when he remarked:
"Adoption is hard, and it's not just one thing… there's been a lot of progress but bitcoin is still complicated and insecure for most people."
Perhaps more essential to the growth of the bitcoin ecosystem than any one project or potential "killer app" then, is the combined efforts of many entrepreneurs and developers of different backgrounds contributing in their own small ways.
While it tends to be the fun projects that attract the attention and win the prizes, they can also distract from much more basic problems which continue to persist.
That was the goal of long-time enthusiast Kyle Kemper and his BitHedge team:
"For people just getting into bitcoin there's always this question of 'How much bitcoin should I buy?', and the standard response is always, 'However much you're willing to lose'. The problem with that answer is that it immediately frames things in a negative light, and doesn't give the newcomer anything actionable to do," he said.
Kemper's entry, Bithedge, asked users to enter their current or desired net worth, finding the equivalent amount of bitcoin needed to own the same percentage of total bitcoin wealth.
"It's a pretty good and achievable starting point," Kemper said.
Still, there was a feeling that the diversity in approach inspired by events such as the Miami Bitcoin Hackathon ensures that many paths are taken and use cases attempted.
Surely, this is a vital need for such a new and nascent technology, one where success may come from anywhere and everywhere.
Image via BitcoinsVendor via Twitter