Dr Kate Patterson participated in HealthHack 2015 last weekend at The Kinghorn Cancer Centre in Sydney, and here she tells us all about it:

This weekend I participated in HealthHack, a national product-building event that ran in Sydney, Perth, Melbourne and Brisbane from Friday evening through to Sunday.

On Friday night I pitched my ‘problem’ to a crowd of developers, user interface designers and software engineers in an attempt to build interest and a team that could work with me over the weekend.

With a focus on communicating science visually and engaging a broad audience in genomics and epigenomics research, I defined my problem as: create a prototype 3D game environment depicting the inside of the nucleus of a cell that can be adapted for virtual reality using the Oculus Rift.

What followed was an intense, team building and successful weekend, which ultimately culminated in us winning equal first prize for our solutions.

There were a few defining moments over the weekend that paved the way for a successful prototype. The first was deciding on two approaches and game engines in order to both to maximize the team’s skill sets and also to reach more audiences. We chose Unity for its rendering and animation capabilities, and Minecraft for its popularity and community aspect strengths. Once we worked out how to efficiently export an appropriate molecular model from Maya (the 3D environment I usually work with) to each of the game engines, the team worked on getting the controllers and functionality working smoothly.

By Sunday lunch time we had achieved three main things:   1) DNA and protein models imported into the two game engines,   2) Each of the games driven by appropriate controllers and  3) VR enabled. This was an exciting moment and the rest of Sunday afternoon was spent refining the games and preparing our final presentation.

HealthHack demonstrates how engaged development teams can work together to achieve great outcomes. In 48 hours we created two different prototypes that can now act as the catalyst for ongoing projects. I would definitely recommend researchers get involved in HealthHack 2016.

Photos courtesy of Kate Patterson, David Ma and ThoughtWorks