Hack Viacom: ReaX Creates Winning Concept in Viacom’s First-Ever Hackathon

Daina Amorosano by Daina Amorosano, Viacom

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Our employees build creative and amazing things — apps, products, programs — every day. At “Hack Viacom,” the company’s first-ever hackathon, developers, designers, and product managers worked together to build innovative video hacks overnight at our headquarters in New York City. On one hand, the hackathon represents Viacom’s commitment to innovation. On the other, it marks revolutionary changes within the company, as Viacom has re-designed its tech organization to include product development and engineering capabilities to help the divisions think about what their products should look like – what an app looks like, what video looks like on mobile.

Drawing 77 participants from across the company and seven countries, employees brainstormed ideas, formed teams and developed cool projects before each team presented their work to a panel of judges.

Viacom’s President and CEO Philippe Dauman kicked off the event with an inspiring speech. Senior executives like our COO Tom Dooley and EVP Human Resources Scott Mills were also in attendance. Meanwhile, Jeremiah Zinn, EVP of Product Management and Engineering, and Josh Cogswell, SVP Product Management, skipped sleep and encouraged the participants as they hacked away.

After 24 hours of hacking, the judges had the difficult task of choosing a winner. The glory and the coveted prize, a trip to the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards in Los Angeles, went to ReaX. The team built a feature around the video player allowing users to record and share reactions to video content in real time. Big congrats to team ReaX – Dave Cunha (Director, Product Development – Emerging Platforms), Ro Purushotham(Product Manager, Social Products), Martino Buffolino (Software Engineer, Mobile), Ray Nanda (Software Engineer, Mobile), and Rong Zhang (Software Engineer, Mobile).

Here’s what ReaX had to say about their winning concept and participating in this exciting new event at Viacom:

Can you tell me a little about your prototype?

Our idea, ReaX is a feature built around the video player that allows users to record and share reactions to video content. The way it works is producers can tag important moments within a video clip or full episode and users can record their reactions to these videos. The tool then generates a picture-in-picture clip of the user’s reaction and allows them to share it out to their social network.

How did you come up with the idea?

We were inspired by the many fans who produced reaction videos to the Red Wedding episode of Game of Thrones. Some of these videos went viral and exploded on social media.

How will it enhance the way our users interact with videos in a significant way?

Our audience doesn’t want to consume content passively, they want to be a part of it; ReaX taps into that core desire.  Fans can record their reactions while watching our shows and share a video of their reaction stitched with our content on social media. It is a new way of social commenting.

Why is your prototype unique and innovative?

Our fans love sharing and over-sharing their opinion around their favorite shows. We felt this would be a new way of letting them connect and interact with our content.

Does it bring new functionality to our users?

Yes, we are providing users with the ability to share their reactions to our content as they watch it. It all happens in real-time.

Is the prototype intuitive and fun to use? Is it aesthetically pleasing and accessible?

Yes, we knew it would be important to get the user familiar with the feature almost immediately. The concept really requires the user to be uninterrupted and focused on the content he/she is viewing. The feature should be an extension of their normal viewing behavior so we wanted it to be unobtrusive and simple to use.

Why do you think your concept won?

The concept itself was interesting, but we also reacted quickly to our test users’ feedback and we were able to make some slight, yet important, modifications to improve the experience.

Does the prototype solve an interesting or difficult technical problem?

We used the latest html5 technologies to record user videos directly from the browser. We also wanted to set ourselves apart from the traditional notion of sharing images and GIFs, so we figured out a way to stitch the user’s reaction in real time back to original video content they were watching.

Anything else you want to add?

We had a blast. Win, lose, or draw we would all definitely do it again! Shout out to Meghan, Shawn and Sheri for making this a great event! We would encourage other Viacom employees to join in on the next one. It wasn’t all about working the whole time; we met some great people from all parts of the company and other parts of the world.

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