Facebook owner Meta starts augmented reality hackathon in Dubai

The challenge invites participants to use the technology to improve wellbeing across key economic sectors

The growth of the augmented reality market is being driven by AR-powered devices, including smartphones and smart glasses. Reuters
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Meta Platforms, the owner of the world's biggest social media network, Facebook, has started its Spark AR Hackathon Challenge in Dubai, marking the first time the event is being held in the Middle East.

The programme, which is being held in collaboration with the UAE's Coders HQ initiative and Dubai's Museum of the Future, invites participants to use augmented reality to identify how modern technology will improve well-being across key economic sectors, the Prime Minister's Office said on Tuesday.

The event runs from May 23 until June 17, and is open to creators and developers globally.

“The global Spark AR Challenge keeps pace with the rapid developments in the sectors that are related to human life and driven by modern technology, data and digital solutions,” said Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications.

“It contributes to simulating innovation, finding viable proactive solutions and continuous improvement to build a digital economy based on knowledge and innovation.”

AR has grown significantly over the past few years, having been implemented in a variety of use cases that help to modernise and enhance user experiences.

Growth is being driven by AR-powered devices, including smartphones and smart glasses.

The most significant advancements to AR are in the metaverse — the virtual space that allows those in it to interact using three-dimensional avatars of themselves — which is being touted by Meta as a vital component of the World Wide Web's next iteration.

The global AR market was valued at $25.33 billion in 2021 and is projected to grow at a compound annual rate of more than 40 per cent from 2022 to 2030, according to Grand View Research.

The UAE government is focusing heavily on adopting future technology — including artificial intelligence, AR and virtual reality — as it seeks to transition towards an innovation-driven economy.

New technology, including AR and other innovations, attracted “considerable” foreign direct investment in 2021 as part of the $20.7bn in total FDI inflows, the Ministry of Economy announced last month.

Meta's hackathon features two key challenges from its partners: Emirates and Dublin-based professional services company Accenture will ask participants to create AR effects revolving around the theme “Mobility of Tomorrow”.

Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Remote Work Applications, says Meta's Spark AR Challenge contributes to building a digital economy based on knowledge and innovation. Pawan Singh / The National

The winners of these challenges will have their work featured on the social media platforms of Emirates and Accenture, in addition to vying for cash prizes amounting to more than $50,000.

“With this global Spark AR Challenge, we want to bring this diverse community together to envision the future, while also showcasing the value that AR could bring to communities,” said Fares Akkad, regional director for the Mena region at Meta.

“The developer and creator community will play a crucial role in bridging the gap between the physical, augmented and virtual worlds. Through the challenge, creators across the world will be among the first to experience the transformative potential of the metaverse.”

Coders HQ was launched in the UAE as part of the National Programme for Coders to support developer communities, design solutions built on the newest innovations and become a breeding ground for the next generation of programmers.

Updated: May 24, 2022, 12:40 PM