Two Blocks Away is Heading to re:Invent!

An idea conceived during a Coudreach hackathon will now be one of the main features on our booth at this year’s AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas. Are you ready to accept the Two Blocks Away challenge?

Visitors to booth 424 at AWS re:Invent 2018 will have the opportunity to try out a unique, interactive puzzle developed by the talented folks from Cloudreach. Two Blocks Away will challenge your knowledge of AWS and make you embrace your inner Cloud Architect.

It all started with a Hackathon

Two Blocks Away was conceived during our.create() Hackathon.Hackathons provide a great platform for our tech teams, combining growth and development opportunities with the chance to have fun and create a brand new product or solution. It is amazing when the events produce genuine innovations and when we saw the Two Blocks Away concept we knew we had found something special.

We had been looking for something eye-catching and fun that we could add to our AWSre:Inventbooth for 2018. Suddenly we had this fun and engaging game that demonstrates AWS technology in action. It fit the bill perfectly!

The Game

The team initially planned to make use of a projector, AWS IoT button, some raspberry pis, a camera, and some large blocks. The projector would display a game board on an adequate surface (floor, table, etc.) and the faces of the blocks would have AWS services and names drawn on them.

The game board itself would resemble an incomplete architecture pattern of some kind. The aim of the game would be to fill in the board’s missing components with the block displaying the appropriate AWS service. When ready, the player would trigger AWS Rekognition (in conjunction with AWS IoT) via a button and receive feedback about whether or not the board was completed successfully."

The version you will see at re:Invent will be refined, utilizing a monitor instead of a projector and a plug-in button rather than IoT.

The journey…

We asked the Two Blocks Away team how they came up with the concept for the game.

We started the project by collating a list of words based on the hackathon brief.The brief was to develop something eye-catching that showcases technical ingenuity and demonstrates the power of AWS using one or more innovative technologies e.g. data engineering, IoT, AI, Machine Learning.

As shown in the picture below, we wrote keywords on notes and stuck them around a big circle. We picked words which were absolutely crucial to the brief such as 'play', 'visual', 'Cloudreach' and 'AWS' as well as words that we thought stood out to help us develop our concept like 'lego' and 'installation'.

After deciding on a few focus points we decided to share our ideas to see if we could develop them into a concept. We knew we wanted to cover cloud computing but we wanted to make sure what we were creating was accessible to non-technical people. This prompted the idea to create it into a game.

This quickly led to us working out coming up with the basic format for an interactive puzzle that tested players basic knowledge of AWS services.

There were a few challenges when it came to designing and building the game. Whilst we liked the idea of it being a puzzle, we also wanted to make sure it was interactive, light-hearted hearted, and fun.

We also had to figure out how we could make the game work technically. What equipment would we need? How could we send images to AWS Rekognition in a format that can be parsed?

In order to meet these challenges, we have had to remain adaptable and critical. We have switched Raspberry Pi models, we now use a monitor rather than a projector, and we have had to experiment with different materials and sizes of the blocks. We have also looked at exploring different languages, frameworks, and architectures.

You can meet the team and try out Two Blocks Away on booth 424 at AWSre:Invent2018.

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