Take part in our hackathon
around designing Virtual
Reality experiences for
people living with dementia.


5th-7th April, 2019

Hancock Museum - Exhibition Space

Virtual Reality Character


A big focus in dementia and technology research has been to tackle the cognitive deficits that often accompany the condition. Virtual reality has been used in the assessment and rehabilitation of cognitive processes in dementia since the 1990s [1], and more recently it's been used to deliver exergames [2]. These developments are no doubt very exciting - however, the potential for virtual reality as an expressive and creative medium to allow people with dementia to experience new, exciting, stimulating and potentially therapeutic environments, entirely separate from the stress of cognitive assessment, should also be addressed.

1. Garcia-Betances, R. I., Jiménez-Mixco, V., Arredondo, M. T., & Cabrera-Umpiérrez, M. F. (2015). Using virtual reality for cognitive training of the elderly. American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease & Other Dementias®, 30(1), 49-54.
2. Finkelstein, S., Nickel, A., Lipps, Z., Barnes, T., Wartell, Z., & Suma, E. A. (2011). Astrojumper: Motivating exercise with an immersive virtual reality exergame. Presence: Teleoperators and Virtual Environments, 20(1), 78-92.

Coding VR

The Event

This event, organised by Open Lab at Newcastle University and held in central Newcastle, will provide an environment for innovative and creative ideas to emerge surrounding how we might create enriching shared experiences for people living with dementia.

At the beginning of this two-day hackathon, we will help to "matchmake" participants and aid in the formation of multidisciplinary teams (ready-formed teams are also welcome!). Saturday morning will see the event introduced by keynotes from industry, research and practice experts. Teams will be provided with creative material and qualitative data gathered from people living with dementia, as well as research from experts in the area of technology and dementia, in order to inspire them to create assets and environments that might enrich the experiences of those affected by the condition. After a solid 24 hours+ where participants are free to ideate, design, hack and make to their hearts' content, teams will have the opportunity to demonstrate, and present their reasoning behind their design choices to a team of expert judges in dementia care and research, who will award a monetary prize to the winning team.

First Prize: £1,000
Second Prize: £500

Coding VR


Great North Museum:
Barras Bridge
Newcastle upon Tyne


Day 1
Friday, April 5, 2019

Team Formation will be held at Lindisfarne Room, Hardrian Building, Newcastle University

Pre-registration will be held on Friday before the hackathon starts to bring particpants together for team formation. We will also do an overview of the ideas created on ideaboard. Feel free to choose one of these ideas or start from scratch and create your own. Coming to the Friday event will help designers and developers understand what is expected over the weekend and to get to know everyone who is taking part in the hackathon.

Reccomended team size: 4-5

  • 6pm: Meet and Greet / registration
  • 7pm: Team Formation
  • 8pm: Food / Drinks in town (at own cost)
Day 2
Saturday, April 6, 2019

The hackathon will begin Saturday morning with all teams formed (any teams not organised, will be organised on the morning). The day will start out with three keynote speakers talking about their experiences about designing technology with people living with dementia. Afterwards, teams will have free rein to work on their designs for over 24 hours.

  • 8am - 9am: Breakfast & registration (if you haven't registered on Friday)
  • 9am - 10am: Keynote Presentations

  • 10am - 12pm: Session One - Using Personas / Storyboarding
  • 12pm - 1pm: Lunch
  • 1:30pm - 2pm: Pitch your Idea to the room + Get feedback from Experts
  • 2pm - 4:30pm: Session 2 - Creating scenarios / design critques
  • 4:30pm - 5pm: Pitch Back
  • 5pm - onwards: Continue designing and creating throughout the night!!
  • 6:30pm: Dinner
Day 3
Sunday, April 7, 2019

Sunday morning will give teams time to finalise their ideas and set up for judging. Each team will present their idea and creations to a panel of judges comprised of domain experts, designers. Prizes will be awarded based on creativity, originality, and project demonstration.

  • 8am - 9am: Breakfast
  • 9am - 12pm: Final Run
  • 12pm - 2pm: Lunch and final preparation if needed
  • 2pm - 3:30pm: Public Presentations to judges and other participants
  • 3:30pm - 5pm: Awards and closing


James Hodge

James Hodge

PhD student at Open Lab, Newcastle University. His research focuses on creating positive experiences using Virtual Reality for people living with dementia, exploring the importance of using personal and non-personal designed VR environments which orients towards the present and makes use of a full spectrum of interactivity.
Kellie Morrissey

Kellie Morrissey

Research Fellow at Open Lab, Newcastle University leading the Digital Social Care theme. Kellie’s main interests are in participatory digital approaches to engaging people with dementia in meaningful activities, with a secondary interest in improving women’s access to appropriate and high-quality reproductive services.
Kyle Montague

Kyle Montague

Kyle’s expertise and research interests include human-computer interaction, accessibility, wearable devices and mobile interaction, social computing, and healthcare technologies. His main interests are creating useful and usable technologies that improve people’s access to information, products, and services.

Neil Maiden

Neil Maiden

Neil is Professor of Digital Creativity in the Faculty of Management at the Cass Business School and co-founder of the Centre for Creativity in Professional Practice at City University London. He initiates and leads interdisciplinary research in software engineering, integrated health and social care.

James Lockerbie

James Lockerbie

Research Fellow in the Faculty of Management at the Cass Business School. His main research interests are goal modelling and the development of creativity support tools. He is currently developing a model of quality of life goals and meaningful activities as part of a digital life planning tool for people with dementia.

Frequently Asked Questions

note: FAQ will update as the project continues.

1. What am I expected to make?
Typically, hackathons such as these bring people together to form teams, solve problems and begin to build new solutions. The sorts of technological "things" produced by hackathons differ widely, and with just ~48 hours or so, we acknowledge that outputs can come in many different forms.

Some of the outputs we might expect include:

  • - A fully realised demo of your VR environment, built in Unity or Unreal Engine (or another game engine) or created using 360° videography or photography or other media;
  • - A video prototype or walkthrough;
  • - A paper prototype;
  • - A set of storyboards;
  • - A high-fidelity wireframe;
  • - A laser-cut, 3D printed or clay model.

All of these are just examples of the sorts of things various teams may be able to produce in the time allotted, and the feasibility of each will vary according to the makeup of teams. What is as important as the form of your final output is the originality and appropriateness of your idea, and the way you communicate it to the audience at the event.