The Hack of the Week Series highlights a new hackathon programming project each week.

You change depending on where you are going. So why shouldn’t your profile photo? One participant at Foursquare’s first global hack day came up with a way to automatically change your picture to match the kind of venue you’re checked into.

PlaceFace, created by Jason Pope and Jonathan Wegener at the weekend-long event in New York, asks users to select profile photos for eight Foursquare categories such as “education” and “nightlife.” When a user checks into a new venue, the app changes his or her Foursquare profile photo to match the venue’s category. Enthusiastic users can also connect their Twitter accounts, so the thumbnails on their tweets change at the same time.

The hack won third place, which means Pope and Wegener are the proud owners of a giant, inflatable remote-controlled shark. It also means they’ll be entered in the global competition, where they have the opportunity to win a boxing-inspired prize belt.

Wegener is no stranger to this scene. At a Foursquare hack day in February, he built what is now a popular app called 4SquareAnd7YearsAgo. It uses the Foursquare API to remind you what you were doing a year ago. Pope, a software engineer at a computer security company, is a Foursquare hackathon rookie. The pair met when Wegener stopped by the hackathon for what he intended to be an hour, and ended up staying the entire weekend.

The team isn’t allowed to update the hack until voting for the global competition is finished, but eventually Wegener says they might update the hack with an option to take photos on a webcam and add more of Foursquare’s 364 different categories — starting with the burrito category.

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The Hack of the Week Series highlights a new hackathon programming project each week.



Augmenting vision with details about whomever you’re looking at is no longer just a trick for artificially intelligent machines in a post-apocalyptic 2029.

A team at hackday.tv in New York swept both the people’s choice and first place awards Sunday with an iPhone app that gives you “terminator vision.” The app locates a person’s face through the iPhone’s camera and then reads his or her Facebook profile (you need to be Facebook friends for it to work). It uses the profile to provide you with a name, gender and birthdate on a red-tinted screen. If you want, you can hum some suspenseful music to yourself for the full effect.

Now that we’ve seen it, we’re not sure what took so long for someone to make this app. A face recognition API called Face.com has been making it easy for developers to add this capability since 2009. Isn’t this the next logical step?

“I think it’s the kind of thing that you can throw in the App Store and I will pay $1 for it,” says Reece Pacheco, co-founder of Shelby.tv, while announcing the hackathon winners. “And there are at least a million [people] like me who will do the same thing.”

Rich Cameron and Haris Amin, who both work for DailyBurn during the day, haven’t put the app on the App Store yet for potential trademark issues. “There’s going to be a cease and desist letters as soon as the story runs,” Cameron says.

But of the five hackathons that Amin has participated in this year, he says this was the most fulfilling.

“I just didn’t want to do something useful,” he says. “This was way more fun.”

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