Hackers Unite in Yahoo! HackUniversity

March 25, 2008

Have you ever been at a store and found what seems to be a good deal on a big-ticket item, but you wish you could find out right then and there what competing retailers are charging for the same thing? The winning hack at the recent Yahoo! Hackfest at CoC makes it possible.

College of Computing undergraduates Roger Pincombe and Juan Villa came up with DialPrice, a price-checking service that makes it possible to comparison shop without leaving the aisle. All you need is a telephone, and not even a fancy one.

“It’s a tool that you can use with any phone from anywhere,” said Pincombe, a sophomore in Computer Science. “Say you are at BestBuy, and there’s a camera for $150. You dial a regular phone number and then enter the 12-digit UPC code on the box. DialPrice will tell you the average price, the price range and what other stores or online retailers are selling it for.”

On most cell phone plans, the call -- and therefore the service -- is free. For the cost of a text message, DialPrice also can send the information in text.

For their efforts, Pincombe and Villa each won a Wii, the satisfaction of seeing their hack debut as a Yahoo! Mobile Widget, and the chance to compete with first-place winners from other participating universities at the National University Hackdown on Yahoo!’s Sunnyvale campus.

In Pincombe’s case, it also earned him an internship. In talks with Yahoo! over the last few weeks, the internet company offered Pincombe a summer gig on the Connected Life Mobile Development Team.

Professor Jim Foley of the School of Interactive Computing, one of the judges at the HackFest on March 7, said he knew the idea had commercial potential when he heard it.

”It’s great if you are at a store looking at an expensive item, like a camera or TV,” Foley said.

Georgia Tech enjoyed the biggest University Hack Day ever with more than 50 students and 21 hacks submitted, according to Jamie Lockwood of Yahoo!

Nick Padgett won second place and a video camera with Skedu, a mashup of school locator maps. Christopher Sladky, Eric Goodwin, Patrick Eisenmann and Katie Collins created Trip Hacks, a geo-location hack that won third place and won its developers some Yahoo! promotional materials.

Related information:

21 Submitted Hacks

DialPrice as a Yahoo! Mobile Widget