01 Jul 2021 12:48 IST

Meet the Apple WWDC 2021 challenge winner from Chennai

Sabesh Bharathi, Apple WWDC 2021 Swift Student Challenge winner

'Bond with the community, get in touch with the right people, and think beyond,' says Sabesh Bharathi

Sabesh Bharathi of SSN College of Engineering, Chennai, is a winner of the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2021 challenge. The second-year information technology student secured a winning spot along with 350 scholars from 35 different countries. Until 2019, Apple rewarded winners with a WWDC ticket to the conference at Apple Park, Cupertino, California, which is otherwise priced at $1,599. All the WWDC winners could gather to witness the most exquisite software pre-releases in the world.


Apple WWDC outerwear and pins





But thanks to Covid-19, WWDC is now held virtually. The Swift Student Challenge winners now get an exclusive WWDC outerwear, some WWDC pins, and most importantly, a year-long membership to Apple's Developer Programme. Bharathi is one of them this year.

In this interview with BL on Campus, he shares his experience of developing an AR-based game, being a part of the Apple WWDC community, and how SSN helped him in this journey.

Explain the winning submission of yours?

The mascot of my AR game is Ruby the rabbit. The premise is that a monster tries to destroy Earth and Ruby's habitat. The players are prompted to look at life through the eyes of Ruby and guide the rabbit to escape. We see volcanoes erupt with every wrong choice the user makes. The monster really is a vicious creature and won't stop till it completely ravages the Earth.

There's a labyrinth that users have to help Ruby navigate. It pops open on an iPad camera and the user needs to point it at any flat surface and tap. This places the labyrinth as an Augmented Reality model, which I implemented using RealityKit and ARKit, provided by Apple. Now, the player needs Ruby to the exit in time, and any wrong decision will flood the labyrinth with the dragon lava.

The final level of the games takes a psychological toll on the users as I begin to reveal that whatever Ruby saw so far was an illusion. The page presents a SwiftUI view with question cards that users need to answer based on what they know so far. But the answers don't add up. They discover that the volcanoes were factory emissions, the lava was toxic waste, and the cruel monster was not a dragon, but a human being.

Why did you choose the AR framework and how did you come up with this idea?

I wanted to explore the social aspect of the pandemic — which is the climate crisis — through my game. The carbon emission rates are higher than the pre-Covid levels. As someone who loves nature, it deeply affected me, and I wanted to create awareness on that. In the game, it all starts out fun, but things get serious Ruby is chased by monsters. The game is designed to impress on the player that humans are the biggest threat to humanity. And we need to come together to fight against the climate crisis.



Bharathi implemented an AR framework for his winning submission, Ruby's Dilemma



I took an enjoyable approach to creating this game with Augmented Reality (AR). In agreement with Apple, AR has a huge potential. The future is now, and AR-led changes have already begun. It's best to use technology that suits your need. It should be a necessity-driven journey. I chose the AR framework because I needed the game to be interactive and customisable player-by-player.

There are three parameters used to judge - technical accomplishment, creativity, and content of the written responses. What do you think set you apart from the other submissions?

There’s no way to be sure, but I think it’s the theme behind the game. I took up a real, alarming issue, and the message is very relevant and useful.

There are no rules in terms of what you are allowed to do, so you can do anything as long as it is creative and fresh. If you look at the previous year winners’ submissions on Github and YouTube, you come to realise that there is no specific pattern to who wins. Some have won using just foundation kits, and some have lost even after using heavy graphics and creating multimedia games.

What role did SSN play in this journey?

SSN helped me in many ways. The college opened my eyes to many opportunities. At SSN, the focus is never just on academics and exam learning. They push you to get out of your comfort zone and try out new things. Although iOS development was not taught in college, they did provide a lot of other resources whenever I reached out to them. I really need to thank SSN for that. After learning about this challenge, I fell in love with it, and SSN showered me with the support I needed.

Now that you’re a part of the Apple WWDC community, how would you say it helped you?

It helped me to think beyond borders. Every time I face a coding bump, I go to WWDC social media groups to find answers. Lots of developers come together to resolve my queries and I do the same for others. We discuss many things beyond coding as well, and such conversations shape you.

Any advice for anyone eyeing the next year’s challenge?

The most important thing to remember is that it doesn’t matter whether you win or not. The whole point of the challenge is to enjoy the process. I succeeded in my second attempt, but I enjoyed the process both times. Last year, I wasn’t as fluent with the language, but it was still a great experience. I believe that’s what matters.

It’s not the only deciding factor but I think it’s cool to have an impactful message. Bond with the community, get in touch with the right people, and think beyond.

What are your plans for the future?

I want to work at a fast-paced start-up on a cool product which has an impact in the society. I am also interested in designing, so I see myself either developing a product or designing it or both. I prefer a start-up over an MNC, simply because of how much I can contribute to the process. The scope is much more.