The Outercurve Foundation is looking for Mayhem, and it just might have found it. The new Innovators Gallery, announced today, has accepted its first project—Mayhem from Microsoft—and hopes to encourage participation in the project and gallery with a contest that will award US$5,000 in prizes in May.

Paula Hunter, executive director of the Outercurve Foundation, said the Foundation created the Innovators Gallery to serve as a catchall for projects that focus on innovation.

Paul Dietz, assistant director of research at Microsoft, will lead the project. He said Microsoft began Mayhem while it was working on Kinect. “We began thinking about what people (end users and developers) could do with webcams,” he said. “As researchers, we use webcams as motion sensors and realized that there were thousands of things you could do beyond video chatting.” He added that once the team began creating a list of those things, they realized that every technological response has a trigger.

Microsoft Mayhem

Taking these triggers, such as pushing a button or swiping across a screen, and matching them to responses, such as opening a new window or app, the Microsoft research team created Mayhem. Dietz said the name of the application was meant to be playful and to encourage all sorts of add-ons to the initial library of events and reactions.

The application is a “simple scripting system for non-programmers, which allows users to interconnect services and devices within and beyond the Windows ecosystem,” according to the Outercurve Foundation. Dietz explained the project by explaining the motto: It is designed to connect everything to everything else. Basically, he said, the project hopes to enable consumers and developers to create actions that can be triggered by different devices.

An example of an event and reaction, Dietz said, would be weather responses. “If it were overcast out, and [a user] wanted an app to close the blinds in a particular room, we could connect the weather sensor to a sensor that closes the blinds,” he said, explaining that the library consists of all the components of creating applications to do things automatically or with different devices. Another example he gave is when end users use a smartphone as a remote for a presentation. This is a trigger (pushing a button on the smartphone) and a reaction (advancing a slide).

The Outercurve Foundation is holding a contest—Make Your Own Mayhem—to encourage developers (and end users) to submit their own Mayhem add-ons. Hunter also encouraged contestants to submit videos explaining how their add-ons work. Entries will be accepted until midnight (Pacific time) on April 30, after which they will be evaluated, with winners announced in May.

The prizes will be awarded to several contestants, including Honorable Mention, Most Awesome Add-on, People’s Choice (based on the number of likes on a video), and the Mayhem Master’s Award (given to the developer with the best collection of Mayhem add-ons). Awards will be evaluated by Johnny Chung Lee, a “rapid evaluator” at Google; IBM Fellow John Cohn; and Mk Haley, associate executive producer at the Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center.

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