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Supporting Business with XR Innovation

CivStart worked with partners to host an XR hackathon solving local business challenges

The Challenge

Post-COVID, DC local businesses are struggling to meet revenue needs as fewer customers are frequenting their establishments.


November 1, 2023

event startup community & economic development
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The Project

This Innovation Challenge is designed to identify opportunities for XR Technology to drive business or improve operations for the retail, food, and beverage industries.

Key Takeaways

  • The XR Innovation Challenge was a great example of how technology companies and nonprofits can work together to create case studies of new technology

  • Key to success was focusing in on the needs of real local businesses: working with Right Proper Brewing Company and The Golden Age.

  • Collaboration with vibrant networks of DC technologists such as DC Tech Meetup and the DC Tech and Venture Coalition also helped make the event successful.

  • Four exciting solutions were presented and detailed more below!

The Project in Detail

In October of 2023, CivStart served as the Washington, DC anchor for an XR Challenge Hackathon focused on how XR technology could support the needs of local businesses. This was one of three regional hackathons led by Jobs for the Future (JFF) and sponsored by Meta.

The first phase of the project was understanding the need through interviewing business owners in DC’s food and beverage industry, specifically Right Proper Brewing and The Golden Age. These conversations resulted in the follow challenge statement:

“Extended Reality (XR) Technology has the power to dramatically impact the way that small businesses train employees, make sales, and generally run their businesses. Post-COVID, DC local businesses are struggling to meet revenue needs as fewer customers are frequenting their establishments. Brick and mortar businesses are experiencing decreased foot traffic due to an increase in neighborhood crime in entertainment areas specifically. Additionally, increasing numbers of community members without housing and opioid overdoses occurring near those brick and mortar businesses are impacting the way they’ve traditionally operated. This Innovation Challenge is designed to identify opportunities for XR Technology to drive business or improve operations for the retail, food, and beverage industries.”

Local developers and entrepreneurs were then selected to compete in a week-long hackathon where they developed an XR idea for solving the challenge, gaining additional insight from the local businesses and technical experts. This culminated in a pitch competition hosted at  the DC Tech and Venture Coalition’s month DC Tech Meetups.

Four different ideas were presented and winners were voted on by the audience for cash prizes and XR headsets! Solutions: (listed in order of placement in competition)

Joseph Cathey:

  • Solution: A location-based AR game fostering community engagement and interaction with local businesses and attractions. This immersive game encourages players to explore various points of interest, including categories such as history & culture, retail, recreation, arts & entertainment, food & beverages, and community activities. The platform features a dynamic short-form video feed that facilitates the discovery of local businesses, attractions, and events, enhancing the overall user experience.

    By incorporating existing marketing materials, businesses can effectively reach new customers, reducing customer acquisition costs. The gamified AR maps incentivize users to accumulate points by visiting local establishments and competing with others, fostering camaraderie and encouraging exploration of new locations. Participants can redeem their accrued points for tangible rewards, leading to cost-effective benefits while strengthening their connections with the local community and businesses.

Andrey Mikhalchuk:

  • Solution: An AR solution designed to revolutionize the dining experience by providing customers with a comprehensive view of entire meals in real life. By utilizing AR technology, customers can visualize a 3-D representation of their chosen meal on their physical table before placing an order, enhancing their understanding of the dish beyond descriptions or 2-D images. This immersive experience effectively bridges the gap between virtual and physical dining, enabling customers to make more informed decisions and fostering a greater sense of anticipation for their culinary experience. By virtually participating in the dining process, customers may be inspired to visit the restaurant in person or opt for convenient takeout options, enhancing overall customer engagement and satisfaction.

Junhao Chen:

  • Solution: An AR/VR virtual practice & training environment where food and restaurant staff can immerse themselves in realistic kitchen and bar scenarios. The solution employs interactive tutorials through step-by-step AR guides, ensuring an intuitive learning process. Scalable training modules guarantee uniform content delivery across all staff levels. At the same time, real-time feedback and assessment mechanisms provide instant insights, creating a dynamic and engaging training experience that enhances proficiency and performance in the high-pressure environment of the food service industry.

Femi Adisa:

  • Solution: A VR solution transforming physical establishments into dynamic virtual spaces, offering immersive experiences, interactive storytelling, and virtual explorations. Customers can participate in virtual gatherings hosted within replicas of real small businesses, gaining insights into their history, products, and even making purchases, fostering a lasting impression that encourages physical visits.

    The solution integrates real establishments into virtual games, allowing avatars to engage with local businesses in an entertaining manner, thereby promoting them and serving as a bridge between the virtual and physical worlds. This solution reshapes the future of local commerce, empowering small businesses to maintain their uniqueness and community connections while expanding their digital reach, ultimately ensuring prosperity in the digital age.

This trip was made possible by the generous support of Meta and the ongoing collaboration with Jobs for the Future (JFF).


Graduated Government Leaders from CivStart's Innovation Programs


Tech for Gov Newsletter subscribers


Venture Capital raised for startups in our Accelerator


Years of Government Innovation Programs


Startups in CivStart's portfolio


Mentor Network Participants


Attendees at CivStart events


BIPOC + Women Founders


Media Mentions

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