Brian Brackeen of Kairos with eMerge Americas Hackathon winners Jacob Zipper and TechGarage Team


At Kairos, one of our goals is to connect people to one another through our technology. To do this we need to know how developers use our products. What are your challenges and where are you finding success? Not only does this information help us create a better product and experience for you, it helps us all learn and unite as a community.


Every now and then Kairos will be featuring an interview with our users allowing them to share their journey, knowledge, and advice with our API and SDKs.

This month we're looking at Jacob Zipper, a high-school developer, who participated in the eMerge Americas Hackathon, the official hackathon of the eMerge Americas Conference.

Meet the Developer

Jacob Zipper just graduated from Pine Crest School where he was captain of the school's robotics team, as well as founder of the school's first ever hacking team and investing club. He will be attending Georgia Tech in the fall and will be majoring in Computer Science. With a love of programming, Jacob says it came naturally to him. He’s honed his skills through the all too familiar process of staring at a screen of code, tearing through documentation, and pouring over Stack Overflow posts.

The Hackathon Challenge

Teams had 24 hours to tackle complex challenges presented by industry-leading API sponsors, build their project, and present their demos to a panel of judges to compete for more than $6,000 in cash and prizes.

Jacob and team, under the name 'TechGarage', tackled the challenge and won first place for the Kairos sponsored API challenge: Best Use of Kairos API.


Their 'SmileMetrics/NameTag' product, which is equipped with wifi and face & emotion recognition capabilities — would enable Royal Caribbean (another one of the sponsors) staff to immediately identify passengers and other staff, as well as enhance their human resources and marketing functions by gauging which staff and activities are most positively, and negatively, received by guests.


Tell us about your idea for SmileMetrics/NameTag and your thought process behind it.

SmileMetrics/NameTag is exactly what it sounds like on the outside. It is simply a name tag for an employee to wear on their clothes as they work. Behind the scenes, SmileMetrics/NameTag contains a Raspberry Pi Zero W as well as a Pi Camera. These devices allow us to perform all of the emotion analysis with the Kairos API as well as send our information to our servers for analytics.

We came up with this idea with the sponsors of the hackathon in mind. We saw that Royal Caribbean was a sponsor for the hackathon, so we focused on a problem we knew they had.


What made you decide to choose Kairos and our technology for the hackathon?

We decided to use Kairos mainly because of the context of the hackathon as well as its power to make our product simpler. Instead of doing all the work ourselves for emotion analysis and face recognition, Kairos abstracted all of that away and made our lives easier.


Jacob Zipper and team busy coding during the eMerge Americas Hackathon

The TechGarage team deep in code during the eMerge hacakthon.


Can you explain to us the process in which you created your application and how our technology fit into it?

We used the Raspberry Pi Zero W as the base for project. We created a case around it leaving space for a camera and a hole to allow a power cord to power the Pi. On the Pi, we created our software to use the camera, then use OpenCV to try to detect faces in images in real time. Once a face was detected, we would send our image to Kairos for processing, then send the resulting information to our servers for analytics.


What challenges did you face while building the application? Any success?

One of the major challenges I faced creating SmileMetrics/NameTag was making it just work out of the box. The team wanted a product we could hand to companies and say "Just plug it in here and you're good to go."

The biggest success we had I would say we had is that we won the competition. We also had a lot of success with the Kairos APIs as they made the programming process much easier.


What’s next for SmileMetrics/NameTag? Do you plan on further refining it?

As of now, the status of SmileMetrics/NameTag is up in the air. At StemHQ, we're very busy running our annual summer camp, so the team members haven't had the time to further refine the product. With that being said, when we have some down time, I believe we will bring the idea further.


Hackathon winners from the @floridaatlantic Tech Garage presented their ideas to @royalcaribbean! ?? #Miami #startup

A post shared by eMerge Americas (@emergeamericas) on


What are you working on now?

Right now, I am working at the StemHQ's annual summer camp as a counselor. My job is to teach the class on Raspberry Pi. I am teaching kids in the age range 10-15 how to work with the Raspberry Pi's GPIO interface and camera, as well as teach them the basics of OpenCV and system administration on Linux.


What do you think about Human Analytics (facial recognition and emotion analysis specifically) integration with technology?

Human Analytics, such as facial recognition and emotion analysis, are the future - and there's really no questioning that claim. The only issue as of now with the integration is speed. Either we need to make progress with our processors, algorithms for human analytics, or both, or we'll be stuck where we are now with algorithms that take too much time to be practical in certain applications.


How did you get into coding and what resources helped you learn more about the field?

I started when I was around 11 or 12 with Codecademy. Other than that, Google and Stack Overflow became my best friends. For anybody who wants to learn, being stubborn is the only way to survive in the field. You will only be able to produce cool working products if you force yourself to believe you can, and you leverage your stubborn personality to not give up.


What do you think you will be doing 10 years from now?

10 years from now I could be up to a lot of different things. As of now, I believe I could either be working towards a graduate degree, working at a large tech company as a software engineer or data scientist, or starting my own software company. I want to keep my possibilities open and not choose one, as all of those career choices are great paths to take.

Learn More and Get Involved


At Kairos we love engaging with local coders and being a part of events like the eMerge Americas Hackathon, which showcase Miami tech. Jacob was kind enough to share his experiences with us, and we are grateful to have been able to connect with him and his team. We never cease to be amazed, and humbled, by the emerging tech talent here in South Florida. We hope you have been too.

Are you using our APIs or SDKs? If so, we want to know more and would love to interview you for our 'Developers Discussions' in the coming months. You can always reach out to us via Twitter or can directly contact me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..



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