Ruby's Dilemma: Meet the TN engineering student whose game on climate change clinched Apple's WWDC21

Apple's WWDC21 was bowled over by this engineering student from Tamil Nadu because the game he developed brought climate change and its consequences into sharp focus. Here's how it happened 
From the game | (Pic: Sabesh Bharathi)
From the game | (Pic: Sabesh Bharathi)

Ruby's Dilemma, and here we are not just referring to the game, is a game relatable on more 'levels' than one. Here is a timid rabbit being chased around by an evil monster, but there is more depth to this story than just that. "I wanted to create awareness around the climate crisis and environmental pollution. Many activists, even young ones, are speaking up about it, but there also needs to be a general discourse about it. Which is what this game helps with," says Sabesh Bharathi, the mind behind this game which went on to win Apple's WWDC21 (Worldwide Developers Conference 2021) Swift Student Challenge.

WWDC21 is a conference looked forward to by many and the Swift Student Challenge is what students await with bated breath. While the conference is going online for the second time, the virtual competition asks students to use their creativity to use Swift Playgrounds (an app on iPad that enables one to code using the Swift language) and create a game around the theme they are most passionate about. Sabesh has participated in competitive face-offs like these and has bagged recognition at hackathons like IEEE India COVID Move Hackathon in 2020 and IETE Ease The Terror 2.0 in 2021. So when WWDC21, the challenge Sabesh has been looking forward to since he participated but did not make it last time, came along, the second year Engineering student from SSN College of Engineering was properly locked and loaded.

Sabesh Bharathi

"Much before the announcements were made regarding the competition, I started preparing by educating myself about AR (Augmented Reality) because I wanted to make sure that the game would captivate even kids," says the youngster who was born in Pattukotai, a town in Tamil Nadu. Hence, in March 2021 when they opened applications, Sabesh was ready to roll.

So without further ado, let's meet Ruby. The rabbit is being chased by a gruesome monster and that leads her into a labyrinth. As it turns out, the monster is actually a human being. Volcanoes are exploding in the background but it is only later that we discover that it's nothing but factory emissions. "The monster who was chasing Ruby is actually a human being, that's the grand reveal. It's in level four that Ruby realises that the root cause of all pollution and climate crisis has been humans," he lets us in on his secret.

AR power

It's during one of the levels that the complete depth of AR is on full display. Just open your camera and it will help you project the maze on your table top or bedroom floor. It's through this maze that you will have to help Ruby out of, in about two to five minutes. "The AR part was very tough. It was time-consuming to create the models," says Sabesh. But what's good is that part of the background music was done using the GarageBand app on iOS.

So now, armed with an Apple developer's license for a year, Sabesh plans to work on many more iOS apps — and being a fan of animated science fiction sitcom Rick and Morty, the youngster is working on a Wikipedia on it, of sorts. Now that would certainly be interesting, wouldn't it?  

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