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The sun sets on another SXSWi

By Owen Williams / March 12, 2014

The sun sets on another SXSWi

SXSW is the event of the year for those with new ideas looking to make it big. Every year, thousands of attendees and journalists flock to Austin, Texas in hopes of winning over the crowds with their startups and inventions. Some 70,000 people are expected to visit SXSW this year, and many startups with fresh ideas use the event as a sort of testing ground to see if their dreams will take off in the real world.

SXSW has always been a boon for mobile and 2014 was no different. In addition to the keynotes and meetups, a number of new applications and technologies were shown off for the first time. Here’s a roundup of the most interesting new apps, developments and hardware that were unveiled at SXSW.

Android for wearable devices

Google has always been a staple at SXSW, with previous announcements including Google+, Google Glass and even a talking shoe. This year, Google showed how serious they are about wearable devices by unveiling a special version of Android created specifically for them. The details aren’t fully known yet, but the company confirmed the Wearables SDK would be released to the public within two weeks of the announcement.

Google is also rumored to be working on its own smartwatch (which could be unveiled at Google I/O this June), but the company is keeping specifics under lock and key, much like Apple is with the iWatch. That said, by releasing a special version of Android just for these kinds of devices, it’s hard to believe the company won’t give it a go.


Social media can be hard to keep up with, but Banjo thinks it has the answer. After debuting at SXSWi several years ago as a location-based service for meeting new people, the company relaunched in early 2014 as a means to track events on social media as they happen.

This year, the company unveiled the Rewind feature, which it touts as “TiVO for social media.” The new feature allows users to follow a story across various social media networks (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.) and rewind to any point in time to view the happenings as they unfolded. The Rewind feature makes it much easier to keep up with breaking events as they unfold or after the fact, especially since Twitter and Facebook’s tools are seriously lacking in this area.


If you haven’t heard about Secret over the last few weeks, you haven’t been eavesdropping enough. The premise of the app is simple, sign up for the service using your phone number and you’ll be connected with your friends using their phone numbers.

The catch is, they’ll all be anonymous and you won’t have a clue who wrote what’s shared. It’s an interesting dynamic that keeps you guessing, but gives members the freedom to share whatever they please, without fear of being judged.

Secret announced a new website for viewing secrets at SXSW this week, as well as the news that the company had raised a whopping $10M to continue building the service. Anonymous social networking is all the rage, and Secret proves that it’s here to stay.


Eyeris Technology

One of the craziest technologies at SXSW was Eyeris, a Cloud-based emotion recognition software that records users watching videos or interacting with content, and then analyzes their facial expressions to gauge how consumers react to different things on the web.

The company offers real-time analytics and a full API so developers are able to integrate it with their solutions. It’s not quite clear how the technology works (Do users know they’re being recorded?), but the idea of being able to see what users truly think of content across large audiences is an extremely powerful and profitable tool for marketers. File this one under futuristic, but sort of creepy.


Continuing the anonymous social networking trend, Banter allows users to quickly create public and private chatrooms where like-minded individuals can discuss a range of topics via mobile device. The app can connect users quickly by referring them to rooms based on their geographic location or personal contact lists. Users can create multiple identities on the service, keeping their different interests segmented away from one another.

Banter also manages over crowding by separating rooms automatically once they grow too large. Think of it as a digital fire marshal code. The service is also aimed at those who just want to chat quietly with their friends, offering private, invite-only based rooms that keep your intimate conversations safe from Internet trolls.

NEX Band

We may still be waiting for Motorola to premier their modular phone, but modular technology is already hitting wrists. Mightycast, a new entrant in the wearables field, debuted a new device called the NEX Band, which brings customization to wrist based devices.

The NEX band is a wristband that allows users to buy Mods which the device uses to display notifications, colors and other text. A Mod is a tiny, interchangeable charm that lights up to indicate an alert. Users will be able to customize their Mods directly through the free NEX app. There, they’ll be able to create personalized notifications, manage their friends, track their Mods, send messages, and much more. One NEX band can only hold 5 Mods at a time, but your phone will keep track of as many Mods as you’d like.

Facebook F8

Facebook used SXSW to announce the long-awaited return of their legendary developer event, Facebook F8. The conference that disappeared for three years will finally take place once again on April 30th. It isn’t clear what the company will focus on at the event, but it appears that Facebook is eager to start building on its acquisition of Parse. The event page touts that engineers from Facebook, Parse and Instagram will be at the event and that other developers will be able to interact with and learn from these industry titans.


Perhaps the coolest mHealth idea at SXSW this year came from medical app developer, Pristine. Their EyeSight and CheckLists apps are the first HIPAA compliant, handsfree, voice-controlled video streaming and checklist solutions available for Google Glass in healthcare settings.

The EyeSight app is intended to help doctors perform medical procedures and diagnoses remotely using Google’s eyewear technology. The company highlighted the app’s ability to help first responders quickly share the condition of incoming patients to medical professionals over the internet in order to provide faster treatments. It’s a simple app to use, requiring only the command “OK Glass, Start EyeSight” to get started. EyeSite also paves the way for remote diagnoses, allowing patients to see their doctor from the comfort of their own home.

The Pristine CheckLists app may not sound as cool as a remote diagnosis, but the implications are equally impactful. Few industries are as reliant on check lists as the healthcare system, and with the help of Google Glass, doctors can now see and complete their to-do list without ever lifting a finger. This technology will be especially useful in surgeries, where every hand movement is a matter of life and death.

So long, SXSW

Whether or not one of these innovations has what it takes to become the next Twitter or Foursquare is anyone’s guess, but you can bet that SXSW’s popularity is nowhere close to waning. If you’re sitting on the next great social media app or wearable device, polish off your prototype and start planning your trip to Austin, TX for next year’s conference.

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