10 Outstanding Tech Innovations I Found At SXSW 2016

SXSW Showed Me How To Get To Mars.


Not only was NASA there demonstrating how we’re going to get to Mars and allowing you to take a virtual tour of the rocket that will bring us there, but at SXSW, which takes place in beautiful Austin, TX each year, you find it’s the place for seriously BIG ideas in tech.

SXSW is not the place to introduce simply a new mobile device, but the place to show people how to get to space, order shooting stars on demand and how to feel virtual reality.

I went to South By with my team at Campfyre to learn about the next big tech changes and to make new connects within our industry. With loads of amazing new tech innovations being launched and demonstrated at SXSW this year, I did just that.

Aside from the app that’s going to change the way we watch videos and shop online, here are 10 of our favorite tech innovations from the trade show floor.

#1 – A Platform for Independent Artists to Thrive

screenshot from Beatgasm website
A screenshot from the Beatgasm website.
A listener’s view of the Beatgasm app.

I met Megan Hargarten Director of Strategic Partnerships and Jeff Rimmer President of Beatgasm at their booth. If you’re an independent artist or band looking for worldwide distribution across a network with other indie music acts, Beatgasm has built a platform that allows you to do it for free while making money.

Users can surf the platform as a listener and an artist to be served up a variety playlists curated for you based on your geo location as well as your personal music taste.

While I was at SXSW I was able to stream Beatgasm’s playlist curated specifically for South By. While there’s not a ton of music available yet on the platform, as a lover of music, I’ve got high hopes that in no time enough bands will register with the platform to make it’s offerings more robust.

An artist’s view of their dashboard via the Beatgasm app.

As an artist on Beatgasm, users can set up a profile, upload their band’s tunes and start pulling in tips. That’s the way the platform works. I was told by Megan Hargarten, “Because of our royalty-free set up, in exchange for listeners tipping we are able to be worldwide instantly.” And for artists, and listeners too, really, this is a pretty big deal because your audience is world-wide and there’s no barrier to entry. As long as you appeal to your listeners, they’ll be able to compensate you for your hard work and talent.

I was also told that within the next several months, Beatgasm is going to be rolling out a whole new set of features that will further empower artists as well as listeners.

For starters, the folks at Beatgasm want artists to interact with one another on a deeper level. Ultimately, Beatgasm wants to foster a community of collaboration among artists by allowing them to directly interact with each other and work on new projects together.

Other additions coming soon include the ability for listeners to earn points for tipping artists, the ability for artists to cash out the tips they’ve earned, the ability for artists to communicate with their fans, and the ability for artists to see all their stats and the data as it pertains to their listeners from around the world.

#2 – Earbuds That Let You Adjust the Sound of Your Surrounding Environment

Here Active Listening Logo

Here Active Listening headphones are dope. The gadget that looks like a pair of earbuds allows you to personalize the live audio of your surroundings. You pop ’em in your ears, and if you need more bass from the concert you’re at, use the accompanying smartphone app to boost it via a graphic equalizer. Is there a baby crying to loudly on the bus? Dial back those high end frequencies in the same way for a less hectic ride.

Users can further manipulate sound by adding a variety of effects including echo. Possibly even more exciting is the ability for the in-ear devices to mimic the acoustics of famous venues and arenas.

Augmented reality was huge at SXSW this year, and Here’s innovations are just one really awesome bit of that.

#3 – Hum Your Way to a Full Fledged Tune

hum on image
Explore your musical potential on the go.

I just came across the business card for the Hum On! app while thumbing through the dozens of different ones I picked up at SXSW. I remember it was maybe the second thing I came across after stepping onto the trade show floor. It was in the Korean Start Ups section of the trade show and two guys basically jumped out at me. “You wanna try out our app??” one of them said. I said, sure and asked what it does. He showed me by humming something indistinguishable into his iPhone and showed me how the app transcribed the tone of his hum into musical notation, applied some interesting tones (some stuff that sounded like a keyboard, a whistle, a bass guitar), and played it over a variety of different beats you could swipe through to change. He told me to hum a tune myself, so I did. The melody I chose was reminiscent of Paul Robeson’s rendition of Loch Lomond, and they both remarked how lovely it sounded. I said, “Why, thank you.” Then I was shown what my melody sounded like set to various beats and performed with different instrumentation. It was awesome.

Apparently it’s a new app from Samsung, though it didn’t seem that way to me either at the booth or online. The website is very amateur and not responsive on mobile. It wouldn’t surprise me if by the time it’s done and released they change the name and branding.

I should have tried whistling into the thing. I wonder how that frequency would register…

I hear it’s an app in beta, but you may well catch me wandering around humming new tunes into my phone once that sucker is finalized and officially released. It has the potential to be highly addictive, but handy, to say the least, to anyone constantly crafting melodies on the fly.

#4 – Acquia & Drupal (Feat. The Bumbys)

The Bumbys typing
The Bumbys preparing, with wit and charm, a fair and honest appraisal of your worth at the Acquia booth.

The Acquia booth was AWESOME. For waiting in a short line you’d have

Bumby Appraisals
My Bumby appraisals. I documented whole process on my camera for the first one, including photographing her as she appraised. And the second one I was listening to a song on my phone and making silly faces at him while he wrote. Overall I found them very creative and somewhat on point!

the chance to get “A Fair and Honest Appraisal of Your Appearance” by none other than the Bumbys.

The two appraise the subject’s appearance by simply looking them up and down and setting to work their wit and two analog typewriters. They started as a social experiment in a Brooklyn subway and before too long they were performing internationally for Microsoft, MTV, Berklee College of Music, and many more.

The two like to focus on the good and aim to inspire positive change in their subjects. As their website states: “Instead of snarky takedowns, appraisals by The Bumbys are warm and funny; The Bumbys believe it’s most interesting to look for the good in people, and then to help them see it too.”

And, by the way, Acquia is a pretty cool platform based on Drupal and influencer marketing; a robust cloud platform for delivering the ultimate digital experience.

#5 – Brands + Fans

brands and fans independent label alliance

I got to talk candidly with the people at the Independent Label Alliance booth about exactly what ILA does. “We give the artists and their labels all the opportunities of a major label without all the red tape,” says Director of Branding & Strategic Marketing Michael Hernandez. At the heart of what what ILA does is strategic content marketing for brands through music.

ILA represents independent bands and connects them with larger audiences by licensing their music to larger brands for use across a variety of media like commercials and movie trailers.

Michael and I were rather excited by the driving force behind each other’s company. The company I was at SXSW representing, Campfyre, is the only option available to media publishers, both large and small, for eliminating the excessively overhead associated with development and deployment of apps across a variety of OTT platforms such as Apple TV, Amazon Fire and mobile devices. What Campfyre offers was particularly appealing to Michael at ILA. Being that they are a producer of a large amount of a variety of different digital content, a partnership with a company like Campfyre would be extremely beneficial.

ILA officially launched, after a year in the making, at this year’s SXSW. ILA hosted a number of official showcases during the festival, and on Wednesday the 16th hosted a music industry brunch party to find out how all the different aspects of the music industry can come together to produce a more robust and exciting experience for fans.

#6 – A One Stop Shop to Build Your One Stop Shop

Intelivideo logo

Intelivideo Smart Cookies flier 2

I talked to Director of Sales Bill Krasner at the Intelivideo booth. I was drawn to them because they seemed very similar to Campfyre. Whereas Campfyre builds and deploys digital media apps for streaming content across Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire, etc., Intelivideo is all about helping customers build up a unique web presence and store front for their video content on their own website and to turn their videos into a video-on-demand business.

Take a look at the Smart Cookies and Smart Basketball Training websites to get a feel for what you can get out of the Intelivideo platform.

# 7 – Bringing the Sense of Touch to the World of VR

Immersion: I stopped by the Immersion booth and I was immediately, ahem, reined in by Paige Raynes Director of Content & Media. Their booth looks cool, and it’s also a much larger one. These are the guys that built the Rumble Pack for the Nintendo 64 and then Dual Shock for PlayStation.

Immersion website screenshot

I started telling Paige about what Campfyre is and I told him it’s a free OTT content publishing platform with no barrier to entry. What we want to help content publishers do is to engage a wider audience. He perked up when I said that and pointed out that that’s where Campfyre overlaps with the Immersion.

“It’s all about engagement,” Paige says. He says our sense of touch is our strongest sense. (I think it’s our sense of sight. But maybe we’re both biased in our opinions.) But he did say that with the addition of haptics — the science of applying touch (tactile) sensation and control to interaction with computer applications — to the media we consume there is a very noticeable spike in the amount of interaction that that media gets.

There are a few advertisements live right now that Immersion has developed haptics for. Paige told me they’ve noticed a substantial brand lift with the addition of haptics and viewers tend to watch and engage with the content much longer.

Fujitsu’s Interactive Shoes Hub: Trying on the interactive shoes you get the sense that VR and augmented reality is about to take a drastic turn. I mean, VR and augmented reality was everywhere at SXSW. While some companies were focused on improving existing tech, others like Fujitsu were looking at how to expand its reach.

fujitsu interactive shoe hub flier

The shoes are meant to enhance the VR experience by simulating the sensation of the user walking across any variety of surfaces. Like gravel, sand, a puddle of water, a slick wooden surface, you name it.

#8 -Fly Me to the Moon

Pretty soon, I hope, we’ll be able to order shooting stars on demand. Of any color, across any sky.

I asked the guys at the Sky Canvas booth what gave them the idea for this and I was told the founder was a former astronomer and physicist that decided wouldn’t it be great to be able to order shooting stars on demand?

#9 – Augmented Reality for Marketing or Training

This booth was really small. But the woman standing their caught my eye and we both kind of hesitated for a second, waiting for the other person to say something. “Come here, check this out,” she said. I was like, okay I gotta. She seemed real confident.

Her name is Margaret Martin Founder and CEO of CN2. Her platform is designed to pair 3D content with the real world. I’m not positive what CN2 stands for, but she started showing me her software does and I was like, arright this is awesome. I said, you’ve got  to walk me through this so I can get a video of it.

The first thing she did was pull up an app on her iPad, hold up a card that had some various imagery from the film Avatar. She pointed the iPad’s camera at the card and instantly one of the blue characters from the film appeared on the screen in full 3D and was idling there. Not motionless, but shifting, as if waiting for us to tell it what to do.

What she did is she showed me how the service could be used for sales and marketing, and then she walked me through how the application can be used for services and training.

Basically, users sign up, log in, design 3D renditions of what they’d like their users to see when interacting with the physical object in the real world, and CN2 does the rest.

And then there’s the weird…

#10 – One Wig to Entertain Them All

Their website is awesome. The promo video is weird and cool. The girl in it is so interesting looking and it’s borderline satire you just can’t take your eyes off it until it’s finished. The Song Wig might be just what you think it is. A wig. That allows you to hear songs. Each strand of “hair” is an ear bud so you can share the music you’re listening to with up to, it looks like with the yellow wig, something like 30 people.

Let us know what your favorite parts about the Interactive segment were in the comments section below.

If you’re interested in the Campfyre Digital Media Content Publishing Platform, head over to to sign up for your free account and start streaming your content across Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire and more today.

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