Five standout apps and add-ons from SXSW Interactive Trade Show

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AUSTIN—Mobile marketing startups and advertising platforms seemed to dominate the South by Southwest Interactive Trade Show, which kicked off this weekend. However, we did see a hodgepodge of consumer-friendly products that stood out as different and innovative pieces of technology.


Kakoona is a new media player with an interesting model that helps artists monetize their content in a social way. Musicians can upload their content to Kakoona, and then post the player on their own websites or social feeds. Fans can then choose to purchase or stream tracks directly from the artist. Kakoona takes a really small percentage of revenue from the artist, but only when someone actually purchases content—musicians can upload and host their content through Kakoona for free.

Higi puts a score on your lifestyle

I’m not sure if Higi, a tool that helps calculate a score on your lifestyle, will every fully catch on, mainly because it sheds light on aspects of our lives that we might not want to draw attention to. However, the concept is very intriguing: This app and browser tool takes your daily activities—like eating, how you travel to work, and what your social activities are—and then turns this data into a hard number. Participants start by entering some body stats about themselves, like weight, height, and BMI, and then use the app to post about their daily activities. For example, if you take a photo of what you’re eating for breakfast, Higi will do its best to tell you the nutritional breakdown of that meal. If it’s a healthy meal, you’ll get a good score; if you’ve got too much bacon, eggs, and processed sugars on your plate, you’ll have to boost your score later by going on a jog and posting about it on Higi. You can post your score to Facebook or Twitter, but I personally don’t want my friends to know when I’ve eaten donuts and ice cream for lunch before taking a two-hour nap in the afternoon. Or maybe I do.

Mars for iOS

Augmented reality tools are becoming more and more mainstream, and we’ve seen some really useful implementations of it. Mars, a new app by Par Works, uses augmented reality to help you shop and discover things around you. You just open the app and aim your phone at an object to learn more about it. Mars uses 3D object detection, brand recognition, and image search to hunt things down. If I see someone eating a bag of Doritos, I can launch Mars, snap a photo, and the app will tell me where the nearest bodega is so I can buy some chips of my own. If a friend of mine has a pair of shoes I like, I can point Mars at them to find out how much they cost and where I can buy them online. The consumer version of the app is already out, and companies can take the Mars SDK and build it into their own apps as well.

The technology behind Micro Neurowear’s headband is really creepy and cool. The headband detects your brainwaves and selects songs for you based on what you’re thinking or how you’re feeling. It’s only a prototype now and only works with a playlist of 100 songs, but the demo proved pretty accurate as show goers tried it out.

Palm Top Theater

Finally, we watched some short videos with the Palm Top Theater, a neat add-on that projects 3D videos straight from your iPhone. These videos are made with a special design and can only be properly watched with the Palm Top installed. If you watch the videos head on without the device, you see three really small screens showing different things at once. The Palm Top uses mirrors to combine the screens into one cohesive video, and then project it toward the viewer in an almost 3D way. Palm Top has a bunch of videos to watch on its website, including a music video by Bjork; users can also create their own video.

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