The Best New Apps From SXSW 2014
For those who weren’t able to make it out to Austin, Texas, here’s a cheat sheet to some of the most promising apps that made the rounds at SXSW 2014.
So much for all those frustrating foreign language requirements in undergrad. Waygo provides what your average Joe has always hoped for: real-time translations of complex languages as you read them. Users simply point their camera phones towards, say, an item on a menu, center the text in a box on the screen, and within seconds, a translation appears below it — no Internet connection required. Currently, the app exclusively translates Chinese and Japanese into English, but it’s only a matter of time before the offerings are more complete. Waygo took home SXSW’s Accelerator Award in the Entertainment and Content category, as well as e27′s Most Promising Startup award at Echelon last year.
A large part of social media involves written feedback – retweets, Facebook likes, comments – but what if you could actually see your friends’ reactions? Samba, winner of the 2014 Accelerator Award in the Social category, allows users to share a 15-second video and then receive video captures of friends’ blushes, chuckles, and eye rolling as they watch it. The app puts the recorded reaction footage next to the original. “Imagine Facebook without the ‘like’ button,” explained company co-founder Barak Hachamov. “Samba evokes one of the more basic and essential human emotions and needs. It recreates the warmth of face-to-face interaction; it infuses digital video communication with genuine, authentic responses.”
These days, contact information is strewn across so many different social networks that it can be a little overwhelming. “I needed a map of my friends and contacts around the world that was always up-to-date and integrated with my phone, email, and social networks,” explained Connect CEO Ryan Allis. His new app provides a visual map of users’ contacts, displaying where they’ve most recently checked in or posted something. The format is also useful for travel or changing jobs; users can easily determine who they know in a certain city, or when someone they know visits their own city.
San Francisco’s ThriveOn provides a personalized mental health program sans stigma and high costs, assessing users’ needs in areas like mood, sleep, stress, and body image; pairing them remotely with a licensed professional; and tracking their progress over time. The makers of the app have partnered with researchers at the Stanford University and Washington University School of Medicines to design the programs, which are set to launch in June of this year, focusing primarily on an action-oriented psychological approach called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT.)
In an age of NSA leaks and rampant oversharing, apps like Secret and Omlet are aiming to bring back a little much-needed privacy, albeit in very different ways. Gossip app Secret enables users to share secrets anonymously within their social networks, encrypting posts so that both friends and company bigwigs alike are barred from tracing their origins. “As the platform evolves, it becomes more clear that Secret truly shines in its ability to spark intriguing, meaningful, and provocative conversations with unprecedented levels of authenticity,” the company explained in a recent press release.
Meanwhile, instant-messaging platform Omlet offers decentralized data storage, meaning that users can store their data on any cloud storage service they choose. “In a time when users are becoming more aware of the dangers of closed networks that monetize their data, Omlet has created the first open chat platform that gives users the ability to save and manage their data in any way they choose,” explained creator Monica Lam.