Best of SXSW 2014
A full gamut of exciting tech was on display at this year's South By Southwest (SXSW) festival, from an iPhone case that can measure your heart rate to an Oculus Rift game that lets you sock a (virtual) shark right in the face. Hundreds of exhibitors took to the event, held annually in Austin, Texas, to show off some hotly anticipated apps, games and gadgets to the roughly 70,000 attendees. Here are our top picks for the very best the show had to offer.
There are plenty of fitness bands that sync with your smartphone, but Wello cuts out the middleman by tracking your vital signs from the surface of a phone case. Simply press your fingers against Wello for about 20 seconds, and you'll get a detailed report of your heart rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen and body temperature via the free Wello app. The iPhone case even ships with a special attachment for measuring your lung capacity.
FaceShift Avatar Creator
FaceShift is an animation tool that makes 3D avatars out of the most accessible hardware around: your face. Combined with a depth camera like the one on Microsoft's Kinect, this $1,500 studio software can make a 3D image of your face after about 15 minutes of capturing facial gestures, allowing you to digitize your mug without any fancy markers. You can then turn yourself into fun characters, like a menacing ogre and much-less-menacing puppy.
Wouldn't it be nice to answer your smartphone's texts right from your desktop while at work? That's precisely what PPLConnect allows you to do. Currently in beta on Google Play, this app turns your smartphone into a cloud-based system that can be used anywhere, whether you want to make a phone call from your tablet or answer an important text when your cellphone isn't nearby.
The name says it all. "Shark Punch" is a proof-of-concept game that combines the Oculus Rift virtual-reality headset and the Leap Motion controller to, well, let you punch sharks in the face. Even if "Shark Punch" never sees a commercial release, the game does an excellent job of demonstrating the type of immersion that can be achieved with Oculus Rift's virtual-reality headset and Leap Motion's movement tracking.
Want to feel like you're truly living inside your favorite first-person shooter? If you have the right hardware and $499 to spare, you can make it happen with Virtuix's Omni interface. Omni is a walking platform that translates your actual footsteps into in-game movement for PC titles, so you can feel the physical sensation of running down a corridor while blasting away baddies.
It looks nothing like a mouse, but it works quite well as one. Contour's RollerMouse is a long plastic bar with a movable rubber center that you use to navigate around the screen. This productivity-minded reinvention of the mouse sports six buttons, allowing you to perform functions like copying and pasting without the need for shortcuts. The accessory is designed to let you scroll across three full displays in less than a second, so power users should take note.