This is the 19th year the South By Southwest festival (SXSW) in Austin, Texas has held its Interactive Innovation Awards celebrating "the most inspiring, creative innovations in the connected world." But this is the first year that has included a showcase that gave the finalists the opportunity to demonstrate their concepts to the public. This took place on Monday and featured 35 exhibitors divided into 13 different categories, including "SciFi No More," "Music and Audio Innovation," and "Health, Med and Biotech." Gizmag was onsite to check out the offerings. Here are 10 of our favorites.

Category: VR and AR

Looking a lot like the laser-shooting combat remote Luke Skywalker trained with aboard the Millennium Falcon in Star Wars: A New Hope, this sphere (lead pic) is actually Nokia's Ozo virtual reality camera. It features eight 2k cameras that can each take in a 195-degree field of vision, giving the unit a full spherical 360 x 180-degrees of video area coverage in total. The camera features 500 GB of swappable on-board storage, which can hold about 45 minutes of video, or it can be connected to an external drive. Ozo retails for US$60,000.

Category: Privacy and Security

As anyone with small children knows, it's getting harder and harder to control what kids access online. Torch seeks to solve this issue, not by using software inside the computer, as many other solutions do, but rather at the point at which the device connects to the Internet in the first place – the router. By using Torch as the main router in the home, parents can pause the signal for the entire house, or set up rules for individual kids in the house in terms of what they can and can't access. The device is up for pre-order now for US$249 and ships this spring.

Category: Privacy and Security

With everything else in the house getting smart, why not the peephole in your front door? That's the thinking behind Peeple, a connected camera that screws onto any peephole, stores what it sees in the cloud and lets you access the images via your smartphone. Not only can you see who's at the door at any moment, the device also stores historical data, so if you're away from home for an extended period, you can see who came and went. It can even work in hotel rooms if you're able to remove the peephole to screw it onto the device.

Peeple is available for pre-order now for US$149.

Category: SciFi No Longer

Orig3n is building a blood bank -- but not an ordinary one. It's using technology that can turn any donor's blood into stem cells, which can become any type of cell in the body. The cells in the bank, called LifeCapsule, can then be used by researchers to better understand disease and ways in which to treat it.

"When a patient has a medical condition, say for example, a genetically inherited cardiac condition such as Long QT syndrome," Orig3n's chief medical officer Michael Fang told Gizmag, "when you take their blood and turn it into stem cells it actually captures this. So when that stem cell grows into the various organs, those cells actually have, at the cellular and genetic level, that genetically inherited condition."

Working with these cells, then, doctors are able to try out different treatments to see what could benefit and what might harm the patient without having to conduct the research on a human being.

The company also stores blood for consumers in case stem cell research is needed for personal reasons some time in the future.

Category: Music and Audio Innovation

There may soon come a day when kids look back on Wi-Fi with the same wonder with which they today view the rotary phone. Li-Fi, for example, is a technology that promises vastly faster data transfer speeds by using the photons in light to transmit information. LISNR has taken yet another approach to transmitting data – ot does so through sound that the human ear can't detect.

As an example of the advantages of this technology, a representative told Gizmag that the company worked with a sports stadium to deliver virtual bobbleheads of players to an app installed on smartphones. The stadium had thought about installing Bluetooth transmitters around the stadium to get the job done but, because Bluetooth has a limited range, the cost would have been excessive. Instead, LISNR simply sent out a signal through the stadium's existing speakers, which phones in the crowd picked up through their microphones, and bobblehead bliss was delivered.

Category: Innovation in Connecting People

As we reported in March of last year, Hackaball is a ball-shaped computer that helps kids understand the basics of programming. By using a simple app, kids are able to make up their own games based on the behaviors they set for certain actions. They can, for example, create a "hot potato" game by making the ball change color or vibrate after a certain period of time. After a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, the Hackaballs are currently being produced. You can put in a pre-order for the next batch, due to deliver in May of this year, for US$85.

Category: Wearable Tech

About the Thync wearable device, Gizmag writer Will Shanklin said back in July of 2015, "I'm convinced that it's one of the most exciting new tech products of 2015." The judges at SXSW seem to agree, because the company now finds itself as one of the five finalists in wearables category.

Thync can either calm you down, pep you up, or deliver a bit of euphoria that a company spokesman compared to "having a couple of scotches" by delivering electrical pulses to your brain through sensors placed on your forehead and the base of your neck. The device is available now and retails for US$199.

Category: New Economy

Even though the original Fairphone came out in 2013, an updated model was released last year and that was enough to catch the attention of the SXSW judges. Like its predecessor, the Fairphone 2 is ethically made using responsibly-sourced materials by workers in factories who are treated fairly. What's more, the phone is modular so that if a part breaks or wears out, it can be swapped, eliminating the need to toss the device on the ever-growing trash heap.

As of now, the screen, battery, audio jack, USB port and camera can all be replaced should one of them stop working. Unfortunately, the processor can't be upgraded, but the company is working on developing the ability to upgrade the phone's camera. As of now the Fairphone 2 is only available in Europe, but the company is looking into bringing it to the US in 2017. It retails for €529 (US$587).

Category: Smart Cities

As anyone who has eyeglasses that change their tint according to the ambient brightness knows, auto-tinting glass isn't new. What's new about View, however, is that it offers tinting customization. Used in commercial buildings, every Tint window has a very low electrical current running through it which allows it to automatically arrange electrons in multiple planes to either let the glass appear transparent or opaque, depending on external conditions. On a blazing hot day, the windows will darken to block light and heat and cut air conditioning costs, for example.

Each window also has its own IP address, which is where View gets really interesting. That means employees and managers can individually control each pane of glass remotely, creating completely customized windows throughout the entire office space.

Category: Innovative 3-DIY

To call attention to itself, and prove just how much fun building stuff really is, the Proto BuildBar from Dayton, Ohio, created this "shocking" video game called War of Currents. It features one of science's classic rivalries, pitting Nikola Tesla against Thomas Edison. The two battle it out Street Fighter style and whoever loses gets an electrical shock delivered to his or her hand through the joystick.

But that's not why Proto Build Bar was nominated. It got the nod because it's created a space in Dayton that's sort of a cafe and bar for makers. It's filled with 3D printers and fun maker projects, like welding your own LED skull pin, to encourage people to tinker. While the Dayton location is the only one at the moment, founder Marc Stevens says he hopes to expand to other locations around the country.

All of the SXSW Interactive Innovation Award finalists can be seen via the link below. The winners of the competition will be announced at SXSW on the evening of March 15, the closing day of the Interactive portion of the festival, which also feature a film and music component.

More information: SXSW

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