Dallas Talent Shines at SXSW Music Hackathon

HackDFW founder Adil Shaikh, who led one of two Dallas-based teams to success in the 2016 SXSW Music Hackathon contest in Austin, TX, last week, sat down with Launch DFW to discuss the event.

Shaikh’s team, made up of UT Dallas graduate and software developer Brooks McMillin, brand awareness and marketing consultant Adam Perschke, and A&M undergraduate and community organizer Dario Sanchez, walked away with an award for the “Best use of Amazon Web Services” after creating a Virtual Reality (VR) concert experience using Facebook’s Oculus Rift technology and Amazon Echo.

Tasked with building a solution to improve the fan or listener experience, Shaikh’s team saw Oculus Rift, the VR headset, and Amazon Echo, the voice-activated, hands-free speaker created by Amazon, as ideal tools to create an application that delivers a VR experience to fans and artists alike.

“My own focus was to try new technology and build a product that could potentially enhance the music experience,” Shaikh said. “Our team thought it would be great to bring together artists and their fans into a VR experience, connecting them to events they may not have access to otherwise. In particular, we were thinking of disabled people or others who’re unable to attend a concert for whatever reason.”

The end result was We Are Concerts, a prototype VR concert application built on top of AWS’ Lambda and EC2 Web server, using HTML5/Bootstrapped frontend and WebVR and other JavaScript APIs in the backend. We Are Concerts can be accessed from any Web browser or mobile device, but for a true VR experience, Shaikh recommends running it on Oculus Rift with Amazon Echo.

Despite creating an awesome VR experience, Shaikh said the real value of the hackathon was educational experience it provided. As such, he said there were no plans to further develop We Are Concerts at this time.

“This hackathon was an educational experience for our team – we wanted to build something cool with the use of new technology,” Shaikh said. “None of us had any previous experience with either the Rift or Echo, yet we were able to make a completed product in 24 hours.”

More important for Shaikh was that the SXSW Music Hackathon once again shined the spotlight on the wealth of talented coders in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, in his words, “bringing recognition to Dallas technologists and startup enthusiasts.”

The second Dallas-based team, Rap-Haus, led by Matthew Lewis of the Dallas Startup Week’s Music track, won an invitation to a three-day incubator from the SXSW Music Hackathon organizers as a result of its efforts.

“We had two Dallas teams participate at the event, with both of them winning some top prizes,” Shaikh noted. “There’s definitely a lot of technical talent in Dallas and we’ve been acknowledged for it at hackathons throughout the nation.”

Mike Wheatley