Over sixty hackers convened at Pandora Radio's headquarters, in the heart of downtown Oakland this past weekend, for the inaugural edition of Hella Hack - a music-and-tech-based hackathon whose main prize gives winners a rare opportunity to present their project to a select group of industry professionals at this Tuesday's 14th SF MusicTech Summit. Much like Outside Hacks, Hella Hack, which was co-founded and sponsored by Gracenote, also based in Oakland, aims to extend the winning streak with career-advancing opportunities after the weekend's activities conclude.
After listening to getting-started-with-the-API guides by developer evangelists from sponsoring companies including Rdio, Gracenote, Parse, Dolby, and The EchoNest, participants formed teams and hacked throughout the evening into Sunday afternoon, up until 2:30 pm when final submissions were due. Everyone was subsequently escorted from the sixth up to the sixteenth floor of Pandora's offices to present their hacks. Out of twenty participating teams, here are the three finalists headed to SF MusicTech plus one honorable mention:
Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, and their ilk can be a lot of fun to listen to on occasion. But would anyone over the age of thirteen openly admit such a vapid indulgence? Guilty Pleasures was developed by TwentyTwo.fm's Shashi Jain to help music connoisseurs keep their indie cred intact. The iOS app was presented by Jain, who won the audience and judges over with his canny delivery. He made a strong case for its relevance by demonstrating how one could cleverly disguise listening to "Call Me Maybe" with the album artwork of Atlas Genius on display. If an overzealous friend wanted to listen in as well, a quick click of the volume control button discreetly switches the user over to the actual track as it's displayed. Crisis averted.
There was once a time where a typical music video cost several tens of thousands, if not millions, of dollars to produce. Thankfully, those days are long gone. Mobile devices are advanced enough to create a professional-looking video. So why is accessibility still a problem? Video Machine aims to solve that conundrum by enabling creators to make music videos on their cell phone, edit them in real-time, and easily share them. Seth Piezas also incorporated Parse's recently-added analytics functionality into the app.
Organizers initially mentioned that incorporating local flair into one's project was advantageous; special consideration would be given to hackers who got creative on a local level. The team of Alexandre Passant and Gracenote's Oscar Celma delivered with HellaBar - an app that determines a user's musical tastes through their Facebook activity and identifies local establishments that serve up a similar style of tunes. Whether traveling abroad or exploring a current city, HellaBar aims to ensure a music lover feels right at home.
The CSO and co-founder of OKCupid Labs, Nick Abramovic, has a project called bramo.co, currently in alpha. It has the ability to, for example, take a person who has only listened to country music their entire life through a path of recommendations that could lead them into listening to rap. Its selections are based on the intricate recommendation machine powered by SoundCloud. Abramovic used Rdio's API to power a similar concept called Hogwild Music. While he didn't make it to the finals this Tuesday, it'll be exciting to see bramo.co unfold as its algorithm is pretty efficient in identifying tracks from new genres a user may enjoy, based on their listening history.
The beatboxing battle
What rhymes with Google Glass? While hackers anxiously awaited the outcome of the day's presentations, Gracenote's Sunok Pak came up with Hella Rap - a beatboxing competition that awarded the audience favorite with $100 cash. It was a nice, light-hearted competition, involving three crafty participants, that effectively helped pass the time while the judges deliberated which teams would move on to SF MusicTech Summit's final round. Tickets for the Bay Area's premiere music and technology conference are for sale here.
Overall, it was a hella fun time.