Blockchain hackathons

Highlights of the first blockchain hack at SXSW

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They came. They hacked. Of the 23 teams formed, about 18 walked away from South by Southwest Hackathon with working demos.

The South by Southwest (SXSW) Hackathon — held March 14 – 15 at TechSpace in Austin — was a great opportunity for developers, hackers and tech enthusiasts to innovate within the music, film, virtual and augmented reality space. As part of the team of IBM Blockchain experts that provided support at the hackathon, I got to speak with dozens of individuals about blockchain applications. I was impressed with the team members behind MusiCube, who chose to embark upon the first ever blockchain hack at SXSW — and they chose The Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger Fabric to do it.

Though I originally thought 24 hours seemed short, it turned out that the contestants really could produce something awesome in that time frame. I think everyone who participated will look back on the experience satisfied at how much they learned and accomplished.

Deploy the IBM Blockchain Platform across multiple environments

Supporting the hackathon

As someone who works with blockchain every day, it was a great opportunity to look at the technology from a different perspective. It turned out that many of the contestants didn’t know that much about blockchain or how it works and were unsure how to apply to such a wide variety of fields, especially because there aren’t many examples of its use in these industries yet. However, even though the technology is very new and business leaders are still investigating use cases for it in their respective industries, the team members behind MusiCube were ready to be trailblazers and use the cutting-edge Hyperledger Fabric technology in their project.

See my previous blog and how Hyperledger Fabric enables blockchain solutions.

Incorporating blockchain in MusiCube

In MusiCube, blockchain was used to control access to digital content. To unlock a unique augmented reality experience, users signed up providing personally identifiable information. The experience involved having consumers hold their phones up to a side of Merge VR’s HoloCube, each of which would offer a different song. Later, the MusiCube team could expand beyond music to allow artists to offer up access to music videos and posters in augmented reality depending on which side of the cube was in view.

By harnessing the power of blockchain, the team could lock away the personally identifiable information of consumers, including metadata about how long someone was staying engaged with a music track, examining a poster or watching a video. This data could be used by record labels or artist teams to obtain insights into the resonance of their content.

Wrapping things up

The final demos drew a large crowd of SXSW attendees. Badged access kept crowds manageable but every team was engaged with eager onlookers who wanted to see what the last 24 hours of development had produced. The whole event wrapped up with smiles all around and excitement for things to come. Check out the list of winners.

Though blockchain is still germinating in music, film, virtual and augmented reality, I strongly believe that it will play a big role in the future of these industries. As people learn more about the technology and begin to understand its capabilities, we’ll see new ideas and applications emerge into this space. Next year’s hackathon is a long way off, but I’m already excited about the possibilities.

Don’t spend that time twiddling your thumbs! Sign up for the developerWorks newsletter, check out this great guide to getting started with blockchain and join the community:

Since the publication of this post there have been exciting changes. Hyperledger Fabric v1.0 Beta is now available to the public. Sign up here to help shape Hyperledger Fabric and to learn more.

Learn more about blockchain today

Since the publication of this post, Sloane Brakeville has moved to a position outside of IBM.

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