With a freshly signed check for $30,000, some student Web developers won't have to eat instant ramen, that venerated mainstay of U.S. student diets, ever again.
Each year, five groups win grants from Digital Incubator, a contest co-sponsored by mtvU (MTV University) and Cisco to reward up-and-coming, college-age Web application developers. One project, cryptically called The Osiris Project, links MP3s to Flickr's photo library to create on-the-fly music videos tailored to a given song. Intrigued? So were we. Pull over for more about The Osiris Project and the other winners--including a rap studio and social networking espionage game.
RapHappy: New haven for Beastie Boys wannabes
"You can give me props in the comments section / There's no password protection." So begins "MySpace", an original rap by "Danny," a member of RapHappy.com, an online rap creator with social networking elements. The New York University gang in charge of the site encourages users to record a new rap on any subject, rate other rhymes, and engage in rapping battles.
Users select the number of measures and tempo, then add tags. The Web application links to the computer's microphone and Web camera to record and film the rap. There's no limit to the number of takes.
Despite throwback graphics of cassette recorders, RapHappy is very Web 2.0 in creating a community for socially validating, budding amateur rappers. Users can also install the engine as a Facebook application, and mobile rap-ripping is coming soon--RapHappy's merry men will use the prize money in part to develop it, and maybe budding music careers of their own.
Casablanca: Mobile betrayal
"Mafia" meets mobile phones in a game of high-stakes social networking espionage developed by a team of four, also from NYU. In many ways, Casablanca is much like social networking itself--the race to collect as many friends as possible can lead to dire consequences if you're not careful. Players can enter as a team or as individuals, intermittently playing games that its creators--Charles Pratt, Ed Purver, Josh Knowles, and Robert Moon--expect to last an average of three days.
Gameplay involves two teams, the Occupation and Resistance, who battle over the turf of a virtual city. Using code names, Resistance players gather as many allies as possible, avoiding infiltration by Occupation spooks. Consequently, Occupation players set out to spy on and inhibit the growth of Resistance networks. It's about time an RPG went mobile.
Selectricity: Change your vote
You better believe that the kids at MIT have a thing or two to say about electronic voting, and you better believe it'll be smart. Selectricity, the brainchild of Benjamin Mako Hill and Alyssa Wright, tackles electronic voting, a concept that's steeped in controversy in the context of national elections, but much less so when it comes to creating and counting votes fairly among organizations and friends.
Voting criteria are easily set up, and invitees receive "token" codes to join a particular vote for club officials, organizational outings, or a restaurant. Elections can be set to one of five voting methods. Selectricity then does some quick math and impartially arrives at the most desired outcome according to each method's rules. It's easy for the user, but there are some complex statistics involved, especially for large votes using voting methods involving not just a top candidate, but rank-ordered preferences.
Osiris: Music videos on the fly
It begins with a song. The Osiris Project interacts with iTunes to do triple-duty. Zachary McCune, Shuyler Maclay, and Sebastian Gallese structured it to fetch song lyrics from LyricWiki, and then uses the words as keywords to grab images with corresponding tags from Flickr's database. For its third trick, Osiris edits photos in the stream, creating a streaming montage of images to visualize each song. It might not be long before one of these makes its way onto MTV.
How Do I Say This? answers tough questions
For some, help lines are too personal. Or maybe too impersonal, or just plain wrong. The five UCLA contributors behind the advice site How Do I Say This? put teeth to the maxim that pictures create more impact than words by creating a help site that communicates painful, awkward, and difficult advice in short videos.
Built around and sustained by a community brought together by sadness, loss, and hope, How Do I Say This? is the most socially conscious of the five winners, a quality that helped secure their second Digital Incubator win in two years and the 2006 South by Southwest Interactive award for best student Web site. The team will focus their winnings on adding more interactive features.
Correction: This article originally contained an error in the prize amount.