3 Most Ingenious Communications Hacks from TechCrunch Disrupt NYC

Published May 22, 2017 by Derek Handova

We just got back from a marathon hackathon at TechCrunch Disrupt in New York City, and we were so excited to see more than one-third of the teams using Nexmo APIs in their projects. Our goal as a cloud communications platform for the event was to see the hackers really innovate using our APIs. Of all the hacks, three really stood out for their innovation with APIs: Phone Phobia, TexTranslator and SMS Fallback.

TechCrunch Disrupt NYC hackathon 2017
TechCrunch Disrupt judges and spectators raptly watch the project presentations at the NYC hackathon.

Phone Phobia Speech-to-Text and Text-to-Speech App

A phone call isn’t always the most convenient way to communicate—especially for real time communications. You could be in a noisy location, in another conversation or occupied with something else. Maybe you simply prefer other mediums of communication. Or maybe you really do have telephonophobia.

To help alleviate this inconvenience or fear, the Phone Phobia project (completed solo by self-described telephone-phobe Irene Lion) presented an app designed to answer voice calls for the user by using the Nexmo Voice WebSocket API to integrate with the IBM Watson artificial intelligence (AI) platform. The audio from the streaming voice call is transformed into a text message. The user can reply to the call with a text message that’s sent back to the voice call using Nexmo text-to-speech.

Phone Phobia scored the highest among Nexmo API-powered hacks with perfect 5 out of 5 stars for innovation/originality and 4 out of 5 stars for commercial viability, earning Irene our $5,000 prize for most innovative use of Nexmo APIs (see photo below). Coding was completed with JavaScript and Node.js. Irene did an amazing job of integrating webhooks, WebSockets and REST APIs.

TechCrunch Disrupt NYC hackathon 2017
Hacker Irene Lion received a $5,000 prize for most innovative use of Nexmo APIs at TechCrunch Disrupt NYC, awarded for her Phone Phobia project.

We believe that people should communicate in the way that they want to, and Phone Phobia provides the ability to use text messaging to communicate with phone calls and phone calls to communicate with text messages. Ultimately, the user can choose to communicate in anyway that she feels is best, regardless of medium. Omnichannel communications based on the context that you’re in is really important. Irene enabled these functionalities perfectly in Phone Phobia.

TexTranslator SMS-based Translation

When your mobile app relies on real-time translation based on services such as Google Translate, you could be in trouble without a reliable wifi or cellular signal. But if your app is built with the Nexmo SMS API, IBM Watson AI and PubNub for language detection and translation like TexTranslator is, it can translate using pure SMS messaging without any additional apps or internet requirement.

The team of Shuyang Sun, Gloria Chow and Tommy Inouye built TexTranslator with Python and Java. And their innovation shined as the app scored 4 out of 5 stars for completeness of the solution and 4.67 out of 5 stars for app presentation.

SMS Fallback Makes HTTP Requests Without a Data Connection

Even as we near the third decade of the 21st century users cannot always count on a solid internet connection. Whether somewhere rural, inside a heavily constructed building or in a developing country, everyone eventually experiences a weak or lost connection. And without that connectivity, no matter how elegant the app interface, the user experience will suffer, and the developer has no power to change it. However, with the SMS Fallback library, developers have a way to provide basic online functionality to their users through SMS.

Built by Mathias Griffe, Dan McHugh and Ryan Pnayr, SMS Fallback provides an API for making HTTP requests. When the data link is lost during an HTTP request, this innovative hack provides the fallback to SMS, splitting up the request and sending it in 160-character messages to a Nexmo long virtual number (LVN) on the endpoint. Nexmo delivers the messages sent to the LVN to a server via a webhook. The server then combines them all back into the original HTTP request and performs the request for the user device. The response is split and sent back to the device through the Nexmo SMS API.

Coding was completed with Redis and Node.js. SMS Fallback was the most consistent Nexmo API-based app scoring very solid 4 out of 5 stars for innovation/originality and presentation as well as 4.67 out of 5 stars for commercial viability.

Grand Prize Winner Uses Nexmo

It’s also worth noting that the overall TechCrunch Disrupt NYC hackathon grand prize winner reVIVE, an ADHD diagnosis and treatment app, uses the Nexmo SMS API to send user feedback directly to the therapist, so a medical professional is always up to date.

More TechCrunch Disrupt NYC Hackathon Posts

We’ll have individual posts about the developers above and related content soon. Stay tuned!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.