Get Familiar: Philly’s Coolest Tech Projects

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Between the creativity pulsing through our streets and the abundance of local opportunities for developers, it’s no surprise we’re seeing some seriously cool technology come out of Philadelphia.

In light of our recent participation at hack4good and PennApps, we felt inspired to review and report on some of the most innovative apps, tools, and tech projects spawned from the Philly area. Check ‘em out!

Fun and entertainment

Pong on the Cira Centre
We’re gonna start this list off with a bang. The 50onRed office building served as the “screen” for the world’s largest video game. It all went down during this year’s Philly Tech Week. Drexel professor and co-founder of the university’s Game Design Program unveiled a giant game of Pong that users controlled from the Art Museum steps (Yes, the steps from the Rocky movie). The game used the Cira Centre’s 1,514 LED lights to play the game, and it was really freaking cool.

Everyone loves a rousing game of Quizzo, so Wharton students developed a free iOS trivia app to compete with friends on the go. What sets this app apart from other trivia apps are the off-the-wall categories you can choose from, like “Foreign Curse Words” or “The Grammar of George W. Bush.”

Philly Tap Finder
Throw a rock in this city and you’re guaranteed to hit a beer snob. A couple of Rutgers alums decided to capitalize on that by creating a website that hunts down the establishments serving the beer you’re looking for, and it’s always up-to-date with the latest inventory.


Autism Expressed
Navigating the web definitely requires a sort of “street smart,” and that can be challenging for children with autism to acquire. With Autism Expressed, kids learn skills like performing a web search, differentiating between spam and authentic content, and using social media safely. At the end of the program, students make their own accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

Remember those choose-your-own-adventure books from when you were younger? An innovative Philadelphia couple teamed up with local developers to bring the popular childrens’ genre to the iPad. SmartyPAL puts kids in control of the storyline, allowing them to choose what happens next without the hassle of skipping around to different pages.

Shakespeare for iPad
Both Shakespeare enthusiasts and students struggling to understand the stories can enjoy interactive, hooked up versions of renowned literature by the famous playwright on their iPads, thanks to a crafty English teacher at Bryn Mawr College. Professor Katherine Rowe and her company Luminary Digital Media are developing a series of digital Shakespeare stories accompanied by audio performances produced at the Folger Theatre, expert commentaries from the world’s leading Shakespeare scholars and teachers, image galleries, video performances and interviews, audio recordings, classroom resources, and learning modules. The first collection is scheduled to launch November 2013.

City improvement

The City of Brotherly Love is pretty on point when it comes to funding useful technology. Case in point: Our non-emergency service 311 app. Launched in September 2012 for iOS, Android, and Blackberry, city residents use Philly311 to report neighborhood issues directly to government officials. Users can track the status of their submissions and are notified when their issues are resolved.

I’m Stuck
Nobody likes getting held up when they’re on the go, which inspired a bipartisan group of former and elected officials focused on increasing spending on transportation in the U.S. to launch I’m Stuck, an app where frustrated commuters can notify Congress about traffic jams, delayed transit, flights sitting on a tarmac, and more. According to former Pennsylvania governor Ed Rendell, the goal of the app is putting pressure on government officials to invest in transportation and infrastructure fixes.

Philadelphia2035: The Game
Emerson College students created an game to make community planning more fun and interactive for the University/Southwest district. Users can weigh in on important issues, compete in missions, win money for local causes, tell their stories, and more–all while making an impact on the community in real life.

Shopping and spending

Philly-based startup Venmo is giving PayPal a run for its money. The app integrates securely with your bank account, debit card, or credit card so you can send and receive money more conveniently, and transferring your Venmo balance to your bank account takes only one night. With fewer fees and easier transactions across devices, it’s no wonder its userbase has grown 30% each month.

Clipping coupons sucks, but converting printed coupons to digital versions with SnipSnap eliminates the hassle. Not only can users redeem digital coupons on the go via mobile, they can also search and retrieve coupons and get alerts when a coupon is about to expire. Plus, in-store notifications remind users about coupons on the spot.

And, just for kicks, here’s our pick for the Most WTF (but still pretty damn cool) local tech project:

Digital Legacys
This Bucks County-based company sells QR codes for gravesites. Scanning the code pulls up a page that users can populate with photos, messages, songs, and other content to digitally memorialize loved ones who have passed.

Philly’s blossoming tech scene is one of the many reasons we chose this city as 50onRed’s headquarters.

How does your local tech scene stack up to ours? Humble-brag away in the comments!