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How drunk is SXSW? Follow the tweeting breathalyzer

March 12, 2010 |  6:35 pm

Drinkast
Combine a mass of Internet-obsessed geeks and alcohol, and what do you get? Aside from some very awkward social situations, the natural offspring is a Twitter-enabled breathalyzer project.

The hyper-plugged-in crowd that frequents the annual South by Southwest Interactive festival in Austin, Texas, makes no reservations about what it will tell the world.

These are the target consumers for Foursquare, a system for telling friends where you are at any given moment, and for a bathroom scale that blabs about your weight to the world on Twitter.

On the first day of the conference, Danny Newman's alcohol-compatible device was welcomed with exuberance and laughter. Newman, founder of a Washington mobile development company called ID345, is selling mouthpieces for $5 a pop.

"I need to pay for this trip somehow," Newman said.

The streets and hotels downtown are packed. Because few people are driving (and hopefully those that are getting behind the wheel aren't participating in this game), it's not uncommon to run into the same person several times.

Newman encourages customers to hold onto their plastic doodads for the duration of the four-day conference and continue playing his breathalyzer game when they see him.

Where can you find Newman and Drinkast (pronounced "Drink Cast" and has a Twitter profile by the same name)? "At all the hottest parties," he said on a street corner downtown on Friday.

As with many products that launch at SXSW (or at least, intend to), Drinkast isn't quite finished. The breathalyzer unit, which was donated to him, can't transmit directly to Twitter. It has Bluetooth wireless capabilities, which he could connect to his phone, but he wasn't able to finish the application in time.

Instead, he asks participants to tweet the results themselves and include "@drinkast" in the message. You can follow along with the debauchery on Twitter.

After a couple of drinks this afternoon, I blew a 0.008 blood-alcohol-content level. Seeing that my competition online was way ahead of me and that I was visibly disappointed, Newman consoled me.

"That's good," he said, "considering it's still daytime."

Wait, define "good."

-- Mark Milian
twitter.com/markmilian

Photo: Danny Newman, left, demonstrates Drinkast to a SXSW attendee. Credit: Mark Milian / Los Angeles Times

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