From Robot Petting Zoos to balloon-powered internet, SXSW has long acted as the vehicle to introduce the latest and greatest in emerging technology. This year is no exception, and there is certainly no lack of new ideas or futuristic gadgets to choose from. As things like social media and the Internet of Things become commonplace aspects of our daily lives, they slip from the focus of media outlets and tech festivals like SXSW, opening the door for new and revolutionary concepts. Some of the most exciting fields of interest this year are:
Virtual/ Augmented Reality
The last decade or so has shown astonishing advancements in the world of VR – from live hologram performances to devices that convert your smartphone into a door to virtual worlds, the possibilities surrounding this relatively new technology are now endless. Some of the most exciting new advancement in Virtual and Augmented Reality will be showcased at the fest, including a collaboration between NASA and Microsoft to build a mixed reality system using Microsoft’s HoloLens that delivers the experience of actually exploring Mars. With the ability to move and interact with holograms through the HoloLens, this is the closest most of us will ever get to physically exploring another planet. A company called Rapid VR will also be demonstrating their own VR experience in the form of Virtual Tourism, which allows the user to virtually swim with sharks or spend their lunch break on the beach of their favorite tropical island.
In a city of hipsters, nerds, tech moguls, musicians and every manner of individualistic weirdo imaginable, smart wearables are becoming as much a part of Austin’s diverse style as skinny jeans and flip flops. And just as much as they want their fashion to be smart, these trendsetters want their smart wearables to be fashionable. A company called Moonlab is making some huge headway on that front, and will be setting up shop this week to showcase their soft, wearable technology which integrates personal data into the Internet of Things (IoT) while keeping the wearer fashion-forward. The goal of what they call the “disappearing wearable” is to help designers easily integrate wearable tech without compromising their artistic vision.
Robots & Artificial Intelligence
If you fell in love with one of the robots at the Robot Petting Zoo last year, prepare yourself to make a new friend this year. A mutual fear and fascination with AI has kept robot advancement at the forefront of technology for the last few years, and newcomers to the fest Jibo and Pepper are hoping to eliminate some of that fear from the public’s mind. Jibo is “the world’s first social robot for the home” and hopes that his presence at SXSW will help to showcase the virtues of a friendly robot companion. Pepper, meanwhile, is “the first social humanoid robot capable of understanding and reacting to human emotions”. Both robots have unique (and adorable) features, and carry the mission to ease the general anxiety that humans feel over them one day taking over the world.
Technology for Your Health
Affordable, accessible healthcare is one of the biggest problems plaguing the world today, so it comes as no surprise that scientists and entrepreneurs are joining forces to help tackle that problem. A company called Rock Health, the first venture fund dedicated to digital health, will be on hand to discuss how virtual health programs can increase prevention with precision and assist in medication management, as well as how we can begin to successfully integrate smart wearables into our healthcare routine. The closing keynote on Monday will be delivered by Buddhist turned entrepreneur Andy Puddicombe, whose app Headspace aims to bring a calm mind to the masses. Because who doesn’t want to be less stressed, more focused and possess an overall clearer mind?
3D printing is finally starting to leave behind its image as a novelty act and find itself some truly exciting real world possibilities. Most notable is the emergence of 3D printing in the health industry, appearing in such forms as partial skull rebuilds, new limbs and even cartilage replacement. Exiii, makers of the new bionic arm HACKberry, will be onsite to discuss the ways that open source data will soon change the way that we approach various individualized medical problems. On a lighter note, Adidas will be there spreading the word about how breakthroughs in 3D printing are revolutionizing the way we approach customization and discussing their concept of Futurecraft 3D as an initiative to fully unleash creativity with open source innovation.
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