SXSW or South By Southwest is a festival unlike any other. It’s not just about one theme and every day over its near-weeklong run, over 40,000 people swarm the stands, displays, events and concerts to mix with talk panels, bands, celebrities, leaders and technology. It’s in this mix of hipsters and technology where Twitter was first announced.
We’ve become very familiar with touchscreens, because they are awesome. Made by Sony and headed for stores later this year, the Xperia Touch is an Android projector that creates an interactive display on any flat surface it can project onto. It can detect movement and touch, play videos, take notes, show calendars - everything a smartphone does, only it’s on your wall or table instead.
Amazon’s delivery drones
Yes, it is old news that the retail giant Amazon wants to use drones to deliver goods to its customers. The system is already being tested in the UK and Germany, though under very limited conditions due to aviation laws. Still, attendees at SXSW were the first to see the drones officially in public. It’s clear that the drone delivery idea was not a fad or marketing stunt. Amazon is serious about this.
Technology is reaching far beyond the gadgets and machines around us. You can now even have it on your skin! But don’t panic: it’s not permanent. Indeed, it is a temporary tattoo - yet unlike anything you have encountered before. DuoSkin tattoos can connect to devices. You could use one to control your phone’s volume, answer calls or change songs. The tattoos can change colour and send information about the wearer, such as their temperature, to an app. Best of all, DuoSkin is designed to be cheap and easy to make. Sadly it is far from ready to be sold at shops, but in a few years we may all have a temporary smart tattoo!
Levi's Commuter Trucker Jacket
For the past few years, Levi’s and Google have been working on smart clothes which interact with your gadgets. Now the pair are ready to go to market with the Commuter Trucker Jacket. Not to be confused with Levi’s older Commuter Trucker Jacket, this version has Bluetooth built in to connect to your smartphone. It hides interactive features in its sleeve, or rather its cuff: the left cuff of the jacket can understand taps and swipes, allowing you to control your phone by fiddling with your clothes. It’s a little like a smartwatch, but much cooler. And yes, it is washable.
The world of automobiles is changing fast, so why must cars look and feel how they always have? High-tech car startup NIO believes it is time for a change and has introduced the Eve concept car to show how it will work. Eve is less car and more moving cocoon. Its interior feels more like a small social area than being inside a vehicle, with seats facing around, interactive screens and special doors. Eve drives itself with the help of an artificial intelligence system. That same system will learn the preferences of passengers and even select entertainment such as music. NIO hope that they will sell Eves by 2020.
Music Room VR
Virtual reality still feels like a gimmick and something only gamers will want to buy. But maybe musicians also have a reason to save up, if only so they can practice late at night. Music Room VR is essentially a MIDI controller that connects to HTC’s Vive virtual reality system. It offers virtual instruments, such as drum sets, which musicians can then ‘play’. But unlike video games, where instruments are really just simplified down to basics, Music Room is a serious system that wants to recreate the experience of an instrument as closely as possible.
While the world goes crazy over phones, robots and self-driving cars, there has been a quiet revolution happening on the workfloor. Exoskeletons are slowly entering factories, healthcare facilities and other places where humans can use a little machine power to make them stronger. Exoskeletons are essentially motorised suits that strap to your body and supply extra support. Using such a suit can help the frail walk. It also helps someone lift far more weight than they ever could. Lockheed Martin’s Fortis exoskeleton has been leading this charge since 2014 and was at SXSW to show how advanced the system has become. Now if only we could get one to lift us out of bed in the morning…
You have likely heard that there are now pavement panels that generate power when someone walks on them. Pavegen is a startup that wants to make this idea as popular as, well, pavements, and it showed off its V3 prototype at SXSW. V3 is a radical step up for the technology: its triangular shape makes it easier to install and connect panels, while every part of the panel can generate power when someone steps on it. Though V3 is likely too expensive for pavements, it may soon replace the high-quality floors used in hotels and airports.