The Austin festival saw the close of its interactive section on Tuesday with the announcement of the Interactive Award Winners but who really won this years SXSW festival?
This is of course a facetious question, how can you win an entire festival, but it is something that is repeated a lot in the news. The real question that should be asked of SXSW though is what came out of it that has the most potential to disrupt our lives, to change our day to day existence?
The most famous past example is obviously Twitter - which has changed the way that people interact with each other and share media, news and anything else that’s on their mind, among a whole host of other aspects (no-one should forget it’s role in the Arab Spring). But what tech came out of SXSW this year that went beyond being flash and is actually a game changer.
The big tech phrase on everyone’s lips at the moment is wearable technology, and Google’s Project Glass has been a regular at SXSW for some years now. They brought back the media’s focus with their Google Shoe, but at this stage this tech is more about a few select people interacting in methods mirroring existing smartphone functions. So it’s not something that will be a gamechanger in the near future. Keep an eye on it though, as while it’s pretty dull at the moment I predict that once the hardware becomes sophisticated enough, wearable tech will be huge.
From SXSW this year the two main contenders for game changing status, things that can actually disrupt our current routines, were 3D printing – led by Makerbot, and computer interface developments from Leap Motion.
3D printing, as we’ve already discussed in 3D Printing Storms SXSW has the potential to be huge. We’re talking a 3D printer in every house, and the capabilities are looking amazingly diverse. At the moment the tech is still too expensive, but as the developments are made it’s only going to become more affordable. Once it’s reached a commercially viable tipping point, the disruption is going to be huge. Imagine buying something online and having it printing out in your house within minutes, but the main change that’s happening right now is at industry level. Engineers are using it to create prototypes that are quicker and more affordable than traditional processes, and they’ve only just begun creating amazing work in terms of metallurgy.
With Leap Motion’s Controller we’re seeing tech enabling people to access the digital world in a truly 3D manner. It makes it easier to interact with computers – and can be used from playing games, to browsing the web, to creating manufacturing components (possibly for 3D printers). Really though it’s a piece of tech that has so many applications that its only defining limit will be what you can think to do with it. However, the first thing that anyone should do with it is set up a Minority Report style desk top, and could possibly go as far as Iron Man tech interfaces (though they are obviously ridiculous). With a market price of $79 the controller is affordable and people are developing apps specifically for it now. So we’ll see these coming out over the next few years, and can expect to see a rise in the complexity of gestural interfaces.
A special mention should also go to NeuroTrack, who won the health prize at SXSW’s accelerator. With their piece of tech which can detect Alzheimers in people potentially 6 years before the condition is detectable by other means. This means that it’s now possible for healthcare companies to identify Alzheimers in people for test trials earlier, giving them a longer window to run trials, and potentially come up with a cure for something that has been previously irreversible. This isn’t going to be a gamechanger for most people, but for those that have a genetic predisposition it will be huge (though research does suggest that could be all of us).
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