The Austin Chronicle

Too Soon?

We grade some of SXSW Interactive's boldest tech

By Jessica Luther, March 13, 2015, Screens

There is a section of SXSW Interactive focused on emerging technologies, the kind of stuff that seems both futuristic in concept and possibly available tomorrow if you have the means to purchase it. Here are a few of the bolder ideas that are ready for their close-ups. But are we ready?

Bionic Pancreas

This piece of biotech created by researchers at Boston University (including SXSW speaker Dr. Edward Damiano) helps regulate insulin for people with type 1 diabetes. Using a smartphone and multiple pumps, the bionic device monitors glucose levels. The innovation is that the bionic pancreas does the calculating based on those levels and decides how much insulin or glucagon to give the person using it, work that is normally done by the diabetic. But will this technology be affordable? Is wearing two pumps and a smartphone too bulky for everyday activities? What about error in calculations? So far, test runs of the product appear successful, and since one outcome of poorly regulated type 1 diabetes is death, it's hard not to see this technology as necessary in the absence of a cure.

Verdict: Baby steps to the Six Million Dollar Man. We're in!


Most of us know them as bomb-dropping machines in war. Adam Pruden is going to be discussing the idea of them as fashionable wear at his SXSW panel. The idea is to imagine what could replace smartphones, which are, as Pruden says, "spatially limited." A disk that you wear on the back of your hand detaches and hovers in front of you, and you follow it as it guides you to your destination. A necklace detects rain and a drone unlatches, unfolds, and becomes a hovering umbrella. Pruden says the project began by asking, "What will drones be like in 16 years, in the year 2030?" So, we have a ways to go before drone umbrella necklaces are all the rage, which means plenty of time to figure out how each of us can actually take up more space than we already do without angering everyone around us.

Verdict: Cool, someday.


What started with the 2Pac hologram is ready to move in to your living room. Combine the latest artificial intelligence, video technology, and predictive software, and beam your departed loved one to the dinner table for some conversation. Don't let the next generation miss out on Grandma's wisdom.

Verdict: No, no, no, no, no, no, ...

Connected Cars

Cobie Everdell will be presenting technology that is both already here but also still in development. The workshop he is a part of will look at cars that transmit and receive information. Everdell says the workshop will focus on user-centered design, which is a methodology where designers "start with people and observe and understand what their needs are" rather than trying to make a technology fit into a car as is. During the workshop, attendees will look at different scenarios and try to apply technology to make the situation better and maintain driver ease. Should cars be able to act in emergency situations autonomously? What kind of communication or entertainment devices should exist to make a caravan of cars road-tripping across the country a better experience? We all want connected cars (we want connected everything!), but do we want everyone around us to have the distractions that come from a connected car? Verdict: Still kinda freaks us out.

Related Events

Designing Your Future With the Connected Car
Friday, March 13, 11am
JW Marriott, Room 310-311

Wearable Drones: High-Flying Fashion
Saturday, March 14, 11:15am
Austin Convention Center, Ballroom B

HoloGramma: How Tech Can Bring Back Our Departed
Sunday, March 15, 3:30pm
JW Marriott, Room 208

Bionic Pancreas: Getting Closer
Monday, March 16, 11am
JW Marriott, Room 201-202

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