What’s SXSW without solutions to problems big and small? Here are a few that stand out for our reporting team.
Music and video games as medical treatment
Now that more sophisticated wearables can even collect detailed biometric data, how can that technology be put to use? Two companies are betting that it will open the doors to radically new approaches for treating medical disorders. Boston-based Akili labs is seeking FDA approval (they are currently conducting clinical trials in partnership with the drug company Pfizer) for the use of their video games – which are designed to target specific areas of the prefrontal cortex responsible for regulating cognitive processes like attention, planning, working memory, and task switching -- to treat ADHD. Meanwhile, The Sync Project, a new startup, is studying music’s impact on our bodies and our brains. The project’s end goal is to sift through the available biometric data and isolate how individuals respond to various musical elements (beat, rhythm, tempo, pitch etc.), using that information to create musical therapies for a range of disorders, from sleep to anxiety to depression.
Left-over lovers rejoice! Using solid beams of energy, Chip maker FreeScale’s Midea microwave can individually target separate items of food and nuke them to users’ exact specifications; if a plate containing soup, bread and ice-cream is placed in the microwave, the soup will be heated, the bread warmed and the ice-cream left unmelted. (The typical microwave model reflects beams of energy that bounce around the interior, which is why all food is heated to the same consistently inconsistent temperature.) The microwave, while not on the market yet, will be launched soon.
Detroit Aircraft Corporation began in 1922 creating military airships. It’s rebooted for a new era with drones, focusing on using the technology as humanitarian aid vehicles (HAVs). An initial fleet will soon be active in Ghana to transport medicine and supplies in and out of areas ravaged by Ebola and other diseases. The HAVs also have numerous stateside applications, where they can assist firefighters, scout for downed power lines, inspect faulty architecture, and assist in other costly tasks that waste money and risk lives. The company says it’s using humanitarian efforts to help show the possibilities of the technology to save lives and to change the conversation around unmanned aircraft.
It was bound to happen. A company in Korea, MindQuake, has created Nester, a tool that helps children manage both their own expectations and their screen time. Parents set time controls and as their time on the device runs out, the tool’s mascot, a cartoon owl, becomes more and more drowsy. As the child helps put him to bed, the free app teaches little ones big ideas like time consumption, helps ease device withdrawal and helps them learn how to limit their playtime. Note to MindQuake: Please make one for thirty-somethings.
5. Smart Ring, Again
At SXSW’s tradeshow, multiple booths showcased products that were about to launch or had already been successfully funded on Kickstarter. The show floor welcomed back Ring, a wearable input device that users wear around their fingers, allowing them to do everything from turn on lights, control speaker volume and send texts via gesture control. Since its appearance at the SXSW tradeshow last year, the project successfully blew past its funding goal on April 4, 2014.