At the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Innovation Awards tomorrow, a prototype flying car might win an award for being the “coolest scientific achievement or discovery that before 2014 was only possible in science fiction.” And that’s just one category.
There have been 18 years of SXSW awards, but this is the first acknowledging the wide and burgeoning scope of the digital industry, from speakers that learn your playlist preferences to the aforementioned flying car. The 14 categories range from “wearables” to “3-DIY” projects. Tomorrow night, 14 winners from each will be selected from the dozens of finalists. Here are a few notable entries.
AeroMobil is ambitious to say the least. CEO Juraj Vaculik says that he wants hyper-luxury flying cars rolling out as early as 2017, with self-flying flying cars to follow. You’ll need to be a certified pilot to make this Jetsons dream come true, and “several hundreds of thousand Euro.” But the innovation here would revolutionize transportation and infrastructure by taking your commute to the skies.
Admittedly, it’s hard to scoff at this sci-fi vehicle come to life when you see the prototype actually fly:
Fly-inspired Hearing Device
There’s a predator fly known as Ormia ochracea that spends its life burrowing inside of crickets and eating them alive. To find their victims, the flies use an incredibly sensitive hearing organ to listen for male cricket song. (The flies are effective enough that they’ve pressured some populations of crickets into evolving to be silent.) The UT Austin Cockrell School of Engineering has now created an accurate replica of the fly’s hearing organ on a silicon chip, which is up for Health Med & BioTech award.
The flies hear with something like a biological teeter-totter — sound waves tip the organ one way or another in sequence, but it only picks up waves coming from a certain direction. The researchers hope to use this bio-mimicry to create selectively sensing hearing aids and even ultra-sensitive directional mics for locating battlefield snipers.
All-In-One 3D Printer
Want to get into 3D printing but you’re afraid the technology is a bit expensive or obtuse? Herein lies the innovation behind XYZprinting Inc.’s da Vinci 1.0 AiO, up for the Innovative 3-DIY award. This 3D printer is still $800, but it will scan, edit, and print any object that fits inside its plastic dispensing walls.
The Shark-Sensing Buoy
We’ve never had a reliable method of deterring sharks that didn’t end up killing the ancient creatures. Nets and hooks and hunts both reduce the numbers of these apex predators, many of which are endangered, and end up killing many other species in the process. The solution might be the Clever Buoy, developed in Australia as a collaboration between Google, Optus, and Shark Attack Mitigation Systems. It’s up for the Internet of Things award.
Australia has the highest number of shark attack fatalities in the world, but again the shark deterrents methods even there are arcane. Instead, the Clever Buoy system will use sonar and a special detection method to pick up the unique signatures of sharks swimming below the waves. This information would then be sent to both shark scientists and lifeguard outposts along the beach via satellite. If lifeguards know when sharks are in the water, they know when to get people out. No one is hurt, and no sharks are stuck to drown in expensive and inefficient nets.
You can click through the entire list of SXSW finalists and their entries here.