Innovative Spirit

Seven Innovations That Made a Splash at This Year’s SXSW

The massive Austin event has become the place for unveiling cutting-edge tech, from educational apps to virtual reality art

Festivalgoers attend the Trade Show during the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festivals this week in Austin, Texas. (Amy E. Price/Getty)
smithsonian.com

When it got started more than 30 years ago, South by Southwest (SXSW) was a mere music festival. Today the Austin, Texas festival and conference is about music, film, art, technology, education, design, sustainability and pretty much anything else, drawing tens or even hundreds of thousands during its 10-day run. SXSW has become a leading venue for showcasing new technologies and innovations—here are some of our favorites so far.

A Quacky Companion for Kids With Cancer

A fluffy robotic duck from the insurance company Aflac took home a Robotics and Hardware Prize. "My Special Aflac Duck" is meant to be a companion for kids with pediatric cancer—it can show a range of emotions, lead guided deep breathing exercises and demonstrate medical treatments, like the placement of a catheter, to help steady nerves before a procedure. Aflac will provide a free duck to any child over three in America currently undergoing cancer treatment. 

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