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.

Virtual Reality for Child Safety

A runner-up for a Virtual Reality prize, AVEnueS is a VR experience designed to help human social workers practice and sharpen their decision-making skills in high-stress situations. Case workers are often asked to make quick decisions regarding child safety that have tremendous repercussions. Is the child at risk in this home? Should we remove the children to foster care? AVEnueS lets workers practice in an immersive 3D environment, with angry parents, perhaps a frightened child. Creators say it is useful not only for social workers but for anyone who interacts with children, from teachers to police officers to family counselors. 

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