This year's hot start-up at SXSW—Meerkat—allows anyone to launch a live stream from an iPhone or iPad, alerting followers with a tweet. The festival has been abuzz with news about the new app, particularly Twitter's move Friday to shut down Meerkat users' ability to import their connections from Twitter.
But this kind of flavor-of-the-month social app is exactly what SXSW is trying to move beyond, with a new focus on revolutionary innovation in areas such as health, transportation and robotics. SXSW's first-time "Innovation Awards" feature the likes of 3-D printed flesh and flying cars. There's even a robot petting zoo for people to interact with the next generation of artificial intelligence.
"People are getting fed up of the coolest app." said BioBots CEO Danny Cabrera, who's at the festival showcasing his new $5,000 3-D printer that prints flesh.
"The idea here is that you can begin to replace cumbersome testing of animals. ... By migrating over to this technology you can print miniature organs that recapitulate the function of organs inside of a petri dish. And for the first time ever you can test compounds and drugs on 3-D human tissues on human cells without ever testing it on a human," said Cabrera.
Another new start-up: The Robot Petting Zoo, created by the disaster response group Field Innovation Team, has a series of robots that crawl and fly, all designed to help survivors in disasters like hurricanes. Desiree Matel-Anderson, chief wrangler at the robot petting zoo (she's also the founder of FIT), said it's important to introduce these new technologies to the folks at SXSW.
"This demographic carries a lot of pull on the technology sector," Matel-Anderson said. "We want to reimagine, rethink and create how we respond in disasters, not just with our field innovation team but with innovators around the world."
AeroMobil CEO Juraj Vaculik is at the festival promoting his flying car, saying it's possible not only to marry a plane and a car, but really commercialize it. He's planning on selling the first ever flying car—The Flying Roadster—in 2017.
"It will be a combination of super-luxury sporty-car combined with a small plane," Vaculik said. "The final price is still not set up because we are still testing a few components—different kinds of engines—but definitely what I can say is it will be the combination of a super luxury car and a small plane so it will be a couple of hundred thousand (dollars)."