If you want a preview of some of the most innovative tech developments around at the moment, look no further than the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.
At this year’s event the products were more responsive and intuitive than ever – showing you some of the ways technology is becoming integrated with how we live, work and learn.
Here we pick out some of the most interesting tech on display.
Robots for home and work
Like the idea of living in a robot society where robots work alongside us?
That’s what Japanese engineer Hiroshi Ishiguro envisions with his incredibly lifelike android robot. As well as being the same size and resembling a human, it’s able to hold a conversation – with pre-programmed voice recognition and learning capabilities.
While it may seem futuristic to us, Ishiguro’s robots are already being used in Japan – as sales assistants, office workers and even actors or TV hosts. So a world with robots may not be too far off after all.
Another robot on display at SXSW was Pepper, a so-called ‘emotive’ robot that can pick up on your feelings and respond to them. Pepper is designed to live in your home as a helpful companion, you can use it to:
- recognise when you’re feeling sad or lonely – and have a chat with you, or ask if you want to call friends or family
- entertain the kids when they’re bored with interactive games on its tablet screen
- detect local weather conditions and remind you to take an umbrella out or to wear sun cream
Sony’s interactive table top
One of the most talked about gadgets at this year’s event was a projector that uses light to turn everyday surfaces like table tops and desks into an interactive screen.
It’s made by Sony’s Future Lab, a division that’s responsible for turning innovative ideas into prototypes.
The projector works by responding to movement – simply place items on a flat surface and sensors will track them as you move them around with your finger.
In the display, Sony programmed it to recognise a copy of Alice in Wonderland, turning it into an interactive story by lifting images and text off the page.
There’s already been a lot of buzz about the potential for this technology to be used in schools – with it you could transform everyday textbooks or stories into interactive lessons.
Right now it’s only a prototype, so it’s not known when you’ll be able to get your hands on one.
Headphones with hands-free control
If you find buds uncomfortable but don’t fancy wearing larger over-ears, you could be in luck. Sony’s N audio wearable – another Future Labs creation – is a set of headphones that doesn’t actually go on your ears.
Instead of using earbuds or pads to play sound, a tiny speaker you wear around your neck directs audio to your ears so that only you can hear it.
Sony reckons it’ll really come into its own when used for sport – without any headphones distracting you as you move. Add to this motion tracking and built-in GPS, and it’s the perfect accompaniment for running or cycling outdoors.
Navigating it is easy thanks to the hands-free control – you simply turn on the device with your voice and tell it to adjust the volume.
The IoT expands to your garden
We’ve heard of the Smart home, but what about the Smart garden?
That’s exactly what SMG’s Connected Yard platform envisions by bringing Smart tech to your garden.
It uses a software platform called Gro to monitor recent weather conditions, and give you advice about what plants to grow and when to plant them.
You can also set it up to assess your garden space and soil type – to work out the best place to grow different plants.
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