Where to Find Robots at SXSW 2017

South By Southwest® (SXSW), the eagerly anticipated, annual conference in Austin, TX is known as the place to look for the year’s most compelling emerging technologies. Dedicated to giving international professionals the chance to learn, participate and network, the focus is always on what’s next – and predictably, robotics and AI dominate this year’s offerings in the Interactive track of the conference.

With nearly 50 sessions related to and about robotics planned ranging from  from “Intelligent Future,” to the role our industry plays in Code, Design, Food, Government, Health, Film, Sports and Music – robots are, quite literally, everywhere at SXSW.

So while you might come to see everyone from former Vice President Joe Biden speak to the Wu-Tang Clan perform, you’ll stay for the compelling, cutting-edge presentations and discussions at SXSW Interactive, which co-founder and 2017 Mentor Louis Black says, “has probably been the biggest of its kind in the world since 2007.”

T  Whether you attend SXSW or not, these topics expose what’s on everyone’s mind when it comes to the role of robotics and telepresence technologies today and in the not-so-distant future. To get the latest on how humans and robots will interact and where you can expect to see them in your everyday life, the following sessions caught our eye;

Interacting With (and via) Robots:

Robots Can Restore Our Humanity

March 11, 2017 | 12:30PM – 1:30PM | Hilton Austin Downtown, 500 E. 4th Street, Salon K

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Robots and AI very well might be the catalysts that we needed to redefine work and restore our humanity. Now that technology can handle the algorithm-driven, standardized, repetitive heavy lifting, we may well have the chance to redefine work to emphasize all that we humans bring to the table that robots and AI can’t, including creativity, curiosity and emotional and social intelligence. This begs the question, then, how will employers respond to and facilitate this major transformation?

The Sound of Robots

March 15, 2017 | 3:30PM – 4:30PM | JW Marriott, 110 E. 2nd Street, Salon 6

You are already well-acquainted with the sound of robots – perhaps just this morning you asked Siri to text a friend or Alexa to give you the weather report. But there are deeper issues that need to be examined related to the rise in humans conversing with robots, including the influence of voice on perceptions of robot personality, if robots should be listening to our private conversations (or not), and even if robo-snark is appropriate in response to a person being provocative or downright rude. (Just try asking Siri if she’s intelligent…)

I Speak Robot

March 12, 2017 | 11:00AM – 12:00PM | JW Marriott, 110 E. 2nd Street, Salon 8

This session examines the question, “How important is it that we design robots to communicate emotions and intentions like humans?” To the presenters of the panel who hail from both academia and the private sector, while there is some push for human qualities in robots, there will also be some ’bot-specific characteristics (i.e., a movement, a lurch or even a new form of communication) that will then become its own new language: robot.

Democratizing the Industrial Robot

March 14, 2017 | 12:30PM – 1:30PM | JW Marriott, 110 E. 2nd Street, Salon 7

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Robots working in industrial settings is nothing new; since the 1970s, they’ve become commonplace handling repetitive tasks in well-defined, restricted ways. In the next 10 years, this will continue with one big difference: the environment will change and more and more, robots will become “cobots,” working side by side on the factory floor with human beings. This represents a huge shift, one that requires robots to work in unstructured environments, interact often with people and guarantee superior sensitivity for human safety. The possibilities are major, as are the implications of the evolution of the industrial workplace.

Redefining Presence to Transform Healthcare:

Merging Senior Care and Technology at Home

Mar 14, 2017 | 3:30PM – 4:30PM | Austin Convention Center, 500 E Cesar Chavez, Room 9C

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Technological advances have paved the way for older adults to age at home. As health tech innovators expand their role in the longevity marketplace, there are both opportunities and challenges, such as conflicting healthcare models that may curtail innovation and adoption. This panel of health practitioners who are also tech entrepreneurs will discuss the positive impact technology has on seniors, how it is evolving attitudes about aging and what progressive actions are needed to further the aging at home movement.

The Future of Dynamic Innovations in Healthcare

Mar 11, 2017 | 9:30AM – 10:30AM | Austin Convention Center, 500 E Cesar Chavez, Room 9AB

Healthcare innovators are helping doctors use technology in ways you’ve never before imagined, from making virtual house calls for simple diagnoses and treatments to automating patient engagement and allowing doctors and patients to remotely discuss pre- and post-surgical care. This session explores today’s telemedicine and also gives a glimpse at the future of remote health care.

If you can’t make it to SXSW, you can check out their live stream going on during the event or post-conference videos on their YouTube channel. While we won’t be there this year, we are thrilled to see that our industry is well represented by such a diverse array of visionaries, teachers, developers, designers, professionals and of course, a perennial favorite — this guy:

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At Suitable Technologies, we see a bright future of humans and robots working together to solve the biggest problems we face – from the future of work to education to healthcare to simply being able to have a face-to-face conversation with anyone in the world – we’ll be able to do more together.