Feature: Forward-looking, life-changing techs glitter at world innovators gathering in U.S.

Source: Xinhua| 2019-03-11 07:54:27|Editor: Shi Yinglun
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AUSTIN, the United States, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Handheld ultrasound device, robot duck that keeps sick children company, plants grown on a human body -- innovative and sometimes almost "bizarre" tech developments are reshaping ways of life and visions of the future.

At the ongoing South by Southwest (SXSW) Conference and Festivals, 65 of 2018's most innovative digital projects are sweeping attendees off their feet, vying for top honors of the 22nd annual SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards.

Guru Sundar's booth was one of the most packed at a showcase Saturday when he demonstrated how to use Butterfly iQ, a lightweight, handheld whole-body ultrasound device to take medical images of his heart within seconds.

The device connected directly to a smartphone and soon offered AI interpretation and augmented reality (AR) tele-guidance for patient care.

"There are 19 different applications, everything from abdomen to bladder, the cardiac, lung, all the way down into the carotid," Sundar, director of marketing of Butterfly Network, Inc., told Xinhua.

The project, he said, was launched to "democratize health care by bringing access to medical imaging" to those who have long been denied.

The devices are being shipped to thousands of doctors, nurses and physician assistants across the United States, Sundar said. "We are expanding globally this year, likely to start with Europe and Australia."

China is also a target market, he added, as one of their largest investors is a Chinese pharmaceutical company. "We're talking to them and working with other people in terms of how to bring this technology to China... Hopefully next year."

Butterfly iQ is a champion hopeful in the category of health, med and biotech. There are 12 other categories, with five finalists in each of them. The awards will be given out Monday night.

In the category of robotics and hardware, a robot duck that supports children through cancer treatment is poised to win.

My Special Aflac Duck is developed to interact with children with cancer who are going through chemotherapy, and help them express feelings better to caregivers through the treatment process.

The goal is "focused on how we might be able to deliver comfort and joy to kids," and every single feature that the duck has is driven by this goal, said Aaron Horowitz, CEO and co-founder of Sproutel, which partnered with Aflac Inc. in creating the social robot.

"Children can give chemotherapy to their ducks. They can use the feeling cards that come along with the ducks to communicate to their caregivers how they feel," Horowitz explained.

Aflac has made a commitment to donate one such duck to every child, aged 3 to 13, who is newly diagnosed with cancer across the United States.

The ducks are produced in China. "We work with our partners there incredibly closely. They do this because they are just as committed to the cause as we are. And that's something that I feel is really special about the collaboration that we have," Horowitz said.

Other mind-blowing projects at the finalist showcase included plants grown on the human body, "a vision of the future" and "a speculation," as the designer put it, which responds to impending food and water scarcity, as well as Furhat Robot that can change faces with the touch of a button.

The showcase "gives attendees the best opportunity to have a hands-on experience with the latest developments not only in the consumer categories but also with radical new ideas that will transform the world around us," said Hugh Forrest, SXSW chief programming officer.

The 10-day SXSW 2019, which kicked off Friday, is a platform that gathers innovators and entrepreneurs from across the globe to breed and fund new ideas.