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SXSW Internet of Things Digital Transformation

Extreme bionics, creative skunk works and physical keys for internet security – discoveries from SXSW 2015

By David Cox | CIO

March 16, 2015 | 5 min read

From Go Go Gadget Legs to physical keys that unlock the web, day three at SXSW was full of weird and wonderful discoveries for David Cox, CIO at M&C Saatchi.

Go Go Gadget Legs

Hugh Herr. What a guy. In his youth he was a climbing prodigy, one of the best in the world. Then he lost both his legs to frostbite. Which actually made him a better climber.

He is the co-director of the Center for Extreme Bionics at MIT Media Lab. A career inspired at first by modifying his own body. As you may expect, the doc said he’d never climb again, so he immediately set about hacking together his own leg attachments. Pointy ones for sticking between rocks, flat ones for standing on tiny ledges and very very long ones to reach further than anyone else could.

Within a year he was a better climber than all his peers.

Fast forward to now and he’s at the cutting edge of brain controlled limbs. For the first time the wearer doesn’t even have to consciously think about controlling them. They just work. Even on cats, as he showed us.

His point was this. Not only will bionics “cure” most “disabilities”, but everyone will also want to use the same tech. Our squashy weak bodies will just be a starting point and we’ll all soon be the bionic man, or woman, or cat. Which I think counts as “wearables”, which I think means I’m allowed to talk about it.

Skunk Works

The legendary Skunk Works is the Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Development Programme. The idea is to put tight teams together, across disciplines, away from company bureaucracy to innovate quickly, and it works amazingly well. They produced the Stealth Fighter amongst many other things.

We could do with a bit of that in this industry. So often innovation comes from mixing people and skills in a way that big process and structure can sometimes snuff out.

Russ Unger agreed in his talk, DesignOps Skunkworks, where he applied the 14 rules of Skunk Works to creative projects. Here they are.

Basically, ignore the ones with the word military in.

Martine Rothblatt

The 2pm Keynote on Sunday was rammed, rare for the giant Exhibition Hall 5. It was an interview with Martine Rothblatt, who happens to be the highest paid female exec in the US.

She is currently working on the very cutting edge of medical research, genetically engineering pigs’ organs so they can be transplanted into humans for example. Which is obviously gross. But also surely a good thing if you need a new organ.

This was about AI and what on earth is going to happen when you can copy your mind onto a disk. What happens when you make a copy, or a thousand copies. Are they all you? Which one gets to vote? Can they all buy stuff?

Internet Security

I like this simple little device. It’s a lock that connects to the internet. So as long as you have the key you can do stuff that would normally require a secure login.

Smelly DM

This business card smells of pizza.

And finally this

A video posted by @c0xy on

SXSW Internet of Things Digital Transformation

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