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IEEE Events at SXSW Cover Quantum Computing, Regenerative Medicine, and Scent Technology

Hugh Herr and Dean Kamen among this year’s speakers

Image: IEEE

IEEE is making its presence known at one of the world’s largest tech events, the South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive Festival, held from 9 to 14 March in Austin, Texas. IEEE is hosting 12 talks, three meet-ups, a mixed-reality experience, and an interactive party as part of its “Tech for Humanity Series.” The sessions cover cutting-edge technologies in areas such as health care and entertainment, as well as discussions about their societal and ethical implications.

Senior Member William Hurley, a serial entrepreneur and chair of the IEEE Quantum Computing Working Group, is set to deliver the keynote talk “The Endless Impossibilities of Quantum Computing,” in which he addresses how the technology will permanently alter computing and the global arms race to become the leader in the field.

Honorary Member Dean Kamen, Segway inventor and founder of FIRST—a program to get students inspired in engineering, science, and technology—plans to talk about his latest undertaking in “Regenerative Medicine and Human Tissue Manufacturing.” Kamen’s Advanced Regenerative Manufacturing Institute is working on fabricating human cells, tissue, and organs, which could be made “on demand” by replicating the patient’s cells. He says the technology can save lives and might cure chronic conditions.

Extreme Bionics: The Future of Human Ability” is being led by Member Hugh Herr, cofounder of the Center for Extreme Bionics at the MIT Media Lab. Joining him is Aimée Mullins, the first female amputee to compete in the National Collegiate Athletic Association, as well as Hans Georg Näder, owner of Ottobock, a prosthetics and orthotics manufacturer. This session, which aims to redefine what the term disability means today, is expected to address recent advancements that allow prosthetic limbs to move and feel like their biological counterparts.


Other IEEE events include “Can We Create Consciousness in a Machine?” moderated by Glenn Zorpette, executive editor of
IEEE Spectrum
. The talk is designed to cover the realities of intelligent machines. Speakers include David Chalmers, codirector of the New York University Center for Mind, Brain, and Consciousness; Member Christof Koch, president and chief scientist of the Allen Institute; and Susan Schneider, philosopher and professor of cognitive science at the University of Connecticut.

In “Binding Emotion and Memory: Science, Story, and Scent,” speakers are expected to talk about trends in technologies that offer a multisensory experience by incorporating odors, which can enhance applications for augmented and virtual reality, and news storytelling. Scheduled speakers are Saskia Wilson-Brown, founder and director of the Institute for Art and Olfaction; Avery Gilbert, an olfactory scientist and president of Synthetics, which consults on product development of scented consumer goods and technology; and Jacki Morie, founder of All These Worlds, which develops virtual scenarios for a host of applications, such as preparing astronauts for a Mars voyage.

The “Full Body Immersive: The Future of Fun” event explores mixed reality being used in gaming, theaters, and other forms of entertainment. Speakers are David L. Spigner, founder of gaming company Boda Borg; Lou Pizante, chief financial officer of Two Bit Circus, which creates in-person interactive experiences; and Vince Kadlubek, founder of Meow Wolf, an art collective that includes virtual and augmented reality and music and audio engineering.


Those who attend the “IEEE Future of the Human Body” meet-up can network with Herr, Kamen, and other trailblazers in bionics, prosthetics, human tissue manufacturing, and human augmentation.

Other networking events include the “IEEE Women in Tech” and “IEEE Young Professionals” meet-ups. Those who stop by the IEEE booth (#523) can test out the mixed-reality experience IEEE UniVRse. Participants travel to the future and see what it might be like to colonize other worlds.

The IEEE Tech for Humanity official party (#PartyLikeAnEngineer) is for all SXSW attendees and includes an open bar and interactive tech experiences from Two Bit Circus.

For more information about the SXSW events, visit the IEEE Tech for Humanity Web page. You can also follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter using the hashtag #IEEESXSW.