SXSW 2015

SXSW 2015 Summary

Gene and Dave examine many of the disability related products, services, and presentations at SXSW 2015 in Austin, TX. We play with prototypes and interview inventors. SXSW is the largest Interactive conference in the world and Gene and Dave distill the disability related portion of it for you, our viewers.


Extreme Bionics: The End of Disability

As the co-director of the Center for Extreme Bionics at MIT Media Lab, Hugh Herr is working to advance technology leading to the elimination of disability and the reinvention of society through electromechanical enhancements to our bodies. He is designing revolutionary prosthetics that not only allow people to walk, but to sense their environments, actually feeling the grass beneath their bare mechanical “feet.” Hugh’s work goes beyond just repairing damaged bodies and pushes the limits of body hacking. He is creating machines that will augment and enhance human capabilities in ways that exceed beyond the boundaries of nature and biology. A double amputee himself, he is responsible for breakthrough advances in bionic limbs that provide greater mobility and new hope to those with physical disabilities.  See his TED Talk:


GroHome: Crowdfunding ADA Homes for Disabled Vets

The ADAptable GroHome is a flexible building system that is particularly cost effective in creating ADA compliant homes for disabled veterans while also enabling vets to grow the home as their family or financial situation evolves. Thousands of veterans have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan with significant physical disabilities. The strong and expandable GroHome qualifies for a disabled vet housing grant and will enable communities to directly participate in building a solution them. The GroHome is a light gauge steel sequential building system (GRO=Green-Repositionable-Open) that is cheaper and more flexible than existing practices and better than manufactured housing. See


Film: Manglehorn

Dave tells us about the movie he was in, Manglehorn, which premiered at SXSW.



We found a company that makes a wearable input device called the “Ring”. Make motions with your fingers or hands to interface electrical and electronic devices. Now on Kickstarter.



Easy to use headset.   Dave found this headset particularly easy to use and suggests it is easy to use by many folks with mobility impairments. Now on Kickstarter.


This company makes 3-d printable, customize-able prosthetic limbs. For one company out of Japan, called exiii, this has allowed them to create a myoelectric hand which not only is exponentially more functional than prosthetic hands from a decade ago, but also is available at just a fraction of the price.


Dewey Awards

The Dewey Awards honor people from all over the world who take advantage of digital technology and media to do help and inspire others. One of the Dewey award winners was Libby Malone, from London. Accepting on her behalf was Arizona Smith. Libby founded On Our Radar, which trains and enables citizen reporters from the most isolated, poor and forgotten parts of the world — slum dwellers, disabled youth, rural women and girls. By empowering them with a simple mobile phone, On Our Radar gives these people a voice in the democratic process. It allows disenfranchised groups, including people with disabilities to report news stories which impact their lives.


The Dewey Awards was officiated by Sharron Rush, founder of Knowbility. Knowblity does ground breaking work in Austin, making the WEB accessible for people with disabilities.



VocaliD is a 2015 SXSW INTERACTIVE INNOVATION AWARD WINNER, in HEALTH MED & BIOTECH. This Award is for an innovation that improves the quality, efficacy, and/or cost-effectiveness of diagnosis, treatment, and care in the field of medicine. Check out VocalID’s web site,, to learn how you can donate your voice to help someone who has a speech impairment.



FOVE makes new kinds of interaction possible in virtual reality. From Ironman­like user interfaces to subtle eye contact with virtual characters, with their first eye tracking head mount display‬‬. FOVE makes VR more expressive and immersive. Gene operated it using only his eyes. See more at



This product, by, is an alternate mouse. It’s innovative design prevents carpel tunnel injuries. Mike Pace demonstrated it for us.


Modern Swiss Army Knife: Apps for Independence

This panel examines and demonstrates how apps and mobile devices can be used to support independence by focusing on the individual’s skills, abilities, and interests.



Grier Wilt, from NASA Johnson space center in Houston, told us about jobs available, for people with disabilities, in their Inclusion and Innovation Counsel. Contact Grier at



This company builds robots you can control with body motion or facial movements, customizable thru 3-D printing. For more information, see


Makers Change the World and Tools Change the Maker

We’ve seen the evolution from artisans and tinkerers to startups and entrepreneurs. Makers are no longer just hobbyists, they are often the ones bringing the “next big thing” to market for mass consumption. They are changing the game for all of us.

Gene interviewed Tech Shop found Paul Teich, who serves on the Board of Directors for Odyssey School, an Austin-based private school that helps bright students with learning disabilities such as ADD, ADHD, and dyslexia achieve academic success. Paul said that for a nominal membership fee, you can have access to millions of dollars worth of tools, and consult from many technical experts. For more info, see