By Lauren Fliegelman, FasterCures Intern
Earlier this month the city of Austin, Texas played host to the best and brightest technology entrepreneurs at the interactive portion (SXSWi) of the South by Southwest (SXSW) 2013 conference and festival. A magnet for startup companies looking to make an impact, it brought together a wide range of breakthrough IT innovations – some of which have the potential to make waves in the healthcare and medical research industries.
FasterCures was not there in person, but we watched the events unfold from afar and were quite enthused by some of the things we saw.
Trending topics at this year’s event included the potential of 3D printing to revolutionize U.S. manufacturing and product design. Already, examples of the use of 3D printing can be seen in the orthopedic industry. Earlier this month, Oxford Performance Materials demonstrated how this technology is able to replace 75 percent of a patient's skull, with the approval of U.S. regulators, using 3D-printed implants that take the place of bone damaged by disease or trauma. Several discussions at SXSWi addressed this technology and explored its continued development, practical applications, and safety implications.
Additionally, the “Quantified Self” movement – a trend towards collecting health data from our bodies in real time and tracking its impact on our overall wellness – was a highlight of the week. The case for collecting big data has been made in previous years at SXSWi, however, more advanced wearable technology has since been developed allowing each and every one of us to record and measure our everyday bodily functions – from fitness impact to sleep quality to metabolic performance – allowing for greater analysis and insight.
Technologies of note
The newly formed Neurotrack was the winning healthcare startup at the event. Neurotrack’s work towards earlier Alzheimer’s detection is rooted in 25-year-old research from neuroscientists at UC San Diego. Its test can now identify those at risk for Alzheimer’s disease six years before the onset of symptoms, which is traditionally when an initial diagnosis is made. CEO Elli Kaplan said that 100 percent of those who scored lower than 50 percent on the test went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease.
Higi, a medical screening startup, had its own lounge at the event where Higi Stations, which measure different aspects of your health and give you a score out of 999, were readily available for use. A higher score means better physical, mental, and social health. The Higi philosophy is that many of the US’s major health ailments such as obesity and diabetes could be cured through prevention. According to the company, if you know more, you’re more likely to do more. Armed with their score, people have the ability to make significant changes in their lives.
Other cool stuff
Highlight, an app that alerts you when people with similar interests are nearby, the Memoto “life blogging” camera, that clips on to a shirt or jacket and snaps a photo every 30 seconds, and Leap Motion, a small device that allows you to control your computer by the wave and motions of your hand rather than a mouse or track pad.
For more information on SXSWi 2013, and to see a list of guest speakers and participants, visit http://sxsw.com/interactive.