This year, South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, once again presented a line-up full of stunning ideas for a not-too-distant tomorrow. Here are the four most important ideas for urbanism and mobility.
What started off as a small festival in 1987 has mushroomed into one of the world’s biggest gatherings of brilliant minds. South by Southwest, an annual festival in Austin, Texas, is back with a line-up stretching from President Obama to the leaders of any imaginable industry all the way down to your favorite local band. Today, there is no shortage of topics for any particular niche interest – from yoga to neurobiology; from the internet of things to contemporary ballet. Sifting through thousands of panelists, mentors, and creative minds, here are (again) our four picks on urban mobility and urbanity issues.
Crowdsourcing the Hyperloop
In 2013, radical innovator Elon Musk announced his concept for a train that could move in capsules through tubes faster than the speed of sound – and would be cheaper and safer than an airplane. Rather than developing the prototype himself, he released the plans to the public and invited some of the world’s best engineers and innovators to realize this tantalizingly complicated fantasy machine.
SXSW speaker Dirk Ahlborn, now CEO of Hyperloop Transport Technologies, was one of the optimists with a radical plan to make it happen. Instead of spending billions to pay the world’s top engineers, he decided to create a framework in which experts, mostly from UCLA’s SupraStudio, could donate their time to the project in exchange for stock in the company.
Interactive Dynamic Design: Fashion and Architecture
Imagine a world where fashion reflects more than our styles, but rather our brainwaves or the gazes of others. In this world, walls could breathe and be controlled by our phones. Rooms could respond kinetically to the movement of their occupants. Structures could dance with us. This is the world of SXSW speaker Behnaz Farahi – an architect and interaction designer.
Her designs combine motion sensors, 3D-printing, and robotic structures into wearable structures unlike anything humans have ever worn – and architectural spaces unlike any we’ve ever seen. By combining architecture, fashion, and technology into a single discipline, Farahi crafts a bizarre and beautiful portrait of how our future environments might look.
Aerial Cable Cars: The Future of Urban Transit
Anyone who has ever taken the L train from Brooklyn or Queens into Manhattan during rush hour knows that a practical alternative to taking the subway is long overdue. Especially now, amidst rumors that the L train might be closing down, the idea of a cable car between boroughs becomes particularly exciting.
Just in time comes Daniel Levy, President of East River Skyway and SXSW speaker, with his plan to establish cable car routes that would eventually run from Long Island City, Queens, to Dumbo, Brooklyn, and Williamsburg, Brooklyn, all the way to Delancey Street in the Lower East Side. The system could transport 5,000 passengers per hour, operate sustainably, and provide spectacular views of the skyline.
A Micro Solution to a Giant Problem: Urban Housing
From the mind of someone who lived in a converted trash dumpster for a year comes a brilliant new solution to urban housing: Kasita. This network of micro modular houses promises an extremely mobile, affordable, and intelligent mode of living in your dream metropolis without the ridiculous rent.
Founder and SXSW speaker Jeff Wilson, aka Professor Dumpster, is building these 225 square foot dwellings in cities ranging from Stockholm to Seattle. Some of the structures’ most exciting features: At the touch of a button, users can switch to a different city, and the home comes installed with the all latest technology to synchronize with your living habits.