Exploring Technology at SXSW EDU



People at SXSW Creative Industry Expo try new programs developed for VR. SXSW EDU and the Creative Industry Expo took place one after the other but both showcased new innovations. photo by JC Ramirez Delgadillo.

Victor Martinez and Griffin Beam

This year, South by Southwest (SXSW) exhibited new technology to potentially be used in the education field via its SXSW Education convention (SXSW EDU). As a part of the SXSW EDU expo, convention goers were shown new ways for teaching students using technology conceived in recent years, and demonstrators were, in turn, given more exposure to potential investors.

SXSW EDU is an event that takes place annually at the Austin Convention Center, this year taking place from March 6-9. Technological advancements presented at the expo involve virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR). VR is where a user puts on a headset and sees an imaginary place, but in AR the normal world remains visible, but the user can put what they want over it on a screen.

Seb Ji is a developer for Proteus VR, a Canadian tech company specializing in creating virtual reality environments of classrooms and chemistry labs. Ji presented an AR game at SXSW EDU that, utilizing multiple different headset models, inserted the user into various educational classrooms, such as labs used in science classes.

“Currently we have a chemistry lab, an electricity lab, and are working on a biology lab,” Ji said. “We also plan on working in a physics lab. We hope to work on several other mods. VR development is complicated. We are doing a lot of tests and user feedback.”

Another example of a new technology showcased was Pixicade, an application that allows users to scan drawings they create and make them into virtual obstacle courses. Alysha Horstman showcased Pixicade at SXSW EDU, and she hopes the publicity will allow the product to break into the educational technological field and get students invested in game design and storytelling.

“We’ve met a large group of teachers that teach teachers or teacher coaches, and that has been really wonderful to have to help us get the information about our brand out there,” Hortsman said. 

Horstman is only one of the multiple educational and technological developers bolstered and given exposure by SXSW EDU. Another speaker was Sally Trainer, the chief content officer for MyShakespeare.com, a site which helps highschoolers comprehend Shakespearean plays through modern translations.

“We saw the direction of education and made a website version of Shakespeare and including translations and video resources,” Trainer said. “We don’t have a marketing team, so we rely on word of mouth, and we try to get in conferences and show teachers this new technology so they switch over to digital.”

Because of the audience at SXSW EDU, both Trainer and Hortsman have been able to reach larger audiences. According to the SXSW EDU website, this is the goal of the event, to empower the teaching community.

“We’ve met some incredible people, whether it’s principals, or leaders in edutech that are trying to help companies like us to reach more people,” Horstman said. “