WNCG Faculty and Students Showcase Innovation During SXSW 2015

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

An incubator of cutting-edge technologies and digital creativity, SXSW Interactive 2015 featured five days of presentations and panels from the brightest minds in emerging technology. Special programs showcased new websites, video games and startup ideas from the community.

This year marked UT’s first, official involvement in SXSW Interactive with the introduction of UT Village. Hosted by UT Austin’s Cockrell School of Engineering, Office of Technology Commercialization, Office of the Vice President for Research and the Dell Medical School, UT Village showcased world-class research, innovation and entrepreneurial programming in one easy-to-access, collaborative environment. 

“UT Village focused on everything from healthcare devices to 3D printing, connected cars and augmented reality,” Jose Beceiro, Cockrell School’s Associate Director for Research Relations states. “The event enabled SXSW attendees to explore the research, network with the creators and get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest technology coming out of UT Austin.”

WNCG played a large role in the day’s events. Six WNCG faculty participated in two of the four panels and students presented research during the innovation showcase. 

The first panel session reunited WNCG and their D-STOP collaborators in the Center for Transportation Research (CTR) to spread the message and research challenges of connected vehicles to the world.

“This topic has tremendous impact at UT Austin and these panelists lead the field in connected vehicles, autonomous vehicles and connected mobility,” Beceiro stated. “Connected cars will transform our lives and influence everything from the routes we take to work to how we find the closest parking spot at Whole Foods.”

The panel explored security issues and the need for rapid communications for the future of transportation and featured WNCG Profs. Robert Heath and Todd Humphreys, who were joined by their CTR colleagues, Profs. Chadra Bhat and Michael Walton. Prof. Heath brought to the panel discussion his highly-cited expertise in wireless communications, while Prof. Humpreys used his expertise to discuss issues in GPS and cybersecurity. Profs. Bhat and Walton shared their expertise in transportation.

“The last few days at SXSW Interactive were amazing and inspiring,” Prof. Heath stated. “It was exciting to see so many panels, discussions and presentations on technology related to connected and autonomous vehicles.”

The series of panel sessions concluded with a panel led by WNCG Profs. Constantine Caramanis, Alex Dimakis, Joydeep Ghosh and Sriram Vishwanath that focused on making sense of Big Data and making data more digestible. 

“The stormy sea of Big Data can lead to data indigestion,” WNCG Associate Director, Prof. Caramanis stated. “We are interested in the applications of data for engineering problems, from petroleum to health to recommendation engines.”

From graph analytics and algorithms to visualization through student startups and cell phone apps, the panel focused on research techniques currently used by WNCG to bring sense to Big Data. 

“Instead of trying to avoid dirty data, we need to embrace it, to seek it out,” Prof. Caramanis mentioned. “Our goal is to develop algorithms that can make good recommendations while being resistant to manipulators.”

Prof. Vishwanath took this idea one step further. 

“We need to make Big Data digestible by solving real-world issues,” Prof. Vishwanath states. “Visualizing Big Data with actionable insights in mind is hugely important.” 

According to Prof. Vishwanath, the effective use of this data could have a huge effect on marketing, commercialization, healthcare and communications.

UT Village ended with a networking reception and innovative showcase featuring students from the Cockrell School. The students demonstrated the latest groundbreaking technology from across campus. Six WNCG students participated in the showcase, including Nick Estep, Andrew Kerns, Ahmed Kord, Ken Pesyna, Daniel Shepherd and Dimitrios Sounas. 

“The SXSW technical demo was a unique and memorable experience,” student Nick Estep stated. “It offered an additional avenue to publicize our work and engage with business-minded individuals with a focus on technical entrepreneurship. In addition to networking, the interaction with different stakeholders helped us improve the impact and motivation of our research presentation.”


To view more pictures from the day's events, click the slideshow below.