SXSW Interactive And The Dawn of Embeddables

Ben Lee

Ben Lee

CEO and Co-founder of Neon Roots

Ben Lee is the co-founder and CEO of Neon Roots, a digital development agency with a mission to destroy the development model and rebuild it from the ground up. After a brief correspondence with Fidel Castro at age nine, Ben decided to start doing things his own way, going from busboy to club manager at a world-class nightclub before he turned 18. Since then, Ben has founded or taken a leading role in 5 businesses in everything from software development to food and entertainment.

Talking about SWSX needs very little preamble.  It’s a cultural juggernaut.  It’s the go-to festival to catch the most relevant music acts and the day’s most buzz-worthy independent films.  But, it’s also a global platform for announcing some of the biggest developments in the world of technology, and 2014 was no different.  This year SXSW Interactive has brought one word to the forefront of tech talks.  It’s a word that won’t just be on the tip of your tongue, it might soon be inside of it – embeddables.

embeddable

Wearable tech is something that’s been around for some time now.  As mobile developers in Los Angeles, Neon Roots has an invested interest in mobile tech’s future, and a lot of that is gearing itself towards a hands-free approach.  While advancements in wearable tech are looking to strap themselves to your wrist or enhance your glasses, embeddable go a step further, or better yet, a step deeper.

What are Embeddables?

At SXSW Interactive, ‘Embeddables: The Next Evolution of Wearable Tech’ envisioned a future where “nanoscale machinery inside our bodies” could “monitor and modify us.”  The discussion was led by noted futurist and managing director at Fjord, Andy Goodman.  Goodman looked at embeddables as mental and sensory prosthetics and gave examples like sensors in our tongues that could tweak our taste buds or LEDS in our hair that could display social status updates.

It sounds like science-fiction, but history has proven that advancements once thought to be far-out often become indispensable necessities.  And the technology might not even be that far away.  The University of Washington has already developed an LED that is only three atoms thick.

What Could Go Wrong?

The idea of embeddables is being taken very seriously which is why it already has its critics.  Many are already worried about the ways personal data is being collected through our devices, and embeddables are only giving them another reason to be nervous.  Some see a world where our lifestyle is monitored from the inside.  Could a sensor in your stomach bust you for eating too many cheeseburgers, letting insurance companies raise your rates?  Again, it sounds like science-fiction, but it’s a conversation worth having.

What Could Go Right?

Most of the skepticism surrounding embeddables comes from a lack of understanding about their intent or what good they could actually do.  It’s easy to dismiss the idea if you think the technology will simply be used to make your hair turn blue when someone ‘liked’ your Facebook status or allow a parent to use an app to make asparagus taste like a toaster strudel so their kid will eat their veggies.

Instead imagine being able to have an invisible ally in your system that can alert you to pre-cancerous cells or viruses before you ever get sick.  The possibilities in healthcare alone are endless.  Of course, there will be dumb shit that will come out of the rise of embeddables, but we want to see where it goes.  If you don’t, maybe there will be sensor or something that can change your mind.