While nearly 50% of the country’s 200 largest trade shows take place in Las Vegas, Chicago, and Orlando, every year, the city of Austin welcomes thousands of visitors to its South by Southwest trade show. Focused specifically on the latest in technical advancements and general health and wellness, this year’s trade show showcased vendors specializing in everything from virtual reality to indoor farming.
Since it often provides a break from the relative monotony of the exhibits, virtual reality is a common draw at trade shows. At this year’s show, attendees had two different VR experiences at their disposal; one of them, called Birdly, allowed visitors to soar above the Manhattan skyline with some help from a headset and a machine equipped with plastic wings. Attendees lined up in front of the flight simulator — which even had a fan to create realistic wind — to wait their turn.
Birdly is often marketed to amusement parks and venues like zoos, aquariums, and museums, who can use the VR experience as a ticketed attraction. The creators may expand to other animal-centric VR experiences in other environments, like ocean exploration with a manatee or prehistoric adventures with dinosaurs.
But visitors to the trade show wanted more than just fantasy exploration. Health-focused attendees are interested in learning more about their own reality — namely, how their own bodies process what they consume.
One exhibitor, a Bay Area-based startup company called Habit, offers kits that help you learn more about which foods work best for certain individuals. These $300 kits include equipment for at-home blood collection tests, which are then used to personalize a nutrition plan that includes “hero foods” — especially healthy foods that will make that person feel their best. The company then delivers meal kits that follow these plans to the letter.
SXSW even had exhibitors who can help consumers grow those healthy foods in a better way. Local Roots Farms, based in Los Angeles, came to the trade show with their truck, complete with an indoor kale and greens farm, to demonstrate a food system that actually uses less energy, produces less waste, and increases produce freshness. By converting trucks into energy efficient indoor farms, they can grow vegetables and transport them directly to restaurants or supermarkets.
And for those who want some help making their faces look as great as their bodies without the effort, there’s a Tokyo-based makeup company that wants to help you apply your makeup in a snap. There’s a catch, though — it’s just for digital use. Shiseido has created a type of software that will virtually apply a user’s makeup specifically for video use. So if you need to look put-together for FaceTiming, Skyping, or a video conference call, this app will be able to accomplish it with no makeup waste. You can even choose your makeup style, from natural to nighttime. It can also blur out the background, which means you don’t have to worry about cleaning up before a call.
The exhibitors at SXSW prove that, no matter how outlandish the idea might be, there’s probably a market out there for a given product. Visitors will have to wait another year to find out what kinds of bizarre offerings will become available for health-conscious, tech-savvy consumers in the future.