The SXSW Robot Petting Zoo Displays Robots That Help Humans Survive Natural Disasters

SXSW is a zoo in and of itself, but the Interactive portion of the festival actually had a robot petting zoo within the event this year. While some may think of robots as scary things that could destroy us all and lead to some sort of dystopian future, the robots in this zoo were created with natural disaster relief efforts in mind.

Attendees who wandered into the ballroom at the JW Marriott in downtown Austin, Texas could check out disaster relief drones, stackable shelters that use technology to communicate with survivors on the ground during a natural disaster, and a cute little cardboard robot that could talk back to them.

The Field Innovation Team (FIT), a non-profit out of Heber City, Utah that connects first responders with survivors of natural disasters using technology, put the zoo together for the SXSW Interactive portion of the program this year. The group has helped in the relief efforts of a U.S./Mexico border crisis, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster, the mudslides in Oso, Washington and several other relief efforts.

We spoke with FIT’s “chief wrangler” Desi Mattel-Anderson to find out more.