News

Borgfest 2015 Sponsorship Program Begins

Borgfest is actively seeking enthusiastic partners and sponsors for our meet ups and Oct 2015 festival.  Provide us with an early commitment now and we’ll reward you with a discount for helping us bootstrap and get a jump on the year!  Learn more

Recap: Wearable Tech for Safer Streets

10464407_771164052924486_3785596715342952143_nWhat a fantastic event!  Thank you to all who participated, a special thanks to our sponsors and partners Wearable World, Golab, and Austin Health Tech, and a big thumbs up to our presenters: Sara LeVine from ATX Safer Streets, Charlie Harper III from North Austin Social Bicycling, and Jackson Egan from Chaotic Moon Studios.

2The evening began with some mingling and cocktails.  On a large flat screen TV we had a slideshow loop of some images that we felt captured the spirit of BorgFest.  You can see the images here on in our Facebook album.

 

 

Once we all got settled into our Tex-Mex dinners, Rich MacKinnon, BorgFest co-founder, executive director and Wearable World Ambassador to Austin launched the first Borgfest meet up and the inaugural Wearable Wednesday Austin event!

WWED

sarahrogerSara LeVine challenged participants to develop ways for wearable tech to make the streets safer for pedestrians and cyclists.  In fact, earlier in the day, she had been involved in a car accident.  It can happen at any time to anyone.  Even when you are on your way to speak about street safety.  In a time, when mobile tech = distracted driving, it seems counter-intuitive that wearable tech can improve safety.  The challenge is developing the appropriate UI.

Charlie Harper said “It was great to see so many people interested in wearable technology.”  He intuitively understood the connection between social cycling, wearable tech, and cyborgs.    In fact, his bike is called The Borg!  What a coincidence.  Apparently, we’re not the only crazy ones, but then again, we see cyborgs everywhere.  According to Charlie, Borg-like collectives will become more pronounced as more cyclists wear cameras and communication devices to facilitate their journey and ensure their safety.   See for yourself–his video of cyclists traveling together was mesmerizing.  At times during the video, the colored lights on the front of the bikes created an effect resembling the laser eyepiece worn by the Borg.  And Charlie’s GoPro-mounted helmet was a big hit with the meet up attendees.

Jackson Egan thought the event was just awesome and he was awesome to bring along the actual blackbox helmt aka “The Helmet of Justice.”  Participants were eager to pass it around the room and pose for pictures.  The Helmet of Justice came into existence after a co-worker was hit by a car while cycling.  Jackson can relate because he too was recently involved in a hit and run–and he has the scars on his face to prove it.  Functioning like a blackbox recorder, the helmet automatically detects impact and activates its cameras.  Jackson shared a CNN video about the helmet’s story.

The feedback after the event was that it was awesome, exceeded expectations, and there was definite interest in attending more.  Some people liked the central location, others suggested a “traveling roadshow” that better served the north and south, and everyone definitely liked having food at the venue, especially during the dinner hour.

We have several great photos from the event.  Hope you enjoy them!

The next Borgfest meet up will be Saturday, August 30th.  It will be a casual party featuring special guests and a private backyard screening of one or two films of great interest to cyborg enthusiasts.  Be sure to subscribe to our Updates email list to get the details and we hope to see you at our first Borgfest Backyard Cyborg Cinema!

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Uncommon interests in common

What do two grinders, a futurist, digital product strategist & designer, hacker, mobile developer, space gangster, architect, professor of human augmentics, director of business development, freelance journalist, maker, technology wizard, amputee, cyborg, public speaker, peer educator, industrial UX design engineer, costumer, enthusiast, author, and researcher have in common?  Read more

Borgfest selected to attend TEDMED

TEDMED

Rich MacKinnon was selected to represent BorgFest at TEDMED 2014 in San Francisco.  The application also received a scholarship to attend.  Here are the questions (as he recalls them) and answers from the application.

[I tend to save written responses for online forms to safeguard against accidental loss of work.  Unfortunately, I didn’t save the exact language of the questions from the application –rcm]

Tell us about your organization

Freeing our minds, then freeing our bodies.

Celebrate and support those with prosthetics, orthotics, implants, transplants, augmentations, performance enhancements, body mod, quantified selves, wearable tech, and more!

Borg Fest is a celebration for an intentional community of people interested in human augmentation and enhancement. Many of the participants will themselves have been augmented as a result of accident, injury, war, congenital defect, illness, or disease. Others may have been augmented for personal, professional, artistic, stylistic, philosophical, political, or religious reasons. Many of the participants are industry and academic leaders in the fields that provide products and services to this community. Amidst the celebration, key conversations will occur, critical contacts made, relationships formed, ideas crystalized, companies started, concepts demonstrated, and people helped.

We are the embodiment of the sum total of our knowledge and experience. We want to be the fastest, smartest, most adaptable that we can be. And we understand that this realization can be frightening, even threatening, to some and presents ethical challenges that question the very nature of what it means to be human.

 

How is your project unique? 

I’m all about the culture induced by the fantastic changes brought about the rapid technological achievements in health and life sciences. When we provide a prosthetic, for instance, we are no longer replacing lost capability, we are catalyzing a remade identity which may be more empowered than it was before. The story is no longer just about the bionic leg, but the dance. Culture provides us with the context for understanding why these advances are necessary (or not).

 

Why are you applying for a scholarship?

Borgfest is a venture boot-strapped out of my own pocket. We are currently developing the sponsor pitches, the success of which will determine the scope of the first festival tentatively scheduled for Oct 2014. As a result, my own funds are pretty much dedicated to getting the first sponsor checks in our bank account. Once that’s done, I’ll have a budget to spend on relevant expenses such as TEDMED registration. In the mean time, I could use your help enabling me to both focus on bootstrapping Borg Fest and also being able to afford TEDMED.

 

How will you contribute to TEDMED?

You get me. You don’t know me yet. But you get my brain, passion, and enthusiasm loaded into a CULTURE PRIMACY perspective as the best way to mainstream the acceptance of the technological interventions in the human body, and consequently, human identity. We do it through pride, celebration, inspiration, music, games, competition, film, and TV. This leads to needs, ideas, solutions, capital, products, services, and lives improved through this virtuous circle of collaboration. If we do it wrong and ignore the culture, we get fear, distrust, jealousy, prejudice, marginalization, segregation, and social upheaval.

 

What is your role in your organization?

Evangelize, Capitalize, Create, Convene, Converse, Conspire, Inspire, Collaborate, Repeat. I’m creating the world’s premier CULTURAL event for cyborgs focusing on the identity, social, and political issues arising from technological interventions in our rapidly changing human bodies. This is a pride festival celebrating our accomplishments in improving the quality of lives through augmentation, enhancement, body modification, and wearable technology.

 

What do you expect to get out of attending TEDMED?  

I want to meet the people who are actively pushing against the boundaries of human augmentation and enhancement whether through prosthetics/orthotics, augmentics, or pharma. I want to introduce them to and encourage them to collaborate with the fantastic people I’ve met who wouldn’t necessarily come or be able to come to TEDMED and are working on synergistic projects and performances.

Borgfest Needs Your Vote Today!

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Thanks for your support and votes in the contest to win us some cash and recognition during SXSW.  We’ll let you know if we win anything!  This picture is Borgfest founder Rich MacKinnon giving an interview to BuzzStarter/VentureBeat during SXSW.

Borgfest’s “conversation initializer” gets front page of SFGate

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Great SXSW coverage for Borgfest!!  But why?  Read the next post for our thoughts.

#glassfail, but why?

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The Borgfest “conversation initializer” has turned out to be hugely successful in inviting people to come talk to us about our expo on human augmentation, enhancement, modification, and wearable technology, but why?  Over the last couple days of SXSW, we’ve worn the face jewelry and were quite surprised by how many people engaged us despite its relative lack of “functionality.”  “What does it do?” or “What is it?” people kept asking and our response was that it is a conversation initializer.  Success!  But when pressed for what else it does, we’d simply say what more is necessary?  Isn’t starting conversations the most important tool one can have?  Once you’ve got people talking, anything is possible.  And then magically, one at a time, everyone we spoke to got it.  This low-tech piece of jewelry seemingly accomplishes what Google Glass cannot–it turns people on, rather than off.  It won’t matter how much more capability is added to Glass if it continues to inhibit conversation rather than encourage it.

And how does this insight relate to Borgfest?  Simple.  Borgfest is not just a technology conference for people with disabilities or people who are intentionally modifying or augmenting their bodies.  Borgfest is a culture festival supporting people with changed bodies and impacted identities.  We exist to foster pride, innovation, and solutions for the cyborgs among us.  See the difference?

SXSW for Cyborgs

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Wearable is the unofficial theme of SXSW Interactive 2014.  Borgfest will be there sporting our fantastic face rig acquired from CyberDog while in London for the CyberSalon on Human Enhancement Technologies.  More on that later.  Already, our face rig has captured the attention of quite a few Google Glass wearers.  The most common question asked, “Does it work?”  While we understand the curiosity, we believe the emerging cyborg etiquette frowns upon such questions among strangers or even casual acquaintances.  Would you consider asking a woman with a breast modification, “Does it work?”  Or perhaps approaching a stranger with an elaborate inking, “What does it mean?”  Or maybe asking someone on the street, “Are you female?”  Curiosity is terrific, but in the new emerging cyborg culture, we should be aware of emerging sensibilities, that in retrospect, may not be so new after all.

Here’s our #sxsw4cyborgs schedule:

http://schedule.sxsw.com/user_events/dccc66ef154527e1fa33acac5ca7ca36e338af58

Also, we’ll be posting pics and commentary to Twitter and Tumblr

Calling all Borgs! BorgFest announces call for participants

BorgFest, the human augmentation expo is announcing a call for speakers, presentations, demonstrations, competitions, hands-on workshops, interactive exhibitors, merchants and vendors, feature and short-length films and videos, performance artists and performers, themed or augmented bands and musicians, and borg celebrities.  We are also looking to partner with organizations interested in profit-sharing ticket sales and distribution.  BorgFest is scheduled for October 2014 in Austin, Texas, the city of festivals.

BorgFest will be unlike any conference you’ve attended.  It will take place in BorgTown, a stylized, futuristic Asian setting (think Bladerunner Chinatown) that will be a refreshing and exciting break from sterile hotel ballrooms and convention center conference rooms!  Participants will be strongly encouraged to depart from podium-centric Powerpoint presentations and 10 x 10 pipe and drape booths.  The goal of our “Festival Experience” team is to work with our participants to create an exciting, interactive experience for festival attendees.  Need help re-envisioning / re-working your standard conference spiel or booth?  Don’t hesitate to contact us for ideas!  You, your audience, fans and customers will find the effort a refreshing departure.

The call for participants ends March 31, 2014.  Selected participants will receive complimentary registration and “Delegate” status.  Open registration begins April 1, 2014 for paying participants.

Contact us now!

 

About BorgFest

Freeing our minds, then freeing our bodies.

Celebrate and support those with prosthetics, orthotics, implants, transplants, augmentations, performance enhancements, body mod, quantified selves, wearable tech, and more!

Borg Fest is a celebration for an intentional community of people interested in human augmentation and enhancement.  Many of the participants will themselves have been augmented as a result of accident, injury, war, congenital defect, illness, or disease.  Others may have been augmented for personal, professional, artistic, stylistic, philosophical, political, or religious reasons.  Some of the participants are industry and academic leaders in the fields that provide products and services to this community.  Amidst the celebration, key conversations will occur, critical contacts made, relationships formed, ideas crystalized, companies started, concepts demonstrated, and people helped.

It’s time to quit limiting the bounds of humanity with pointless purity tests for naturalness, gender, age, or tech. Everything we make becomes us. We are our environment. We are the embodiment of the sum total of our knowledge and experience. When we face catastrophe, we want to summon the best response that our civilization can offer. We are no longer interested in arbitrary limits on our performance. We want to be the fastest, smartest, most adaptable that we can be. And we understand that this realization can be frightening, even threatening, to some and presents ethical challenges that question the very nature of what it means to be human. In the spirit of our communal self-discovery, we need your help breathing life into BorgFest–a human augmentation expo. Together, we will celebrate the cyborgs among us.

Here are some of the questions we’re interested in:

At what point will prosthetic capabilities exceed those of the human parts they replace?

What are the ethical ramifications arising from augmentations providing advantages to the recipient?

What limits, if any, should be placed on elective amputation, implantation, transplantation, and other invasive augmentation?

Are pharmaceutical and dietary/nutritional supplements bona fide forms of prosthetics/orthotics?

Essential versus Elective: How do we determine the limits of mandatory healthcare coverage for limb replacement, hormone therapy, gender reassignment, breast reduction, cosmetic plastic surgery, and other controversial procedures?

What are the challenges for enabling a cost-savings market of previously-owned prosthetics and orthotics?

What are the challenges facing DIY (do it yourself) prosthetics, body hacking/”grinding”?

Read more about BorgFest!

 

Stacy Zoern, founder and president of Kenguru wheelchair electric cars to speak at BorgFest

We are pleased to announce that Stacy Zoern, founder and president of Kenguru will be speaking at BorgFest.  Kenguru makes 100% electric purpose-built cars for people in wheelchairs.  Read more