Two things define SXSW: spectacle and smoked meat. GE's managed to meld the two at its BBQ Research Center. Just up the street from the Austin Convention Center, General Electric's research arm set up shop with a 12-foot tall sensor-laden super smoker and a BBQ tasting room called Brain on BBQ. As you might suspect, tasters wear consumer-grade EEG headbands (the Muse variety) to track how their brainwaves change when eating savory smoked meat, tangy coleslaw and sweet banana pudding. GE's going to mine the data from every participant to see if it can glean some useful insight about the nuances of flavors, but really it's just a way for folks to see what's going on inside their noggin whilst chowing down. The whole setup is meant to draw attention to the company's R&D efforts in food and neuroscience, and show that GE's technology can be leveraged to improve most any industry.
Speaking of tech, the smoker works the same as your garden-variety pit, but it's laden with sensors that track the temperature in each of the three cooking chambers inside. Plus it tracks the relative humidity and the amount of smoke flowing over the ribs, brisket and sausage contained within. That allows the pitmaster to test different meats, heat sources and amounts of smoke while tracking things precisely in real time and, in theory, find the ideal combination to deliver only the most succulent and delicious meats. Of course, every palate is different -- and any pitmaster will tell you that true perfection is unattainable -- but the idea is to see if an analytical approach can improve BBQ. Let's hope it can, because better BBQ makes the world a better place.