New app rolls through hundreds of local stories for road trippers traversing Texas

Autio partnered with the Texas State Historical Association to bring more than 1,000 stories to the app over the next year. Photo by freddie marriage on Unsplash

There's almost no better education on the state of Texas than driving through it — almost. The only thing better would be listening to stories about Texas history on that drive.

A GPS-based entertainment app, Autio (currently only available to iPhone users), has Texas road trippers covered thanks to a partnership with the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), bringing more than 1,000 stories to car speakers in the Lone Star State over the next year.

“Our partnership with Texas State Historical Association allows listeners to immerse themselves in theTexas history and culture — whether they’re driving through on a road trip with their family, locals on a hike interested in learning more about their homeland, or simply someone who is interested in history,” said Woody Sears, CEO, and co-founder at Autio. “We’re thrilled to be expanding our portfolio on Autio and to provide listeners with the unique stories that TSHA has in their impressive library.”

Autio, founded in part by actor Kevin Costner, who helps narrate stories alongside Phil Jackson, John Lithgow, and other readers, works like a giant self-guided tour. As app users approach an area with a story attached, they receive notifications that a story is available, giving interesting historical context to a region or even pointing out unique places to stop on the way.

Similar apps have helped users explore Austin with fun missions and geocaching opportunities, but Autio covers the United States. There are not separate tracks for different regions, making it a seamless experience no matter where a trip leads — although there will be lots of quiet time. Each story is only a few minutes long.

The library of Texas stories features historical moments, landmarks, and notable individuals in more than 100 cities. There are already hundreds of stories to browse, including one in Austin about Barbara Conrad, a Black opera singer who drew attention to the University of Texas in 1957 when she was removed from a role that placed her in an onstage romance with a white performer.

There are at least 13 stories in Austin, depending on how you define the area. The topics are mostly about natural areas and politics (it is the capital, after all). Nearby stories highlight the Bee Cave Sculpture Park, the early history of Bastrop, the Round Rock philanthropist D.H. Snyder, and the nomadic people that founded Pinta Trail near Fredericksburg.

Houston has the most stories in Texas, followed by the DFW and then San Antonio, all with more than 75 unique tales. A map shows an even distribution of stories across the state that include some often-overlooked areas with quotes from Lonesome Dove, explanations of rural legends, and overviews of small, but notable towns.

“Autio’s unique mission ... perfectly aligns with our purpose to foster an appreciation for the unique history of Texas,” said Dr. Brett Derbes, the managing editor for Handbook of Texas, a digital encyclopedia managed by TSHA. “We’re excited to see this partnership come to fruition and continue to educate more and more people on the great state we get to call home.”

Listeners can tune in for a seven-day free trial through TSHA, using the code TSHA_TRY7. New TSHA members receive an additional $10 off in the Autio app ($29.99 for 30 days, or $35.99 for the year). More information is available at


This article originally ran on CultureMap.

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A research team housed out of the newly launched Rice Biotech Launch Pad received funding to scale tech that could slash cancer deaths in half. Photo via Rice University

A research funding agency has deployed capital into a team at Rice University that's working to develop a technology that could cut cancer-related deaths in half.

Rice researchers received $45 million from the National Institutes of Health's Advanced Research Projects Agency for Health, or ARPA-H, to scale up development of a sense-and-respond implant technology. Rice bioengineer Omid Veiseh leads the team developing the technology as principal investigator.

“Instead of tethering patients to hospital beds, IV bags and external monitors, we’ll use a minimally invasive procedure to implant a small device that continuously monitors their cancer and adjusts their immunotherapy dose in real time,” he says in a news release. “This kind of ‘closed-loop therapy’ has been used for managing diabetes, where you have a glucose monitor that continuously talks to an insulin pump. But for cancer immunotherapy, it’s revolutionary.”

Joining Veiseh on the 19-person research project named THOR, which stands for “targeted hybrid oncotherapeutic regulation,” is Amir Jazaeri, co-PI and professor of gynecologic oncology at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The device they are developing is called HAMMR, or hybrid advanced molecular manufacturing regulator.

“Cancer cells are continually evolving and adapting to therapy. However, currently available diagnostic tools, including radiologic tests, blood assays and biopsies, provide very infrequent and limited snapshots of this dynamic process," Jazaeri adds. "As a result, today’s therapies treat cancer as if it were a static disease. We believe THOR could transform the status quo by providing real-time data from the tumor environment that can in turn guide more effective and tumor-informed novel therapies.”

With a national team of engineers, physicians, and experts across synthetic biology, materials science, immunology, oncology, and more, the team will receive its funding through the Rice Biotech Launch Pad, a newly launched initiative led by Veiseh that exists to help life-saving medical innovation scale quickly.

"Rice is proud to be the recipient of the second major funding award from the ARPA-H, a new funding agency established last year to support research that catalyzes health breakthroughs," Rice President Reginald DesRoches says. "The research Rice bioengineer Omid Veiseh is doing in leading this team is truly groundbreaking and could potentially save hundreds of thousands of lives each year. This is the type of research that makes a significant impact on the world.”

The initial focus of the technology will be on ovarian cancer, and this funding agreement includes a first-phase clinical trial of HAMMR for the treatment of recurrent ovarian cancer that's expected to take place in the fourth year of THOR’s multi-year project.

“The technology is broadly applicable for peritoneal cancers that affect the pancreas, liver, lungs and other organs,” Veiseh says. “The first clinical trial will focus on refractory recurrent ovarian cancer, and the benefit of that is that we have an ongoing trial for ovarian cancer with our encapsulated cytokine ‘drug factory’ technology. We'll be able to build on that experience. We have already demonstrated a unique model to go from concept to clinical trial within five years, and HAMMR is the next iteration of that approach.”

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