MEC @ SXSWi 2015
The 22nd Annual South By Southwest Interactive Festival (SXSWi) is a 5-day immersive cultural experience focused on emerging technology and forward thinking--fueled by content, creativity and inspiration. Growing in popularity year over year, the SXSW Film, Interactive and Music events attracted 51,000 people in total to Austin, the cultural capital of Texas.
This year’s Interactive festival experienced an increase in both international participation, as well as space dedicated to the start-up community. Due to the tremendous amount of innovation within the health and medical industries, 2015 also saw the launch of the SX Health and MedTech Expo.
Serving as an incubator, SXSWi 2015 continued its legacy of bringing together inspiring and influential people, brands and technology platforms to discuss and ideate on future transformation. After all, where else can you find a Robot Petting Zoo?
5 Trends from SXSWi
Virtual reality is the new internet
Virtual reality (VR) was a major focus of SXSWithis year, with more sessions than ever dedicated to the technology and the opportunities it invites. Many of the leading VRand augmented realitydevelopers and companies were in attendance, with major players like Oculus Rift taking the stage to share prototypes, brand-focused efforts and thought-starters, serving as inspiration for brands to leverage VR as atool to unlock the future of immersive storytelling.
Other companies, like Jaunt, a tech company building the hardware and software to make truly immersive cinematic VR possible, debuted and demo’dnew content and opportunities, giving attendees first-hand experiences.
Emphasis on experience
Whether it was highlighting the technology that can facilitate it, the platforms that enrich it, the data that can inspire it, or the brands innovating around it, much of this year’s SXSWiconversation was about consumer experience, and how marketers, brands and content creators can improve upon it. We’ve seen brands attempt ‘first to market’ executions and strategies for the PR value rather than the consumer benefit; however, these tricks often don’t work. As Linda Boff, Executive Director, Global Brand Marketing for GE noted, when it comes to content creation, “audiences know how you should spend dollars to create things for them to engage with,” and they expect that content to contribute to meaningful, valuable experiences.
Aiming to create transformational experiences, WPP's Team Detroit led programming designed around using technology and elevated data as keys to creating richer user experiences. Panelists and speakers explored how data trails – the digital ‘breadcrumbs’ consumers leave behind across the Internet – offer insight into consumer behavior, and that, when used right, allow for more enhanced experiences and better results.
Coming together to communicate better
Proving how the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, this year’s SXSWishowcased countless ways of bringing people together, both physically and mentally, through social media and smart technologies like beacons.
To drive this connectivity, the official SXSW GO app was updated to includethe largest deployment of iBeaconsat an event and a new social networking feature to provide a more contextualized SXSW experience. FireChat, the popular off-the-grid messaging app, offered live interactive news via its FireChatSXSW Edition, highlighting the very best of “what to do right now.” And for those participating virtually, SXSW partnered with Roku to stream the conference on the new streaming network ‘SXSW On’ allowing access across the U.S., Canada, U.K. and Ireland.
Better living through technology
Health and wellness was one of SXSWi’shottest topics, thanks to the launch of the SX Health and MedTech Expo, an exhibit space that featured 60+ companies showcasing the future of healthcare technology. The Expo provided a chance to get hands on with the healthcare tech changingthe world, and learn from some of the brightest minds driving health forward.
Milestone eventsincluded Martine Rothblatt, United Therapeutics' CEO, who spoke about what human life means in today’s age of radical innovation, and what artificial intelligence and robotics can offer us in the future (hint: it may include the capability of transferring human consciousness to machines). Meanwhile, hospitals like Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Boston Children's Hospital joined in the start-up mentality, participating in the Impact Pediatric Health Startup Pitch Competition, emceed by Mark Cuban.
Advocacy for better internet
The Internet, and social media, have opened the door to new possibilities, allowing for greater connections and interactivity than ever before. This transformation has given rise to powerful advocacy opportunities.
Global women-and-workplace activist Princess ReemaBintBandar Al-Saud spoke about her work to empower women in Saudi Arabia across issues like gender equality and health supportthrough campaigns like #10KSA. Meanwhile, motivational speaker Lizzie Velasquez premiered her inspiring documentary, “A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story,” and spoke about her “Take the High Road” cyber-bullying campaign. Whether debating how terrorist groups are using Twitter to further their agenda, or YikYak co-founders Tyler Droll and Brooks Buffington sharing their efforts to curb cyber-bullying, much of this year’s conversation focused on understanding our individual social behaviors, and how to take responsibility for our actions with integrity.
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