After a week and a half of amazing panels, films, musical performances and tacos, South By Southwest has finally come to a close. While we’re still taking it all in and figuring out what it all means, we took note of the largest trends that emerged from this years SXSW Interactive so you wouldn’t have to:
AI, Big Data, & Bots
Artificial intelligence was the largest theme of week and was a featured talking point in just about every panel at the festival. Microsoft’s CEO Satya Nadella has said, “we are on the cusp of a paradigm shift in computing that is like nothing we’ve seen in decades” when describing AI.
AI itself is positioned to benefit every industry from manufacturing, healthcare, banking, transportation, agriculture, etc by increasing efficiency and eliminating waste.
Companies like Intel and IBM are making huge investments in developing and enabling the AI of the future from autonomous cars, to revolutionizing customer service that allows consumers to interact in their own language (no rule-based commands or templated questions).
Deep machine learning (using large data sets to create cognitive computing) was selected as the most important trend of SXSW at the Interactive Awards.
We’ve been living in a world that has slowly become mobile-first, but we’re moving to one that is ultimately AI-first.”
VR Proves its Maturity
VR first appeared at SXSW a few of years ago as a promising new technology with the potential of one day becoming a household product. This year virtual reality returns matured and ready to prove that it’s now ready for the general public. With many different options (devices) now available to consumers, VR is going to be facing its toughest challenge to date to prove that it’s something you need. The technology is ready, but the biggest question we face as an industry is proving the technology’s true potential.
Sony offered some of the most impressive VR demonstrations at their ‘Wow Factory’ where attendees could try out one of Sony’s haptic suit, that when paired with Playstation VR offers the most immersive VR experience available (think Ernest Cline’s ‘Ready Player One’)
Connecting the Next Generation
One of the coolest new innovations shown at this years festival was the reveal of a collaboration between Levi’s & Google Jacquard that turned an iconic Levi’s denim jacket into a smart wearable with a touch-sensitive left sleeve that recognizes certain gestures like a screen.
This collaboration between Google and Levi’s demonstrates that wearables don’t have to be ugly and that clothing manufacturers don’t have to re-invent the the wheel to make smart clothing. They can produce the same items, in the same factories, that allows for mass production of smart wearables.
Seeking out Authenticity
And finally, with the increased concern over fake news, the conversation of authenticity was a popular one at this year’s SXSW. How do we achieve authenticity? Is it tech’s (e.g. Facebook, Google) job to stop fake news?
Keynote speaker Yasmin Green, director of research and development at Jigsaw (a Google company), attempted to answer this question by moderating a conversation between two individuals who have been responsible for the spread of fake news.
We may not have not seen the next Twitter make its debut at SXSW 2017 but in reality we may never see another unicorn at SXSW again and that’s ok. We tasted the future and that’s what it’s all about.