South by Southwest is a big entertainment festival that happens in Austin, Texas every year. It sees artists launch albums and perform live; TV and movie studios show off their best content; and the cutting edge of interactive media showcased among many other things.
Festival-goers can expect to see TV and movie stars, hear more about upcoming movies and TV series, listen to guest speakers, attend concerts, and see the best of what the American entertainment industry has to offer.
Even though it’s not specifically focused on tech, South by Southwest has been known to offer its fair share of tech-related exhibits, and even the odd big announcement.
The festival happened last week; here are some of the tech-related highlights.
This year saw a big emphasis on interactive “immersive customer experiences” for the show-going public that use cutting-edge tech to showcase various products and ideas.
This has been predicted to be the Next Big Thing when it comes to audience engagement for years now, and it is finally coming to fruition.
Perhaps the company that was most committed to that notion was American broadcaster HBO, who set up a huge interactive Game of Thrones stand that used all manner of cool technologies to really involve festival-goers in a unique and memorable “World of Game of Thrones” experience.
The idea is that even if the live showcase only reaches a few thousand people, those people would sing its praises on social media and thereby reach a lot more.
A blood-donation drive was run alongside the Game of Thrones experience, which the Red Cross says boosted new donor numbers by as much as 40%.
Scooters, AR, exoskeletons and more
Other tech-related highlights at the show included:
- An exoskeleton powered by AI from Lockheed Martin that gave its wearer superhuman strength
- All manner of small personal robots
- An augmented reality display that let attendees try on virtual versions of real sunglasses
- VR experiences were there in force
- Electric scooters were everywhere with manufacturers appealing to early adopters
- A virtual reality tour of a “personal drone” service that will come online later this year in the US for $250 (R3600-odd) a ride
- Smart in-ear hearing aids that bring hearing aid design into the 21st century
- A VR-based surgery training tool that wants to be “flight simulation for surgery”
Not political but
While it’s by no means a political festival, this year’s South by Southwest was used by various American politicians as a speaking platform.
Democrat Senator Elizabeth Warren used the festival to declare her intention to break up the three biggest US tech companies, Facebook, Amazon, and Google, due to her distrust of their use of and access to customer data.
The odds of that ever happening is another question entirely, but Senator Warren was adamant that if elected president next year, she’d enact sweeping changes that would take away the power she believes those companies have over regular Americans.
While strange for an entertainment festival, the presence of politicos and messages like Senator Warren’s went hand-in-hand with what festival organisers identified as the breakout “theme” of the 2019 event: “Confronting an Era of Digital Distrust”. More on this is sure to develop in the coming weeks and years.
If you’d like to watch a 4-minute video showing off much of the above, visit the official SxSW page here.
[Source: CNBC, The Guardian, SxSW Website]
[Images: SxSW Press Portal]