5 IMPORTANT THINGS WE LEARNED AT SXSW
Ever heard of Twitter? Foursquare? The Four-Hour Workweek? These are just a few of the big ideas that were launched at the multi-industry conference known as South by Southwest. This 30-year-old tech, film and music festival takes place in Austin, Texas, every year and it’s designed to help creative people achieve their goals. It’s also a meeting point of style, innovation and culinary explosion that’s given the city its famous slogan, “Keep Austin Weird.” ThomasARTS had the opportunity to attend the interactive section of the festival, and here are some important things we learned.
1–EVERYONE LOOKS DUMB WEARING VR GOGGLES — BUT IT’S COOL WHAT THEY CAN DO.
Virtual reality has moved far beyond gimmicky tricks and demos, and many brands are exploring new ways to enable consumers to interact with them. It’s opening up new educational opportunities, experiential possibilities, and an infinite number of immersive and responsive worlds. But just because you can use it, should you? Probably not. One panelist shared an experience of walking into a car dealership and the first thing he saw was a VR experience of driving one of their new cars. He joked that nothing beats the real thing.
2–MOBILE STORYTELLING IS CREATING NEW PLOT DEVICES.
One of the panels we attended was called “Voyeurism on the Small Screen. Innovations in mobile storytelling.” Panelists from SoulPancake, Verizon and a film director from Los Angeles talked about a recent film they produced. It’s a love story about a man from LA and a woman from New York. What’s unique about this is that they filmed it completely using mobile devices and each person’s social media activity. It showed how they met on Facebook, stalked each other’s Instagram accounts and began FaceTiming and texting. The film director talked about how the pervasiveness of mobile use is influencing film techniques and is even introducing new plot devices, like the “…” when someone is texting someone else. This is a new way to show “suspense.”
3–THE TRANSCENDENCE OF NARRATIVE.
Storytellers have relied on particular mediums to tell stories for the last couple hundred years. But big shifts in technology have opened up new ways (and places) to tell stories. The campfire of the past has evolved into the modern-day stage, the movie theater, the living room and the smartphone. So when thinking about and designing the future of storytelling, storytellers can learn from the past and experiment in new fields with new technologies, guiding audiences into interactive, digital, physical and virtual worlds. The medium then becomes just a communication method. And the story is — and always will be — what people gravitate toward. It’s simply consumed in new places.
4–ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE WILL MAKE US ALL SMARTER.
Is there an application for artificial intelligence in finance? In health care? Farming? Sports? In artistic endeavors? The short answer is an all-caps YES. Intel presented on how AI is going to deliver the next wave of societal transformation and will accelerate human progress exponentially. The founder of Clinc, a new form of finance, demonstrated how AI will be able to use data from a person’s spending history and instantly help them adjust spending habits to help them manage their money more effectively. A farmer from Argentina shared how AI can use data and help farmers predict when and where to plant crops to get better outcomes. A fine artist displayed a new AI app called Pikazo that can create beautiful works of art in minutes. It’s interesting to imagine the future of AI, and exciting to realize that it’s already here.
5–YOUR HANDS ARE THE TRACKPADS OF THE FUTURE.
One of our favorite formats was this: a one-hour presentation that featured 10 different speakers. How it works is that they each have 20 slides, which automatically advance every 15 seconds. What this means is that speakers needed to be on their game, and be very succinct and on point. Their subject matter ranged from design principles, to futurism, to social media. One interesting five-minute presentation was from a designer from Airbnb. He spoke about something that seems a bit counter intuitive to general marketing philosophy. But after he explained some real-life examples from Airbnb, it totally made sense. He talked about the value of “friction” in a consumer’s experience with a brand. At Airbnb, they found that if they design in a way that consumers are able to share frustrations and be honest about their experiences with stays (as an example), it leads to a better product, and also helps people develop the skills and mindset to constructively navigate confrontation.
All in all, we learned a ton, listened to some incredible presentations and figured out how long we’re gonna have to wait until we get back to Austin.