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Tacos, Robots and Inspiration: SXSW 2014

March 21, 2014 at 7:30 by Tim Comments

It’s hard to draw a bottom line under this festival attracting beyond 50,000 attendees. With all these exclusive panels (yes, including a few dud ones), in-depth interviews and challenging presentations to choose from, naturally YOUR SXSW is not going to be MY SXSW. Add to it the people you happen to meet when queueing, lunching or partying your personal SXSW experience is bound to be even more different from anyone else’s.

What probably binds everyone but the most hardened ‚ÄėSouth By‚Äô-veterans is the near constant Fear Of Missing Out. Will waiting in line¬†for¬†DJ Shadow ruin my chances of brushing with history¬†a.k.a.¬†witnessing¬†Edward¬†Snowden‚Äôs¬†first¬†ever live media appearance (albeit by video link from Russia)?¬†And will chatting with a Korean startup pioneer over tacos slow me down in my quest to hit all 6 major brand-sponsor parties of the night? Can I squeeze in a quick brain-scan game at the SUBWAY tent and still make the Lean UX workshop?

What I am able to list are my personal favourites, the moments where I truly learnt something.

+ Content Marketing strategies can increasingly be driven by algorithms. Duh. What may seem obvious hasn’t yet been put into use by many companies and brands. Upworthy’s founder explained in convincing detail how quality, engagement and importance come together on his platform. And a site that at only 2 years of age competes with the biggest publisher brands and attracts more than 60 million readers cannot be considered niche or pure clickbait.

+ Derive utility out of social. Twitter’s co-founder Biz Stone chatted about his new venture Jelly. A social search app that connects people with problems (where to eat the best Indian food, how to take a screenshot on Android, do you know someone that can help me move house) with people who want to help. Interestingly the number of helpers outweigh the people with problems. Are we more of an altruistic species than we thought?

+ Wearables are the new social media. If any¬†topic seemed¬†hot and almost boiling over¬†(at least from MY SXSW¬†point of view)¬†it was the wearables. One attendee even quipped that 2014 was going to be ‚ÄėThe Year of the Wearable Hat‚Äô. Indeed, gadgets and services that connect us with the data we produce were all the rage.¬†The first generation of trackers (e.g. the much lauded Nike Fuelband) have only¬†given us a¬†baseline of¬†stats. Many speakers admitted that these products hadn‚Äôt yet shifted and changed people‚Äôs actual behaviour.¬†But now we were¬†listening¬†to the head honchos of leading companies like Jawbone, Google, Pebble and Texas Instruments and brands like CocaCola and Visa¬†investing real dollars into wearables¬†ventures.¬†And we were hearing of smaller, more distributed and mobile sensors or injectables or skin patches, all working in a connected home-car-work environment. Ultimately working in unison to¬†move away from users explicitly recording and explaining themselves. And moving towards a system of¬†understanding and¬†predicting intent. Phew, the future is exciting. And, if privacy issues aren‚Äôt addressed properly, it‚Äôs also a¬†slightly scary one.

+ Lastly, the Future of Design lies in Making. MIT MediaLab‚Äôs Jio Ito laid out the beauty of being able to learn by just doing. A church organ craftsman can design his instruments by just listening to and adjusting his designs to a specific church space. And so we¬†must¬†trust our own ability to create and iterate, in hard- as well as software. And this is something that we at Reactive have proven with our partners Finch, Red Agency and Havas. We¬†presented Our Most Powerful Arm on Saturday, modified to write tweeted questions during the talk,¬†mused about Humanising Technology and hopefully inspired the attendees to also ‚Äėuse innovation for good‚Äô.

Check out some of the pics here.

The tools for it have become affordable to anyone. And we have now officially released all the software, plans and code packets for people to share and use for their own projects. Happy Making!


You can follow me on @tbuesing


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