March 14, 2016

SXSW – OMG or WTF?

ARC

If like me, you’re one of the people wishing you were at SXSW in Austin Texas (and not just for the BBQ), let’s take a look at what is happening this week that is truly innovative or utterly nonsense. There is a fine line between “what if?” and “so what?” that we all have to tread when we’re in the cutting edge game. Without exploration there are no breakthroughs but along the way there are so many ideas that leave you wondering “what were they thinking?” For those of us working in the commercial reality of marketing communication, we desperately want to propose the latest innovations and help brands do things first before anyone else – but often can’t justify it. Clients want to know what the ROI is. Not easy to provide when something has never been done before. It takes a brave client to go where no other brand has gone before without guarantees.

Let’s put aside the practical world for the moment. What interesting things have been happening at SXSW that could become future trends? For me, one of the surprising stars of the show has been Deloitte Digital with ARC (Audience Reactive Composition) that enhances the experience of festival goers through an “exploration of the future at the intersection of light, music and technology”. To me it looks like the interior of the Tardis from Doctor Who which is always a great place to start.

At first glance it could come across as something only Bjork might love but few others would appreciate, but take a step back and there is an interesting exploration around moving away from interacting through screens alone and giving people a more physical, tactile way to experience technology. In an interview with its creators Dave and Gabe, they talk about how “we are very visual as humans, but our muscle memory and tactile intelligence is incredibly powerful. The future of digital technology and interaction should speak to those physical properties”. Definitely an area which could develop into new ways for brands to interact with consumers. Find out more here: http://sxsw.deloitte.com/

japanhouse

One participant at SXSW that intrigues me (and definitely worthy of an OMG) is Japan House. I’ve always had a thing for Japanese innovation and Japan House continues to push the boundaries in strange ways that only the Japanese have a knack for. Just their description alone says it all as they “invite you to re-explore with us the eternal mystery of human nature. What constitutes human nature? What form will the extension of humanity take?” Go along for a taste of tomorrow’s world with robots, AI, new forms of mobility and 3D printed human organs. Find out more http://jpnhouse.com/

Still in the land of the rising sun, Sony is showcasing a lot of new tech with their Future Lab Program. While the name may not be very creative, what they have put together shows how much Sony is still a true innovator. One of the projects is simply known as “N” and is essentially (to quote 9to5google.com) a “neckband-like device that provides a cloud of audio that you can hear without the need for headphones. With no headphones attached to your ears, you can wear the device while running, biking, or driving without needing to worry about safety issues. The device also has motion sensing and GPS location tracking capabilities”. Get the full story here > http://9to5google.com/2016/03/13/sxsw-sonys-future-lab-shows-off-its-n-audio-based-wearable-other-projects/

One brand that is working hard to be seen as more innovative is Gatorade. Ahead of SXSW they launched a challenge called Bolt Breakers where tech companies such as Google and Twitter were invited to imaging how technology could help young, competitive athletes. The results can be seen at SXSW. The full story behind the initiative can be read here on Adweek. Not wanting to be left behind by other sports brands like Nike and Under Armour, Gatorade is really looking to transform itself to be known as a forward-thinking company dedicated to using innovation to help fuel performance.

The SXSW Interactive Innovation Awards is another chance to see what the future might look like. It really covers a broad spectrum of topics that you won’t see at other festivals. From Health, Med & Biotech to 3-DIY (best use of 3D printing tech), New Economy to Audio, Responsive Design to Visual Media and Wearable tech to name just a few. My favorite award is called SCIFI NO LONGER which recognizes achievements that before 2015 were only possible in science fiction. Check out the shortlist now and the winners after March 15 http://www.sxsw.com/interactive/awards/innovation-awards

3057747-slide-s-1-budweiser-goes-to-sxsw

I will end with what I think is a perfect example of a WTF moment at SXW. Budweiser is using the event to launch “Tackle Impossible: a Force for Safer Roads”, a U.S. initiative to “ignite the entrepreneurial spirit of young adults to tackle global road safety and help find innovative solutions to the problem of drinking and driving”. Good one, that’s like Burger King promoting veganism. Wassssuuuuuppppp!??