Each year, droves of digital innovators pilgrimage to Austin for the SXSW mecca event. Why do 30,000 of the Who’s Who of all things digital and innovative make the trek to the interactive festival? Is it just about wearing sandals and eating BBQ while socialites post selfies as they party with their internet friends?
For the past two years I have personally and professionally gained distinctively valuable insight from the SXSW serendipity and synergy. However, because this year seemed that many of my favorite internet friends who were once loyal SXSW attendees were opting out, I tried to justify not attending too.
However, in spite of many staying home, my awesome magnet would not allow me to skip SXSW 2014. Call it FOMO, or destiny, I had a $300 airline ticket that I paid for months ago, a press pass and a free place to stay so it was SXSW-bound for me.
Here are the six top takeaways that made the biggest SXSW mark on me and I’d like to share them with you.
Sprit of Humanity
The basic human needs were met in abundance. Those ooey-gooey right brainy things like fun, connection, music and creative spirit may be difficult to justify to your spouse or boss, but they are all critical to business development and success. These experiences cannot be forced, expected or measured easily. As technology and innovation explodes as mirrored from the growth in the number of the SXSW attendees, big data cannot define us, create or capture our experiences. We are humans, not pixels. And the communities and markets we work and live in still require amusement and real engagement. Imagine Don Draper thriving if he spoke in metrics instead of anecdotal experience.
From the front row at the SNOOP show to the up-and-coming indie performers playing at DeliRadio’s house party or the onstage performances at the Paypal lounge, I realized that music is an essential component to my own creativity and motivation. When the music plays, we relax and connect with the human spirit that can transform an idea into a business and foster relationships into partnerships.
3D Printing Gets Dunked
Last year’s SXSW impressed me with the revolutionary do-it-yourself onset of the 3D printing movement. In 2013, I learned that stilettos and skulls could be printed. It isn’t that I’m in the market for printable shoes or body parts, however as a creative human, I am fascinated at the impact these items have on design, mass manufacturing, consumerism, health and science. The 3D printing buzz in 2014? Plastic toys and cookies left me underwhelmed. Sure, the toys and cookies can be customized and it may have an impact on foodies, agriculture or food manufacturers. What is interesting to me is that last year we were creating human body parts and this year we seem to be creating cookies.
No doubt there is futuristic phenomena in our midst, beyond Oreos however. Thought leaders are using 3D bioprinting to create meat and drink mixes that are shaking up ag and food process industry like Elon Musk has been with automobiles.
Wearable Tech Gets Fashionable
Wearable Tech 2.0 proved this year that fashion won over any big function announcement. When it comes to the wearable technology trends, aesthetics and styles were showcased mostly. Examples included fashion designer, Tony Birch’s partnership with FitBit and added tech design elements like shirts that have customized light messages or built-in solar panels to charge devices.
Noteworthy was the lack of Google Glass spotted throughout Austin. You would assume that at a mecca event that represented the earliest tech adopters that Google Glass would be more represented from the crowd. However, I saw two people wearing the Glass. Even self-proclaimed Glasshole, Robert Scoble was sans-Glass at SXSW. Could the need for style be a reason? Time will tell as the fashion designer behind brands like Ray-ban and Oakley has just announced a new agreement to help Google create and distribute newly designed eye ware.
New Robot Friends
Move over holograms, this is the year of the real robot. Last year there seemed to be a lot of holograms that made an impression on me that lasted as long as the light machine was plugged in. The resources invested in a pre-programmed hologram human to stand at the 3M booth to welcome attendees was not near as engaging or memorable as my experience of walking with robot friend, Brianna down the sidewalk in front of the convention center. Check out my video of when we first met >
Brianna represents Suitable Technologies. Robotics that look simple like a flat screen monitor and Segway mashup, however, this smart use of virtual reality, wearable technology, time travel and teleporting capabilities may transform business as we once knew it. Let’s discuss robots more in future posts, shall we?
Three juggernauts of today’s media presented on the diversity each generation brings to the workplace, from generation Y to the millennial, Cosmopolitan’s Joanna Coles moderated a panel with Mashable’s Pete Cashmore and MSLGROUP’s Oliver Fleurot. In addition to the recent research Pew announced on the Millennial generation’s attributes of non-traditional, unmarried, not white and non trusting, this segment represents much more. They are also confident, connected and open to change. And, by 2020, this group of individuals will represent one half of the workforce.
Watching the interactions between the presenters, I was reminded that there are traits that every generation requires to be successful. Sure, stereotypes will always be there, like Pete’s tendencies to interrupt, Joanna’s inability to read the monitor without her glasses and Oliver’s attempt to talk down to Pete with a mobster-like intimidation. If we look beyond the boxed labels and seek to offer virtues like respect, communication and empathy, we will help bridge the generation gap in the workplace and create change and success together.
Privacy, The New Black
Remember when social was about over sharing? The more people who knew about what we were eating for lunch, the better our social experience was. That was so 2012. This year’s hottest trend represented at SXSW was the theme of privacy. Who owns our personal data? Who will protect our privacy? Speakers like Edward Snowden presented his personal account and his role as a member of the technology community. Another polarizing game changer who presented was WikiLeak’s Julian Assange.
Combine these two truth telling provocateurs with the new classification of “private social network” tools that are currently being used and talked about and there is no doubt that the topic of privacy is hot. The rise of “shh apps” like Secret, Whisper, Wickr, TigerText, Gryphn, Frankly, Vibe, Rumr and many more represent the growing need users have for anonymity. Is our need for privacy just part of the pendulum swing and will technology actually allow for any real privacy in the future?
We’ve been traveling together on the information highway for years now. Perhaps it is time we explore the dark waters of the Deep Web, the large portion of the internet inaccessible to standard search engines.
This new trend on privacy and security sparks endless questions and can make great conversations in areas like politics, parenting, marketing, global governance, ethics, morals, education and more. In fact, I plan to elaborate on this theme in future blog posts so please stay tuned and share if you have any specific areas where privacy is evolving that interest you.