Interactive, Inbetween

When my boss agreed to subsidise my trip to SXSW Interactive, it came with strings attached - we had to find a way to share what we'd learned with colleagues and clients. Fair enough! But what was the best format for this? Loads of other visitors were delivering on the spot video reports and blogs, and we took a swing at something in this vein by running our dedicated tumblr page (which is pretty funky). 

But still, with so much diverse content, it's practically impossible to get a sense of the bigger picture in real time. Or even condense it into a short video. Perspective takes time to form. So I'm falling back on a good ol' fashioned blog post, y'all!

The sheer number (1,486 of 'em!) and variety of sessions makes it a tricky event to plan - you've got to narrow your focus. Turned out that the best sessions explored areas where specialisms overlap - for example, where open source overlaps with gaming (Ouya gaming platform). Where Astronomy overlaps with data visualisation (JWST telescope). Where digital devices overlap with real life (Social conventions in the network age). Where robotics overlap with interface design (Leap Motion). In many of these cases, this emerging intersection is growing faster than the individual specialisms - witness the growth of genetic testing (23 and me), in the space between high powered computing and ancestry.

In fact, some of these developments are moving so quickly, and are so profound, that social conventions won't be able to keep up. Devices like Google Glass will hit the market this year, and many say it'll be unpleasant talking to someone who's wearing them - you won't be able to tell if they're looking at you. There's a bar in Seattle which has famously already banned them. I'm keeping an open mind, but one thing beyond debate is that wearable technology is developing at a remarkable clip, and while I don't think the worst will happen (for more on that, watch the excellent Black Mirror TV show from the UK), we're going to encounter big social challenges along the way. 

I heard one talk given where the speaker claimed that we, as a generation, aren't solving the big problems like we used to. To which I say: bullshit. We might not be putting a man on the moon, but we're doing things that are just as remarkable. We saw a rocket take off and land successfully - vertically (watch the video, it's incredible). We saw an affordable 3D scanner designed to sit next to a 3D printer. We learned about the processes behind the development of driverless cars at Google X. The zany speaker asked a great question by the way; "What would you work on tomorrow, if you knew you couldn't fail?". Have you got an answer?

Emerging interfaces were a recurring theme. Big vendors such as 3M and AT&T were touting their wares, while new entrants such as Leap Motion and Suitable Tech had impressive live demos. One thing seems certain; while touch devices are currently all the rage, many other forms of interface are emerging - from speech and gestures through to augmented reality and curved displays. This stuff is cheap, for the large part, and I can see 2013 being a big year for this area. It's no longer just the domain of the big boys.

Of course, all this is set against the wonderful backdrop of Austin TX. It's truly one of America's great cities, with it's incredible food (Mmm, brisket), fantastic craft beers, live music and college town atmosphere. SXSW feels like a conference within a festival, and there's always something interesting going on. I give it 5 stars.

So, what's the big take-away? As I sit on this plane coming back to Sydney, I feel energised by everything I've seen. It's pretty easy for agencies and their clients to keep falling back on tried and tested deliverables - websites, social campaigns, mobile apps, and the like - but DT prides itself on being a Future Guide for her clients. I'm looking forward to finding ways to exploit this amazing technology…we're truly lucky to be working in such an exciting sector, and all the fun is on the leading edge. Bring it on!

PS If you're interested in seeing more photos from SXSW, the full album can be seen here.


Doug Knapp said…
My name is Doug and I live in the USA. I have come across a picture you took of some storefronts of 9th east in New York City. I wanted to blow it up to a large image--8 feet tall by 20 feet long. The resolution is too low. Is there any chance that you have that picture in a higher resolution?? Thanks
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