SXSW: Are Agencies And Clients Killing The Cool Factor?

Didn’t make it to Austin TX for SXSW '15? Want to know what went on across the 800-plus sessions? Take a two-minute time-out to read about the five key talking points and maybe even impress your boss with a well-chosen soundbite.

Future of travel. From alternatively fueled vehicles to revolutionary car-sharing options and from self-driving cars to flying vehicles. Yes, the Jetsons-style flying car is coming to you by 2017, according to its makers, Aeromobil. And apparently there will be a driverless version just a few years later. 

Haptics. Now there is a new one for you (don’t forget, you heard it here first). Derived from the Greek word for "touch," in this context it basically means some form of tactical tactile response to a technology (try saying that quickly). For example, the Pavlok app and associated wristband will punish its user if they do something bad (eg., like smoke, overeat etc.) by giving them an electric shock. 



Or a slightly more positive approach is that of the Alert Shirt developed by Foxtel in Australia that uses wearable technology to let football fans experience the body blows taken by their chosen player during a game. 

Convergence Programming.  The barriers that have traditionally separated the music, film, sport and interactive industries are rapidly evaporating. This was a theme we saw at CES in January epitomized by the Omnicom Media Group session featuring Pepsico, Snoop Dogg and Revolt. There was a whole day given over to it here and the highlight (for me at least) were the mi:mu Gloves which are a wearable tech for aspiring musicians who can’t play an instrument (like me). Become Eddie Van Halen in an instant. Without the skill. Or the guitar. 

Accelerator. Not exactly new (now in its 7th year at SXSW), but still managing to pull in the crowds and genuinely excite the people who participate. Selected start-ups present their ideas to a packed auditorium and panel of judges. The "most innovative" award went to BioBots who manufacture human-tissue via 3D printers (yuck), while the overall winner was Slantrange, whose drone systems enable crop farmers to survey large fields for problems such as pest infestations. 

Agencies and clients killing the cool factor. For a decade SXSW has largely been considered the cooler cousin to CES. This year, however, some have argued that SXSW sold out to the corporate big boys. There was barely an event that wasn’t sponsored in some way. The core mission of the event when it launched in 1987 was to find new bands. Now it has grown exponentially and become something far beyond that original musical remit. Less like Austin, more like Vegas. 

No opportunity was missed, including a plane flying a Grumpy Cat flag courtesy of Friskies. Yep, that happened. Dave Rosner (head of marketing at ZEFR) said "SXSW has become a must-stop-by versus a cool-stop-by. Critical but certainly no longer 'emerging.’" 

Which is all good, but on the flip side, people are already touting the likes of C2 in Montreal or Dmexco in Cologne as potential heirs to the geek tech throne.

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