Androids Vs. Humans: The Robot Debate And More At SXSWi

There’s a scene in the original Willy Wonka where all the kids run from school to Bill’s Candy Store. He starts handing out scrumdiddlyumptious candy to the (slightly greedy) ecstatic children. Song breaks out and the kids are having the time of their lives. This is exactly how I imagine my first time at SXSW.

Except instead of school, I’m sprinting from the office. Instead of Bill’s Candy Store, my destination is Austin. And instead of candy, I intend to gorge myself on AR, VR, BBQ, robots and all the other deliciously buzz-worthy things that get us marketing folk giddy. 

More importantly, what will make these topics relevant to our work is how they’re being applied to culture, industry, and policy. With that, here are five key trends that I believe every marketer should be excited about for SXSWi (with special thanks to my fellow attendees for providing input as well).

1)The Robot-Human War 



Forget the Android versus Apple debate; SXSW will have numerous sessions dedicated to androids versus humans. 

On one side, you’ll hear that robots are taking our jobs and that our lives are next. If you’re of this camp, you’ll enjoy Jerry Kaplan’s session, “Robot Armageddon: AI, Jobs and Inequality.” If you’re like me and rooting for the robots, then don’t miss “Your Future Life with Robots: Explained” instead. Pepper, the first social humanoid robot capable of understanding and reacting to human emotions, will make her SXSW debut here. Rumor has it, she’s looking to make friends. 

Why should we care? Artificial intelligence, along with robotics, have come a long way in just the past year. The repercussion for our industry and way of life will be huge.

2)Election Season 

In case you’ve missed the news, it’s election year. And what an election it’s shaping up to be. 

Expect to see sessions like “Big Data will Choose the Next U.S. President,” where experts will explore how data will ultimately win the upcoming election. On top of that, the Obamas will be at SXSW. “Whaaaat? Where and when?” you say. “Not telling,” I say. I want good seats for this one.

The Secret Service will also be in attendance. Not to protect the President but the CIA Public Affairs Office will hold a session titled: “For All Your Eyes Only: Communicating Secrets at The CIA.” They’ll explain how an organization built on secrets has managed to get 1.2 million followers on a platform where secrets go to spread — Twitter.

3)The Digital Storytelling Revolution

The formula to storytelling never really changes. We have a beginning, middle, and end. That was until digital took hold. Now story arcs can splinter off into an infinite number of directions. 

It’s hard to not be thrilled with how digital storytelling has evolved recently. The democratization of key technologies like AR and VR has planted an expectation in the minds of consumers. Soon we’ll hear things like, “What do you mean I can’t watch Beyoncé’s new music video in full 360-degree VR?” And let’s not forget the magnitude of channels we now have to tell a story through.

We’re excited to see brands pushed to try new storytelling techniques, and to ultimately loosen the grip of control over where their digital story pivots and pivots again.

4)The Shoppable World

It wasn’t that long ago that if you wanted to buy something, you would drive to the mall, spend half an hour looking for parking only to have it stolen by some obnoxious jerk, spend more time searching, finally park, go inside, and buy what you wanted from the store you knew it was at. 

Now you can buy what you want from pretty much wherever you want. See a cute skirt on Instagram; you can buy that now. See those new shoes you’ve been wanting on YouTube; you can buy them now. Soon you’ll even be able to buy products from shoppable Snapchats – but get them quick before the deal disappears (…yes, that was bad). 

The entire world is now a storefront. Brands must evolve with the rapidly changing face of retail to meet new consumer expectations. We should look for, and embrace, ways to make shopping as convenient as possible, whether that’s same-day delivery, shopping from your car, or voice recognition.

5) We’re Living in the Future; So What Now?

Look around you: we’re living in the actual future. We have 3D printers printing food. We have commercialized space travel. A drone can deliver you dinner. Love them or hate them, we have hoverboards.

Naturally, everyone should be excited to see: who will win the SXSW Accelerator competition? What will their innovations be? Will said innovation be an invisibility cloak just like Harry Potter had? Can I have one?

In just a couple of days, 33,000 people—with golden ticket in hand—will be off to the Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory of industry events. It’s a world of pure imagination that will without a doubt help shape the industry of the future.

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