Top Tech Takeaways from This Year’s SXSW
SXSW has been one of the most respected festivals for going on a decade. Although the last few years have seen a higher level of corporate sponsorship, brand presence, and big name celebs stealing the spotlight, it is still one of the premier unconventional festivals in the world. Deals are sealed, booze is consumed, bands become famous (or buzz-worthy), products get launched, brands become immortalized. It’s a hotbed for creativity of all types. This year’s festival was no different. Below are the three biggest “cool” ideas that took centre stage this year:
- Artificial Intelligence: AI is the next big thing, so of course this particular topic was everywhere and took many different forms. From robots gaining “singularity” (a level of being that matches human consciousness), to augmented intelligence (the idea that robots should be programmed to make human life better, not to surpass human consciousness) but most importantly in the form of the autonomous car that is already within arms reach. Although there is a growing concern that self driving cars will cut a lot of people out of jobs, Mercedes has already debuted their version (see here), Uber is testing them, and the Delphi modified Audi that drove across the country to the NY Auto show in 2015 is still being talked about. This technology is on the horizon and despite it being incredibly expensive at the moment, you can expect it to be obtainable within the next decade (or less), changing everything consumers know about what it means to get from point A to B.
- Virtual Reality: This year VR got a whole exhibit dedicated to it and it’s no surprise. From gaming, to virtual tours, to testing products, VR is here to stay and is becoming a hot item all over the world. Chris Milk (the artist and founder of VR company Within) has a vision to expand on VR and create an “Empathy Machine” where the boundaries of VR are broken and consumers can actually FEEL inside the augmented reality created by VR. As Milk put it, “Enabling us to go beyond the frame.” This would mean that the difference between our reality and that of the augmented reality would be almost indistinguishable. This has huge (and somewhat scary) implications where the lines are blurred between the escapism tool and the world we are trying to escape from using that tool. That said, what a time to be alive!
- Security & Trust: In the current climate, customers worldwide are feeling less and less secure. Politics worldwide are a mess, and terrorism is pervasive, constantly dominating headlines. The annual Edelman Trust Survey reported that only 15 percent of the global population feel the system they live in is working around the world, and in two thirds of countries only 50 percent of the population have trust in institutions (banks, governments, retailers, media, etc). The big breakthrough is Blockchain, not so much in a single industry per say, but across the whole transaction-based system we live in. Simply put, Blockchain takes out the middleman in transactions – banks, credit cards, all the people who validate transactions are gone with its implementation. It would be like three people sharing a joint-account and each transaction being validated by the joint-account holders who are notified each time any transaction occurs, and everything is documented. If any of the joint account holders did something shifty, the other joint holders are notified and the transaction is invalidated. Obviously this is the layman’s explanation for the purpose of this article and the true application of this product is far more complex, but a product that cuts out middle men and reinstates trust in transactions, all the while allowing the consumer to control their own currency makes our current system potentially obsolete. As stated on Medium, “Overall, the Blockchain technology has the potential to revolutionize several industries from advertising to energy distribution. Its main power lies in its abilities of not requiring trust and being decentralized.”
Despite getting its name from being a music festival, SXSW has morphed into a place where brands become titans and products become customer favorites. This year, the forward-looking ideas presented give a glimpse of a future that seems very shiny and new, but brimming with possibilities that even 10 years ago no one would believe could be on the horizon.
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