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

By Jason Maggs, Associate Director, Invention Studio, Mindshare NA

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, 360 video, robots and all the other deliciously buzzworthy things that get us media and advertising folk giddy.

Mindshare is sending a team to review the latest and greatest coming out of SXSWi. Our team got together to discuss the core topics that we expect to see, from IoT to e-commerce to sensory content and more. What will make these larger topics relevant and useful to our work is how they’re being applied to culture, industry, and policy. How the speakers and their organizations have augmented the fundamentals to affect change and inspire innovation.

With that in mind, here are five key trends that we believe every marketer should be excited about, and keep an eye on, for SXSWi.

1) Android versus Humans: Pick a Side

Forget the Android versus Apple debate; this year’s SXSW will have a flood of 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 the IBM session, “Your Future Life with Robots: Explained.” Pepper, the first social humanoid robot capable of understanding and reacting to human emotions, will make her SXSW debut here. And 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 12 months. 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 US President” during which 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 to get good seats for this one.

The Secret Service will also be in the house. Not to protect the President and First Lady 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, a middle, and an 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 over the past year. The democratization of key technologies like augmented and virtual reality has planted an expectation in the minds of consumers. Soon we’ll hear things like, “What do you mean I can’t watch the making of Beyoncé’s new film in full 360 degree VR video?” 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 driveto the mall, spend half an hour looking for parking only to have it stolen by some obnoxious jerk, spend more time searching, park your car, 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 you like on Instagram; you can buy that now. See those new Nike Airs you’ve been wanting in a YouTube music video; you can buy that now. Soon you’ll even be able to buy products from shoppable Snapchats – but you better get it quick before the deal disappears (…yes, I know that was bad).

What does all this mean for our clients? The world is now a storefront. We need to encourage our brands to evolve with the rapidly changing face of retail and to meet new consumer expectations. We should look for, and embrace, ways to make shopping as easy and 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. LG has created an OLED screen that rolls up like a newspaper.  A drone can deliver you pizza and a six pack. Love them or hate them, we have hoverboards.

Naturally, everyone should be excited to see: who will be the innovators that wow SXSW? Who will win the SXSW Accelerator competition? What will their innovations be? Will said innovation be an invisibility cloak just like Harry had? Even if we don’t witness one clear hype winner, this is the place to consider the next big explosive possibilities for our future, even if they come from the smallest startups

To bring this Willy Wonka analogy full circle: if you were lucky enough to find one of the golden tickets to the chocolate factory (read: SXSW) then grab your Grandpa Joe (read: your boss who was kind enough bring you to SXSW) and don’t be the kid who drinks from the chocolate lake, or the girl who turns into the Snozberry balloon. Be Charlie: listen, learn, make friends and eventually fly into the sky in an elevator with Willy Wonka (interpret that one as you may wish).

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