SXSWi Nightcap: Day One

By Emma Witkowski, Senior Partner/Director, Digital Investment Lead, West Coast, Mindshare NA

As the sun sets on day one of SXSWi 2016, energy is high and the city of Austin is buzzing.

As a SXSW first timer I was warned that patience is a virtue and to get ready to stand in some long lines. Well I was pretty happy and a little smug when I discovered an app called “Service.” Now I can summon a service “wizard” who can wait in line for me, save me a meeting spot, or make me a restaurant reservation, leaving me time to attend more sessions! I wonder if these wizards can get me an interview with POTUS?

Speaking of the president, he delivered his keynote this afternoon. Tickets were like gold but we managed to snag one! The president highlighted that it’s noticeable that SXSW is taking initiatives to provide common good—especially environmentally, where he said: “It’s critical that all of you, the people who are shaping the environment, are thinking about how we can save it.” Thinking further about that, brands should consider how they can leverage technology to provide for the greater good.

He also talked about how “technology is evolving so rapidly that there are new questions being asked.” Whilst this isn’t new information to us tech savvy media types, it certainly true.

Another big part of day one: the IoT is well and truly here, connectivity is everything, and the opportunity this presents for brands is endless! Today I saw a fridge that automatically orders beer when I’m running low. Services like this showcase how the IoT can enhance someone’s life—they can provide convenience as well as just be damn cool. Brands that are able to align with this are certainly going to win over the consumer.

And then from cool to just plain crazy, “body hacking” is now a thing. Body Hackers are a group of people using implantable wearable technology to better understand and improve the human body.  With little concerns for safety, there was quite the line of people waiting to be ‘chipped.’

So thinking about the new questions to be asked, I’d like to know: will robots ever really will take over? Fast-forward 50 years there will likely be nothing a human can do that a robot can’t. But in the interim there needs to be a relationship between the two. We as humans need to become comfortable with the idea of robots. A robot that vacuums your house whilst you are out is easy to adopt. A robot that cooks you dinner or minds your baby is much harder to grasp. Robots are fueled by big data—but are we the human race going to be able to trust this data, and the ability of the robot to perform such tasks? More to come on this subject tomorrow!

Finally, we have to say thank-you to Louis Meyers—one of the co-founders of the SXSW festival—who  unfortunately passed yesterday evening. He was part of a team that created this inspiring, thought-provoking, future facing, mind-blowing, cool, crazy thing called SXSW.  RIP Louis.