With 24 minutes left, the Patriots came back from a 25-point deficit to beat the Falcons at the Super Bowl. During La La Land’s acceptance speech at the Oscars, it's announced that Moonlight is the actual winner of Best Picture. Pokémon Go came out of nowhere, and our presidential election completely diverged from most polling predictions. Needless to say, it’s been a year of surprises.
That’s the funny thing about culture — it’s entirely predictable in its unpredictability. As a first time SXSWer, I’m excited to see a wide range of speakers showcase their approach to tackling the unexpected. SXSWi is set to be the culmination of my lifelong cultural and technological obsession, providing access to tools, technologies, and insights that can prepare all of us — advertisers and consumers — for culture’s inevitable surprises. So, marketers must pay heed to these three trend territories that will undoubtedly be a focus at SXSWi this year:
1. Autonomous Living
Connected home, connected car, connected refrigerator. We’re witnessing a period in which companies are using the Internet of Things to not only revolutionize appliances and automobiles but also major sectors like food, education, and healthcare. This space is ripe for entrance as there are few things that consumers value more than having their lives made easier through seamless connections and addictive experiences. Look out for sessions like "Connected Cities, Hackable Streets" and "Navigating a Rapidly Changing and Connected World" to hear top publications and tech conglomerates discuss how advertisers can further hop on the “connected world” bandwagon.
Chatbots are also shaping up to be a major topic at SXSWi as they fundamentally change the way that consumers interact with brands, both from a messaging and commerce perspective. In "Ready Or Not, The Bots Have Risen!," Amazon and Yahoo will cover the importance of inter-platform interaction and collaboration in order to bring about the best consumer experiences in this category. Bots are becoming smarter, too, thanks to the brilliant minds behind the latest AI technologies. The “Augmented Intelligence: The Next-Gen AI” session will broach the robot vs. human debate, emphasizing how AI enables objective decision-making in the workplace (though it’s still dependent on human intuition for growth).