The Highs and Lows of SXSW Interactive
As SXSWi 2015 comes to a close, we’ve broken down the top takeaways you should know:
The winners of the Interactive Innovation Awards this year didn’t set out to solve marketing, selling or retail problems. They solve human problems.
The nonprofit organization, Not Impossible Labs, won the “Innovative 3-DIY” Award for "Project Daniel," a 3D-printed prosthetic arm that was made for a boy in Sudan. Built for just under $100, this cost-effective design and production has given these innovators hope to be able to aid future victims.
Winning “Most Innovative” at SXSW Accelerator was BioBots, which was founded by a group of University of Pennsylvania graduates. These inspiring visionaries found a way to create a 3D bioprinter that can actually build functional living tissue. Its creators describe BioBots as “the future of regenerative medicine,” and for us, this innovation was the most inspiring takeaway of the event.
And, of course, there were new innovations in human social connectedness. Meerkat received more attention and discussion than any app in recent SXSW history, primarily for its live streaming capability. Every important moment was live streamed on Meerkat, but (and adding to the hype) it wound up being blocked by Twitter (who is launching a competitive service) just as the conference really kicked off.
It goes without saying that we expect to see robots at SXSW, but we found this year’s take on robotics especially interesting. Angling to make robots seem less like Terminator and more like Teddy Ruxpin, the robot displays were part of a "robot petting zoo."
The zoo showcased robots with facial recognition displays. One robot was designed to teach children the basics of programming, and some robots were even used in real-life rescue missions. Some humans took issue, however, with the latest in robotics and protested the apparent demise of humanity at the hands of the robot petting zoo’s inhabitants.
Gender Diversity in Tech
Yeah, we’re still not there yet. Despite the fact that SXSW had a strong list of female heavy hitters and a longer list of female attendees, there were signs of some trouble.
News was made during the ironic gender diversity panel that featured Google’s Eric Schmidt. He had so much to say about gender diversity that he was called out for repeatedly interrupting his co-panelist, US Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith. It should be noted that Mr. Schmidt was called out by fellow Googler Judith Williams, Google’s Global Diversity and Talent Program Manager.
And when some brands tried to engage women, it seemed, quite frankly, like a fail. For example, we were disappointed to see the attempt by Ipsos to create a "girls' lounge," where female SXSW attendees could get blowouts and manicures.
First…there is the name: “girls’ lounge.” Second…everything else. While some of us EGC female staff members love a good blowout, we aren’t into brands that try to lure us with stereotypical incentives. We are attending a tech conference for tech purposes, and we’re perfectly fine attending every other tech tent with everyone else.
DIY Design and Manufacturing:
There were thousands of apps, services, printing machines (and more) that allow you to be the designer and manufacturer of your own products.
Of particular note was an app that we toured that came from South Korea called “You Are the Design,” which allows you to design and manufacture your own shoe. And Child’s Own allows children to build their own stuffed animals from their own drawings.
Old School Meets New School:
Old brands tried very hard to find their way into SXSW. Some were successful, others not so much
McDonald’s had a surprising amount of positive buzz and attention. Austin, home of the food truck, was met with a McDonald’s food truck. And surprisingly, people were lovin’ it. (Sorry.) Not surprisingly, as Adweek pointed out, the other food truck operators were not thrilled.
Meanwhile, Marlboro had a “black lounge” – which sounds too close to “black lung” – and which resulted in a lot of negative social media snark.
Dont they mean "Marlboro Black Lung" not "lounge"? pic.twitter.com/wMlFYZ60kz— Andie Brokaw Simon (@AndieBSimon) March 14, 2014
Focusing on the Customer:
The focus this year, across the board, truly was on the human connection, whether it meant solving human needs or humanizing that technology for humans. When it came to innovation in digital advertising, what struck us was the alignment we saw with what we’ve been focusing on at EGC – the human metric.
While Big Data has been big news for the last few years, we found tech like Ninja Metrics’ True Ad Value especially interesting. It helps calculate the ROI of ads based on brands’ customers who influence other customer purchase decisions online. It looks at ways to analyze human influence, which is something retailers need to take more consideration of as they develop their consumer profiles and think about nurturing influencer networks.