5 cool things from SXSW: cowboys, connectivity and peak nerd

SXSW has been a blast. All the superlatives you can throw at it - that’s exactly what it was. There were fascinating sessions on the evolution of customer loyalty, cashless payments, advertising ethics and more. But, as always with SXSW, there was also a lot of impressive stuff on display. Not ‘impressive’ in a way solely applicable to our industry, but genuinely cool sh*t. Something worthy to tell your mates about, over an overpriced tea (sorry, I don’t drink coffee) kind of cool.

DC Comics made me feel twelve again

The nerd within just couldn’t be restrained. How many Batmobiles?! DC’s pop-up had everything from beer-tasting with Supernatural stars to meet-and-greets with the iconic Frank Miller and Jim Lee… but the Batmobiles there were all cool and they worked. Watching (and hearing) them start up was a childhood dream ticked off. Fingers crossed that Marvel show up next year, too.

Yonomi connected home

An entire house (or home, as they say in Texas) connected via the Yonomi app - including the Range Rover parked on the drive. Simplicity was the key here, with sound, light, doors, and everyday devices all working in harmony. It was impressive to see everything hooked up together seamlessly, with no detriment to the the interior of the house on a visual level.

You could schedule all your gizmos throughout the house, easy. You could navigate the interface, easy. Yonomi is a start-up based in Austin itself, and the exhibition house doubles up as their office - so it has to be an environment that people can work and live in, rather than just a showroom. It was definitely worth the visit. Oh... and they’re hiring!

The Westworld Experience. Even though they made me a bad guy

It might sound clichéd, but this was breathtaking. Bearing in mind I’d never seen a single episode of the series or the original movie - please don’t shoot me! - but I was ridiculously impressed by the bespoke, immersive experience they managed to create: a full mini-town that put you at the heart of the show. You paid for everything with Westworld currency (which was a physical coin), the ‘townsfolk’ initiated a fully realistic, old-fashioned Western stand-off, and one of them even got ‘reset’ in front of me. There were hidden clues you had to engage and communicate with the live cast to unlock, valuable hidden gems to find (Yep, I dug up a grave and got caught on camera) and horrible characters to avoid. Pretty interactive, I’d say.

Westworld also operated a cool promotion in conjunction with Lyft, where if you used the codeword ‘Black hat’ in the Lyft app, you got a free ride to the location and entry to the experience. Naturally, I only heard about this afterwards. Oh well. At least they gave me a black hat to wear (in Westworld speak, that means I’m a baddie.) I think I pulled it off.

Google’s home. Like Google Home. Geddit?

Google isn’t one to be outdone, and while Yonomi’s home was amazing, Google’s was just a technicolour explosion of everything. From the ludicrous, hydraulics-heavy car on the lawn - heavy Grand Theft Auto flashbacks here - to a room dedicated to pets, the technology giant connected everything. It was basically a giant ad for enabling Google around your entire home, handily displaying the correct phrasing on the walls. If only I’d had the foresight to take pictures of every single one.

Bose changed the game for augmented reality

Not with sight. Sound. Bose wants to develop augmented reality using sound. Unveiling a prototype pair of glasses, the audio expert came at us with a unique round of ideas. Perhaps the glasses could update you with a weather report when you look out of the window. Maybe they’ll let you hear the entire background of a certain historic monument or painting, as soon as you set eyes upon it. The world of AR has been so focussed on the visuals, and Bose’s move here is proof that even in a crowded field, there’s always room for innovation.

Michael Olaye is chief executive at Dare and chief technology officer at Inside Ideas Group

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