1. My first cool thing has got to be hearing a very relaxed Obama trying to recruit the best talent at SXSW to help make government function better (and increase voter turnout) for citizens. He was keen to make frustration with services like driver registration, the IRS etc made better by embracing digital channels. Topics ranged from the privacy versus security debate – clearly referencing Apple v The FBI – to reforms on Wall Street (despite perceptions that nothing had changed).
2. Featured last year but undoubtedly a great idea of utility/guerilla marketing with the cute and memorable factor. Mophie the power pack brand was offering to come and rescue anyone running out of power with a team of St Bernard dogs. You basically tweet them and they come to your rescue! Certainly put the brand on my radar as power packs are a must out here.
3. A 3D printer that printed an edible pizza. Clearly a bit gimmicky for the festival but it does give a glimpse of where 3D printing could go in the future. Could it mean the end of shopping for finished food? Just print what you need on demand.
4. In a session entitled 'The Holy Grail: Machine Learning and Extreme Robotics' we had an interesting panel. Check out the fifth panelist in this photo – 'she' is actually a robot called Sophia, cerated by Hanson Robotics. She answered deep questions showing levels of emotional intelligence and empathy which was quite extraordinary. Sophia appeared to be reacting and listening to the panel, nodding agreement as they were talking about her.
This is no longer the realm of science fiction despite later talks reassuring us that ‘the singularity’ was decades away and nothing to worry about! Watch some of the videos here:
5. Finally, it was impossible to move in Austin without tripping over (or watching someone else tripping over) a VR demo of some kind. From McDonald's transporting you to the inside of a Happy Meal (yes really) to Google Fiber’s VR artist events and Samsung promising to bring you a ‘dope #GearVR experience #VRondemand’, one was left in no doubt as to how hard many brands are working to bring VR experiences to the fore.
Chris Pearce is CEO of TMW Unlimited