1DESIGNING WITH A PURPOSE Cause-driven entrepreneurs, companies, and platforms were at the forefront of SXSW. The momentum was spearheaded by Casey Gerald, cofounder and CEO of MBAs Across America, who is shutting his organization down despite its success to move toward an open-source model. Meanwhile, Airbnb’s Steve Selzer sparked an insightful discussion about the future of human-centric design. In a world that’s becoming more automated and on demand, we need to design positive friction back in to create more authenticity, tolerance, and self-awareness.
2GROWTH THROUGH COLLABORATION How do you scale success over time? Capital One gave a frank talk about the importance of communication and constant collision in diffusing issues that might grind a project to a halt. Taking collaboration a step further, Lego and Cartoon Network shared how their partnership spurs product development and marketing on both sides, as they learn from each other (and each other’s customers). And why wouldn’t Google’s self-driving cars and Trulia partner up to take you around the apartments that you’ve marked as interesting? Collaboration between players across industry barriers offers infinite possibilities.
3NOT GIVING A F**K Bravery never ceases to inspire. Anthony Bourdain, American chef, author, and TV personality, was upfront about the fact that he doesn’t pander to his audience and doesn’t create his show Parts Unknown for the fans. When asked in his interview, “Who are you shooting for?” he responded: “We never think about that. That’s the road to madness. Otherwise, every week we would do a show about barbecue. Ideally, people who watched last week should not even be sure they are on the right channel this week.”
This approach keeps Bourdain doing things he might not otherwise (like his New York Times bestseller Kitchen Confidential). He offered a powerful reminder that comfort can kill creativity—and that conviction can lead to great ideas.
4 VIRTUAL REALITY TAKES OVER Virtual reality was everywhere in Austin. The experience, primarily created with 360 cams, is still in its nascent stages. It’s sometimes buggy, sometimes out of focus, and always requires you to be in a stationary position. But the potential is here for brands looking to innovate with truly immersive experiences. VR has been designed to give users more control over the story—which extends to a larger theme we’ve been seeing in the industry. The technology also has implications for anyone dreaming of space travel. NASA and MIT Space Systems Lab are working on a free virtual reality experience of Mars. The team plans to release the collaboration for Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and Samsung VR Gear, as well as for iPhone and Android. Down the road, it could help train astronauts, but for now it will help us take a trip of our own.
5THE ACCELERATING RATE OF CHANGE The VC Steve Jurvetson gave a mind-blowing talk about something we all feel but can’t fully articulate: the rate of change in technology is accelerating. Moore’s Law of doubling in speed and halving in cost is now considered too slow to explain changes in computing power.
Reusable rockets are allowing us to put more low-cost satellites in orbit, which can be used to bring broadband internet to every square inch of the planet. This will bring billions of people online, gaining access to the information and tools that will drive the global economy. And then there’s quantum computing: with these “science fiction” computers processing data at the speed of light, we’ll be able to easily solve huge, complex problems, freeing up both time and money to spur innovation.
6GOING COGNITIVE From enterprises to governments, everyone is looking to cognitive computing to solve hard problems—like business analytics and human immortality—faster than brute force computing.
Dag Kittlaus, the co-founder of Siri, is currently working on VIV, which aims to be the open cognitive platform for the world, letting you talk to the entire internet and app ecosystem in a natural language. Wired founder Kevin Kelly predicted, “The next 10,000 startups will be about: take X, add AI.” And Havas client IBM engaged people’s imaginations with its Cognitive Studio. The overall consensus: every decision that can be computerized will be— and we’ll continue to release more and more control to our meta-selves, acting in the world on our behalf.
7THE FUTURE IS CLOSER THAN EVER It’s becoming increasingly difficult to differentiate between hype and reality. One thing that’s very real: self-driving cars. According to the lead engineer of Google’s self-driving car program, its vehicles have self- driven over 1.3 million miles, the equivalent of 90 years of human driving experience. In fact, the world’s first fully self-driven cars operate better and safer than a human. And like a human, the more these cars drive, the more they learn and the better they become. Self- driving cars will be on the road and in service in three years, and one of the most likely mass entry points is as a replacement to Uber.
But wait, that’s not all: Get ready for pilotless planes and more automation across the board. The future is right around the corner, and it’s about to unleash shake-ups across human behavior, society, and multiple industries.
8SINGULARITY IS ALREADY HAPPENING Will technology eat the world, our jobs, and ultimately us? This was a question asked in many sessions this year. In a sense, the singularity is already happening: the singularity of function for our devices. As product designer, futurist, and inventor Jared Ficklin said: “It used to be the goal to get one computer into every one home for one thousand dollars. Now the idea is to get one thousand computers into every one home.” Our homes, offices, and wearables are already a web of computers learning about the world and us—and they’re doing it faster every year. While many speakers emphasized the need to keep tech in check, the overall mood was naturally tech positive. Even as many jobs will become obsolete, we’re quite sure that humans will still find things to do.
9YOUR LIFE WITH ROBOTS, EXPLAINED If you’re wondering when the robots are coming, we can tell you now that they’re already here. In fact, Hilton Hotels has replaced registration desk workers with a robot in a few locations. And this is just the first step toward robots being a part of our everyday life. In fact, this is expected to be a $2 billion industry by 2025.
With this rise in robotics, we’ll see user experience become a much larger focus in the future. After all, in order to make live- in robots palatable, we’ll need to make sure they’re not annoying the humans. As we continue to bridge the gap between tech and advertising, we’ll be able to create better experiences that are valuable, engaging, and potentially life-changing.
10 CIVIC ENGAGEMENT IN THE 21ST CENTURY Marking the first time in SXSW’s 30-year history that a sitting U.S. president has given a keynote, Barack Obama delivered a riveting talk spanning privacy, internet culture, and the emerging technology that’s rapidly changing the nation.
Obama sought to engage modern digital thinking to drive societal change and solve government issues such as outdated IT infrastructures, voting, and even climate change: “The reason I’m here is to recruit all of you. We can start coming up with new platforms, new ideas across disciplines, and across skill sets to solve some of the big problems we’re facing today.” #ThanksObama
THANK YOU TO OUR THOUGHT LEADERS Toygar Bazarkaya Randi Conner Matthew Drengler Janna Greenberg Maggie Gross Matt Howell Larry Lac Patricia Lopez Hillary Meahl Ambika Samarthya Caitlin Schmidt Sami Viitamaki Kelsee Wadas