March 23, 2016 / Events SXSW 2016: A Recap on Trends and the Evolution of Human-Computer Communications

Godfrey Author

By: Godfrey Team

A recap on SXSW 2016

Here’s a Godfrey recap on the most interesting ideas from this year’s SXSW Interactive festival and a few trends to look out for in the coming year.

Photo credit Worldwide Partners, Inc.

To paraphrase Lord Tennyson, in the Spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of creative inspiration. Which at Godfrey means a trip to Austin, Texas, for the annual South by Southwest® (SXSW) Interactive Festival. For the past five years, we’ve attended SXSW to participate in the conversations around trends at the intersection of culture and digital. Here’s a recap of the top four topics I found most exciting and relevant for B2B marketers.

From left: Brian Solis, Fernando Guntovitch, Greg Carson and Andy Hunt. Photo credit Worldwide Partners, Inc.

Worldwide Partner Meetup: Hosted by WPI chairman Fernando Guntovitch and co-moderated by myself and Greg Carson of MeringCarson, agencies and independents both in and out of network from around the world gathered to discuss working across cultures, skills and capabilities on limited resources. Thanks to everyone that attended and contributed to our discussions. Thanks also to Brian Solis for providing a ‘keynote’ to kick things off.

Trade show attendees experiences virtual reality at the DiscoveryVR booth

Virtual Reality (VR): Leading into SXSW, you’d be hard-pressed to find another technology that was getting more attention than VR. It even had its own track, which seemed to supplant the robotics track from last year. There is a huge amount of optimism around the experiential possibilities with VR. The technology is a place now where almost anyone can experiment with and discover how to make use of it.

Experiential Technology: There were a lot of conversations about technology in the other direction. While we’re primarily accustomed to working with technology via sight, touch and sound, there’s interest in discovering how we can leverage all senses that comprise the entire human user interface. This means our common understanding of what an interface is will expand.

For example, Amazon Alexa was referenced in a couple of sessions as the best example of voice as a natural voice interface. Alexa is planned as a platform for voice services into technology. Before SXSW, Uber integrated its ride-sharing service with Alexa. During SXSW, Captial One announced that its customers can now start doing some financial transactions with the service. And Fitbit has just announced its services and data are working with Alexa.

Conversations at the Independent Ad Agency Meet Up. Photo credit Worldwide Partners Inc.

Conversations with Data: This idea was presented by Greg Carley at Chaotic Moon. With Alexa and Siri, we are literally able to talk to data and have it talk back to us. But humans communicate with much more than just our voice. We’re starting to gesture at devices with Microsoft Kinect and Leap Motion controllers. Conductive ink lets us add touchable interfaces to just about anything. We’re starting to get very comfortable passing data back and forth between systems using our most basic and familiar human tools of communication.

As we’re able to leverage the full spectrum of senses and layer natural human experiences on top of data, I see doors opening to communicate in ways we never even imagined were possible. Those of us in the business of communication should keep our eyes on the possibilities that will open up and look to evolve our own conversations.


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