Every year, SXSW artfully brings together creatives and technologists (and everyone in between). In fact, SXSW Interactive has emerged as a platform to launch innovative endeavors in front of discerning crowds. The 2015 edition features another great lineup of speakers and workshops. While a few years ago, the event mainly spotlighted social media and social applications, SXSW Interactive has now evolved to expand on many more topics in technology. For attendees wanting to soak up inspirations this year, here are some interesting talks and people to check out.
Connected devices is an area that especially interests me. Exploring the Future of Connected Objects and When Your Devices Decide to Touch You Back are talks that should provide an overview of current products and developments in this area. Related to connected devices is the topic of maker culture and digital fabrication. With the proliferation of open source and affordable prototyping tools, the ability to share projects and collaborate with one another online, and access to resources from crowdfunding platforms, the maker culture has been a big part of bringing connected devices to the masses. Killing Trinkets: 3D Printing Interactive Devices and Calling for a Nation of Makers promise to offer key insights to those attending the connected devices talks.
As a proven startup launch pad, SXSW Interactive attracts a lot of great startups and organizations to Austin every March. Yik Yak, Quirky, and Lyft will be around. They’ve all managed to build great tech-based platforms that are supported by strong communities. Last year InSITE organized a tour of Quirky and we attended their Product Evaluation event. We looked at different products they are working on as well as Wink, a smart home platform that spun out of Quirky. The platform is integrated with products from companies like Nest/Google. Your Connected World: What Did You Sign Up For? will be a great opportunity to hear Ben Kaufman, Quirky’s founder and CEO, talk about new developments in his company. Leading design innovators such as Google X, MIT Media Lab, and IDEO will also be around this year and should present some exciting projects and visions for the future.
Of course SXSW is most important for the opportunity to mingle with great people. In design and technology, Paola Antonelli and Hugh Herr have done some of the most interesting work. Paola Antonelli heads the department of design and R&D at MoMA, where classic video games and the @sign are part of the collection. She was one of the first to cross boundaries by curating exhibitions that brought along works from technology, science, design, and art. Hugh Herr heads the Extreme Bionics group at MIT Media Lab. His prosthetic legs are extremely impressive designs that enhance the capabilities of the human body. Even for people not specifically focused on design, it would be worthwhile to see these speakers. They are helping to shape the culture and the possibilities of technology that would affect the future of people’s everyday lives.
SXSW is one of the few festivals for which attendees prep for months in advance. There are a lot more speakers and events to check out, and the best strategy is often to have a planned route that leaves some room for serendipity and exploration. Here’s to a week of discoveries for the InSITE fellows and other attendees heading to Austin!
Jiashan Wu is a graduate student at the NYU Interactive Telecommunications Program and an InSITE Fellow. She is a partner at the Dorm Room Fund and has worked at the intersection of design, art, and technology.