Geeks, techies and innovators rejoice: It’s that glorious time of year again, when South by Southwest’s Interactive conference unites startups, bright minds and tech industry leaders to examine the most groundbreaking trends impacting our modern world. Some of the planet’s most forward-thinking technology companies embrace SXSWi as a showcase and testing ground each year, and 2015 is no exception. There’s been a great deal of speculation about the highly anticipated trends of this year’s conference, and from a technology perspective, we’re not disappointed.
The breakthrough app of the conference is Meerkat, a live-streaming platform still in its early days of existence (the app was just launched about two weeks ago). Journalists and attendees are using the app to broadcast their own experiences of the flurry of activity at SXSWi, and wishful viewers who aren’t able to attend the conference in person are able to vicariously experience events — such as Mashable’s own MashBash, which was live-streamed using the app — via online video. The app surpassed 100,000 users over the weekend, and drew sharp comparisons to Twitter’s breakthrough SXSW presence in 2007.
Wearables at this year’s SXSWi extended beyond simple fitness trackers — a slew of meetups, panels, discussions and events centered around wearable technology. 3D-printed fashion, “smart” textiles and the impacts of the “quantified self” were among just a few of the focuses on wearables; The Emperor’s New Wearables event examined what lies in store for technology in the fashion industry, and even the concept of “wearable drones” made cameo appearances throughout the weekend.
The technologies in this industry in development today, suggested Dr. Hugh Herr, who recently established the Center for Extreme Bionics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Media Lab, will have vast implications not only for amputees, but also for the elderly and those who may suffer from degenerative disease. “I think we will all be surprised at the speed at which bionics occurs in this century,” said Herr.
Not everyone attending the conference was there to support robots, however: A small group of protesters actually staged an “anti-robot rally,” which organizers stressed was to raise awareness about the potential concerns associated with artificial intelligence — similar sentiments expressed by world-famous theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking and Tesla founder Elon Musk have made headlines lately.
Overall, though, most SXSW attendees appeared supportive of the trend — the Robot Petting Zoo drew a good deal of attention from attendees, providing a family-friendly and overall lighthearted environment for exploring some of today’s coolest robotics technologies.
If there’s one technology truly emblematic of a futuristic vision of our cities, it may just be the self-driving car. A variety of panels, events and discussions tackled this topic, such as Cars: Back to the Future and the Connected Car Pavilion on Saturday, which showcased a variety of futuristic auto models. The focus went beyond self-driving technologies and into the implications for connected cars — such as the future of data analytics when it comes to traffic patterns and auto safety.
“SXSW is using beacons to propel smart networking by using proximity in a way that was not previously possible,” said Scott Wilcox, SXSW director of technology. “Since SXSW takes place throughout the city, beacons are allowing us to use micro-locations and context in conjunction with attendee profiles to help people sync up in real-time.”
An Internet of Things meetup as well as numerous panels, events and discussions permeated the week — speakers and demonstrations on smart/connected tech, its implications for our cities and global community, and challenges that lie ahead for an IoT-connected future captivated audiences. Read more…