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Best of SXSW 2016 | SapientNitro


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The unique combination of music, film and interactive that is South by Southwest (SXSW) generates a kind of energy that sets the stage for connected thinking. SXSW 2016 has lived up to that promise – a world of concepts collided in Austin. Each year’s sessions represent the zeitgeist of the industry. What exactly are we thinking about? What’s at the heart of ‘interactive’ and how is it playing across different industries? To help us lead our clients to what’s next, we went along to SXSW 2016 to bring you our thoughts and highlights.

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Best of SXSW 2016 | SapientNitro

  1. 1. SXSW • 2016 • PAGE BEST OF S SW 2016
  2. 2. SXSW • 2016 • PAGE The start of SXSW Interactive 2016 was marked by the arrival of President Obama in Austin, Texas. The significance of the POTUS delivering an opening-day keynote says a lot about the status that SXSW Interactive has achieved in its 23 years. It also marks the degree to which technology, marketing and social good have converged. This was to be seen at SXSW, for sure, but is also increasingly evident in the debates we are having around cryptology, robotics, artificial intelligence and VR/AR. The theme was neatly captured at SXSW by Max Levchin’s definition of ‘beneficence’. Levchin, the former CTO of PayPal, serial investor and currently CEO of digital loans provider Affirm, referred to beneficence as one of his ‘Unstoppable Trends That Are Changing the World’. Where legacy businesses fail to put customers’ interests ahead of their own, technology innovators will identify and fill those gaps, and consumer expectations of the service and experience from digital businesses continue to rise – in a virtuous cycle of beneficence. Levchin’s further advice for innovators was to pursue opportunities created by ‘regulatory arbitrage’. This constitutes both the available government funding for renewable energy or environmental transportation, but also the inadvertent opportunities created by compliance legislation such as the Affordable Care Act, which in turn drives innovation in medical technology across wearables and IoT. The unique combination of music, film and interactive that is South by Southwest (SXSW) generates a kind of energy that sets the stage for connected thinking. SXSW 2016 has lived up to that promise – a world of concepts collided in Austin. Each year’s sessions represent the zeitgeist of the industry. What exactly are we thinking about? What’s at the heart of ‘interactive’ and how is it playing across different industries? To help us lead our clients to what’s next, we went along to SXSW 2016 to bring you our thoughts and highlights. Returning to POTUS, Obama’s appeal to the SXSW delegation was to lead 21st century civic engagement. “It’s easier to order a pizza than to do your most important civic duty and vote,” said Obama. “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.” 1 The hottest topics at SXSW Interactive 2016 were virtual reality, mobile apps, robots, 3D technology and AI. Sysomos, a social media analytics company, analyzed social media chatter during the first few days of SXSWi. The most active themes, measured in terms of Twitter impressions, were: Virtual Reality (Vr) – 102.4 MILLION Mobile Apps – 32.6 million Robotics – 30 million 3D – 8.8 million
  3. 3. SXSW • 2016 • PAGE ENCRYPTIONA THIN LINE OF DEFENCE Cryptology, privacy and security (of both the personal and national varieties) have more in common than what sets them apart. They are all part of a family, albeit at the moment a particularly quarrelsome one. Edward Snowden blew the lid off mass surveillance in 2013, and had SXSW abuzz when he addressed the conference remotely the following year. In 2016, the conversation has moved on to the issue of encryption and whether Apple’s resolute stance against FBI legal demands to create a “backdoor” to access iPhones is right or wrong. Or both. While President Obama tried to tread the middle ground between civil liberties and making ‘concessions’ on personal privacy, warning against taking an ‘absolutist’ position, elsewhere at SXSW the debate was consciously polarized. In ‘Cryptowars 2.0: Silicon Valley vs Washington’, a panel session including former General Counsel for the National Security Agency Stewart Baker, the clue to where the debate is at is very much in the title. As government uses emotive language and nightmarish scenarios around terrorism and paedophilia to forward the argument for access, the tech community recognizes that cryptology is not robust enough to allow the weakening of it – and that, contrary to intent, opening the door to data risks letting in wrongdoers. @wesmtthws 2 We don’t know how to build secure and robust systems. We have two tools that work – making systems as simple and as small as possible to limit the attack surface, and crypto, which makes it possible to reduce the number of elements in a system that you can trust. They are all we’ve got. -Matt Blaze, University Of Pennsylvania
  4. 4. SXSW • 2016 • PAGE In the commercial world, one implication of any rollback in OS-level encryption is whether it would place new demands on busi- nesses to tighten up their own security and privacy standards. An unanswered question is whether the consumer has a voice in this and what that voice would say with regard to the concessions people are prepared to make as a trade-off for national and personal protection, or perceived value delivered. In his session ‘12 Inevitable Tech Forces That Will Shape Our Future’, author and Wired founding editor Kevin Kelly observed that “anything that can be tracked, will be tracked” and argued the case for ‘co-veillence’ – a kind of symmetry where “you know what they know about you, can correct it and benefit from it”. Silicon Valley’s decision on privacy is a new form of Imperialism. Apple are saying yes, you have a warrant. Screw your warrant. – Stewart Baker, former GeneralCounsel at the NSA @heliane_es 3
  5. 5. SXSW • 2016 • PAGE Kevin Kelly, author and founding executive editor of Wired, was at SXSW to lift the lid on ‘12 inevitable tech forces that will shape our future’. Here, in extreme summary, are his top three. Asked by an audience member whether he could share the other nine, Kelly was unequivocal – “No”. His book ‘The Inevitable: Understanding the 12 Technological Forces That Will Shape Our Future’ goes on sale in June. 4
  6. 6. SXSW • 2016 • PAGE MedTech today keeps the doctor away The use of data to determine and predict health and performance was at the heart of the session on ‘The Future of Medicine’, in which Daniel Kraft of Singularity University/ Exponential Medicine showed the extent to which we will leverage technology and AI to minimize direct physician interaction. When ill, you will submit your symptoms to a field of AIs to collectively diagnose your problem. If they cannot agree upon a solution, the patient will then be routed to a doctor to resolve the issue. It is becoming critical that, as individuals, we move from being ‘organ and blood donors’ to being ‘data donors’. Crowdsourcing health data in the future will change the way we understand health and the treatment of diseases. Controlled studies provide data on hundreds of individuals, but crowdsourcing this data could generate millions of sources. We are using only 5% of the data that we will use in the future. It seems that big data hasn’t had its big bang just yet. In the session ‘Consumer Reports: What’s Our Health Data Worth?’, we learned that when people are ill they want the data to flow, and attitudes toward data and privacy rapidly shift. The altruistic view, in which your data can be used to help other people, is very powerful – 9,500 out of 12,000 patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease openly agreed to share their data for research. ‘Home Sweet Home: The Health Hub of the Future’ was a ranging discussion between doctors, technologist and an architect, which envisaged the role of the home in measuring and improving people’s health. David Rhew MD, Samsung’s Head of Healthcare, argued for connected devices such as the proverbial smart fridge, but in this case in the context of tracking the volume of food and water consumed, overlaid by sleep and health metrics as well as outdoor temperature. “Multiple data points allow smart insights and the opportunity to become more proactive on patient actions and behaviors to prevent things from happening.” Angela Mazzi of GBBN Architects posed the question of how we can generate wellness at every point, through bricks and mortars supported by tech. “We are hardwired to respond to environment. For children with ADHD, being in nature helps our ability to manage behavior, so we can design homes accordingly. For a patient with diabetes, it is more manageable to make lifestyle changes if, through technology, we can place him/her in an atmospheric café in Paris, or share recipes to promote cooking and eating healthily.” HEALTH & MEDTECH @merekinsman 5
  7. 7. SXSW • 2016 • PAGE Messaging: A Command Line for Brands MESSAGING CONVERSATIONAL UI A couple of decades ago, text and the command line were the only way you could interact with a computer. Command lines were hard because they forced people to understand code to accomplish the things we now do through the graphical user interface: dragging, clicking and such. The continued use of text messaging and the explosion of new messaging apps – a command line of sorts – is becoming a dominant way to interact. Some stats to focus the mind: 257 billion text messages are sent per day and, by 2020, smartphones will offer Internet access to four billion people. In a couple of SXSW sessions – ‘The Next Multibillion Opp: Marketing in Messaging’ and ‘Get the Message! The Rise of Conversational UI’ – it was noted that that messaging is powering more and more interactions between brands and consumers and becoming the entry point for digital experiences. Across the world, messaging apps are evolving into the next central communications, media and commerce hubs. Conversational UI provides a convenient way for people to access and interact with services – with no app fatigue, the ability to always respond, voice conversation and not just typed text. Furthermore, ‘bots’ are powering many of these conversations. WeChat is probably the most well-known example, with 900 million registered users as well as 10 million businesses that users add as buddies and then use messaging to transfer money, book travel or drive a host of other interactions. We are going to see more of these types of services adopted by other social messaging platforms – for example, booking and paying for an Uber ride through Facebook without installing the Uber app. Beyond the more well-known examples of WeChat, Amazon Echo and Siri, Uber’s Developer Experience Lead and SXSW panelist Chris Messina has produced a growing list of companies that offer conversational UI apps. Give them a try: @victoria_odell 6
  8. 8. SXSW • 2016 • PAGE Bod or ‘bot’? The ethics and aesthetics of robots ROBOTICS Robots and robotics made a big impression on SXSW 2016. Professor Hiroshi Ishiguro believes we will live in a robot society in the next three to four years. His session ‘Androids and Future Life’ took us deep into Uncanny Valley with his personal clone Geminoid android. People want robots to be human; we like robots to look and act like us. Voice is a key method for making robots more human and, if you can, add another human tactile modal- ity that makes the robot more human. People are more likely to speak to a human interface than to a human – no embarrassment, no judgement. Robots have a positive physiological impact on humans. In Japan, children who hug the Hugvie robot focus better at school. The act of hugging reduces stress and cortisol levels. Ishiguro is on a five-year mission to develop robots with intentions and desires. He is trying to answer questions such as ‘what is beauty?’ and ‘what is conversation?’ A better robot will incorporate cognitive principles and a better understanding of humans. After all, robots are better than people. They never get grumpy and don’t need to use the bathroom. Over at ‘The Holy Grail: Machine Learning and Extreme Robotics’ another robot, Sophia, was very much on display as part of a panel explor- ing the potential of genius machines – potential which, we don’t think she will mind us saying, Sophia is still some way from realizing. While Sophia – comprising upper torso, ‘frubber’ skin, facial expressions and an ‘open head’ – did answer questions, they were very much of the canned variety. Her creator, David Hanson of Hanson Robotics, nonetheless had high aspirations for her: “The Holy Grail is superhuman capacities for machines – learning the big picture in the context of the cosmos, with beneficial outcomes for the future of civilization.” The robots are fragile. We have to treat the head as a carry-on. @interruptdelivers 7
  9. 9. SXSW • 2016 • PAGE AUTOMOTIVETHE FUTURE OF TRANSPORTATION In ‘Looking Forward to Rush Hour: Future of Transit’, we learned that the Hyperloop con- cept could evolve transportation in high- traffic cities, with Altuit’s Chipp Walters outlining a configuration for a Hyperloop between Dallas to Austin. The SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Competition (http://www. is tapping into minds from all geographies to engineer innovative transportation systems. There are already 22 million connected vehicles in the world, rising to 82 million by 2022 – yet there is a brake on progress in this area, as car companies do not want give up their services layers to the likes of Apple and Google in the way that has happened to mobile phone manufacturers. Panellists in ‘How Silicon Valley Is Reinventing the Auto Industry’ noted that the average American spends $10k per year on their car. We treat the car like an appliance but in fact it is the most expensive computer we own. And it’s the only computer that is not fully connected. Car companies are interested in Silicon Valley, but on their own terms – as GM’s acquisitions of Sidecar and Cruise Automation have evidenced. It is possible that in the future people will buy cars based on the car platform and its app ecosystem – “There are better apps for this car company so I will drive it. @interruptdelivers Many minds at SXSW were focused on the possibilities offered by innovations in transportation such as Hyperloop and connected cars. Although some were of the view that there is more ‘hype’ than ‘loop’ in Elon Musk’s idea of passenger pods propelled at high speed between cities inside low-pressure tubes, others are committed to progressing the idea in reality or in spirit. 8
  10. 10. SXSW • 2016 • PAGE In ‘Hacking Your Ride: Transportation Safety and Risk’ we learned that, while connected vehicles could reduce traffic accidents by 80%, until their security is robust there is a real threat that someone might hijack your car and ransom it back to you. Automotive manufacturers have a long history of safety engineering, but not security engineering. Put another way, there are 82 million hackable devices driving at a speed that can do real damage to the real world. Some groups, white hat hackers, want to hack vehicles for the good of mankind, improve the experience and the utility. Anonymous people break the law through hacking, but don’t directly benefit themselves. However, there are organized gangs of criminals who do hack for commercial gain. The military and security services can hack your vehicle and, last but by no means least, so can terrorists. Help is at hand. Companies such as Zendrive are using your driving data to improve road safety and give you advice and feedback on how to improve your driving. Turns out, 90% of collisions are caused by human error, and 25% are from using your phone while driving. The growth of connected vehicles and the economy of companies building businesses from data have raised concerns on data security. The solution, it is proposed, is a re-engineering of the value chain of insurance. Today, you can buy cyber insurance, to protect yourself from hacking. But this raises very important questions, such as who owns the data (your data!), who has access to it, and who is analyzing it for what purpose? @bemadthen 9
  11. 11. SXSW • 2016 • PAGE VR/ARALTERED REALITIES Virtual and Augmented Reality had a strong presence this year, with SXSW running its first ever VR/AR track. McDonald’s and Samsung were showcasing their own VR experiences: the McDonald’s Loft was running HTC Vive demos that turned the room into the inside of a Mc- Donald’s Happy Meal, while you could ‘ride’ rollercoasters at the Samsung Gear VR Lounge. At ‘Five Ways AR Will Change The World’, Vuforia VP Jay Wright and Sony’s Head of Partner Outreach Troed Sangberg, observed a fork in the road for VR and AR. While VR is increasingly serving consumers and dominating gaming, AR will find its best use case on the enterprise side and evolve from there – allow- ing remote guidance and step-by-step instruc- tions for engineers or in medical procedures. Sangberg pointed out that, with the hologram optics technology of Sony’s SmartEyeglass, in- structional information in the field of view was already a reality. When AR fills a use case for the masses or “eyewear tech is good-looking enough”, whichever comes first, Wright and Sangberg predict it will be five years before an explosion in mass usage among consumers with eventually one AR device for every person. AR will be replaced every two years, similar to smart phones today. At ‘Virtual Reality and the New Sales Experience’ we learned that businesses’ VR investments are growing exponentially; at the end of 2015 over $4bn had been invested, mostly in hardware, while software will increase expenditure levels at a greater scale. Marketers from The North Face, Hasbro and Lufthansa shared examples of how they are trying to innovate with VR experiences, rather than viewing VR as simply another sales channel. The North Face doesn’t use VR to have you try on clothes virtually; instead they want VR to inspire you to push yourself, explore and give a sense of what sports are like by participating alongside athletes in the virtual space. For Lufthansa, the goal is to bring back the joy of flying and give permission to go beyond borders; air travel shouldn’t always be about best price/shortest time. Despite the level of investment (and interest at SXSW) VR is still in the experimental phase. Companies will need to experiment with ‘unfinished’ experiences to test and learn; it’s OK to fail. @laureneheffern 10