By now, you’ve probably already heard about the on-again-off-again rumors about Mashable and CNN. You’ve probably also heard about Instagram’s Android announcement, Twitter’s Posterous acquisition and how Chi’Lantro’s Korean BBQ tacos will change your life. So in summing up SXSW 2012, I’m going to skip all that and go right for the key takeaways.
1. It’s the future, stupid.
There’s a lot of what’s next tech at SXSW; those apps, devices, and cloud-based whatchamacallits will come and go. The real value of SXSW is not the tech. It’s the insights. And this year’s keynote speakers dropped quite a few insights.
Amber Case’s keynote on the future of technology interfaces was brilliant. She addressed the problem of screen-based interfaces. It’s dependent on users focusing their attention on a screen, causing them to miss whatever’s going on around them. Case showed some device prototypes that allow users to interact with the technology using other senses such as touch. Case calls them herds up displays. A vibrating belt that gives you directions. Mobile apps that alert you to new information via sound. Her platform Geoloqi provides the location-based piece of technology that will make that future a reality.
The best line of Director of Digital for The Onion Baratunde Thurston‘s keynote hinted at the future of content. He said that screenwriters and code writers need to start working together. Serving content to an audience is one thing. Serving an experience is another. Online experiences typically require some programming, and that programming should align with the content the experience delivers. That’s the future of online consumers.
2. Highlight is not fun for SXSW.
Everyone was abuzz about the hot ambient social networking apps like Highlight, Glancee, and Banjo. These apps are built on interest graphs, not social graphs. They alert you when someone with similar interests is nearby. It’s a SXSW nightmare. My phone has been going nuts with notifications from these services because I’m surrounded by thousands of people in my industry. Alas, I do have hope for these apps and their ultimate vision: introduce people when and where they’re relevant to each other.
3. Controversy beats clutter.
There are hundreds of tech and consumer companies vying for attention here. The ones that stand out are the ones that are doing something controversial. PepsiCo partnered with Immersive Labs to show off adaptive advertising in action. I walked by the device, and it recognized that I was a young male with no facial hair. I felt a little violated. It was awesome.
The most controversial campaign happening at SXSW is the Homeless Hotspots ad agency BBH New York put in place. These are homeless people from Austin who are wifi hotspots. It’s bringing attention to an often ignored issue, but the agency is facing a lot of criticism for exploiting homeless people. In other words, it’s brilliant marketing.
What did you think about SXSW this year? Did you go? Did you wish you went? Tell us in the comments!